Accounting clerk careers are an excellent choice for people who love working with numbers and figures. Most business owners do not have the time to devote to dealing with their own accounting or bookkeeping tasks, so they look to a financial clerk and other accounting professionals to do it for them. Employers depend upon accounting clerks and tax experts to help them file essential financial records and financial statements, income taxes, keep a general ledger of daily transactions, use Quickbooks or excel or other bookkeeping software to the fullest extent, manage billing, accounts payable, overdue accounts, and much more.
What is an Accounting Clerk?
Accounting clerks, or bookkeepers as they are sometimes called, are responsible for a wide range of tasks that support business operations within their organization. The position calls for diverse skills in several areas of business including dealing with books of the company, handling purchase orders and vouchers, and performing general data entry jobs and maintain generally accepted accounting procedures and process. This allows business owners to focus on business management rather than balance sheets. Before you accept any job in accounting, such as a clerk position, you should familiarize yourself with what a particular business considers to be the responsibilities of an accounting clerk so that you will know what you are getting into. Basic math and computer skills may earn you an entry level position but you'll likely need some on the job learning or a postsecondary education with basic accounting coursework or a certificate program if you truly want to succeed.
Those holding a clerk job are often key personnel who are responsible for handling payroll, including accounts payable and accounts receivable along with some employee record keeping.
The general qualifications and important qualities of an accounting clerk are listed below:
- Ability to handle ledgers with few or no errors, which should include billing, financial transactions, some work experience with accounting software, etc.
- Strong math skills with meticulous precision and attention to detail
- Desire to help others meet their financial goals
- Good customer service or industry knowledge and communication
While clerks don't have to be experts in customer service, they should be prepared to handle any financial questions that B2B partners might have about a company's economic status, being careful to be discreet when necessary to keep proprietary or management issues private, depending on the policy of the company.
All of these skills are important when working as an accounting clerk.
Accounting Clerk Career Options and Job Duties
The daily duties of an accounting clerk vary according to need. Below are some of the typical job titles that you may find yourself taking on in this profession.
As a bookkeeper, you are responsible for keeping the ledgers of a business or individual organized and in proper order. You should be aware of both the incoming and outgoing revenue of the business or a person's income as well as the profit that a person is making in his or her business. This will be stored as a debit or credit in the businesses accounting records as profit and loss. Neatness and orderliness are imperative if you are to keep the books in order, so organizational skills are paramount. The opportunities for advancement from this role are many, especially if you are willing to complete a postsecondary education or degree program in order to step up to the next level.
Some businesses have their own internal auditing clerk. Other auditors come from outside the system, such as auditors from the IRS or government agencies. State specialists are the most common as business owners have many requirements when it comes to following every letter of the law regarding their accounting practices. They must pay their debts on time to avoid penalties and keep up with the mandated state laws that affect the business. Spending must be taken into account, and an auditing clerk has to be familiar with all of the financial aspects of a business.
The primary person that a business owner depends on to keep up with their finances, bills, and income is their accountant. People pay their accountant well and expect near perfection when it comes to keeping up with their finances, specifically they must follow general accounting principles. Keep in mind that a clerk that works in accounting is not an accountant in the truest sense of the word, though they may have an accounting or business degree. But they may serve in some of the capacity of an accountant, especially if the business does not have a full-time, on-staff accountant.
If you serve in the capacity of an advisor or financial consultant, you may offer advice based on what you know of finance and accounting that can be helpful to a client. However, it is important to remember that you are not a tax attorney or public accountant. Be careful to stick to the more practical issues regarding a business owner's financial information and to refer them to attorneys or full accountants for more detailed issues in these areas.
What Does an Accounting Clerk Do?
The day-to-day activities of an accounting clerk will vary, but the main responsibilities will involve a "lighter" type of accounting and bookkeeping work. Basic math skills and a sense of order are all that is needed to perform a job in this capacity, especially if you are acting as an assistant for a small business owner. Many businesses prefer not to pay a full-time accountant who can run them up to $124,000 per year (bls.com), so they pay an accounting clerk instead who is willing to perform some of the same tasks as an accountant but whose educational background, skill set, and/or work experience is not as extensive as the accountant or tax specialist.
That being said, it would be in the best interest of anyone seeking work in this profession to improve their skills in all areas, especially in the field of tax preparation. In fact, it is a good idea to simultaneously seek to complete a degree program and certification as a tax preparer if you want to increase your skills and get an edge on your competition and earn a senior position.
People seek accountants and the help of clerks at various times in both their personal and business lives, so the more you can offer your clients, the more money you can make. For example, you could help a business owner set up their bookkeeping system and keep up with their ledger for them while also preparing their taxes. You can bill them one invoice for the bookkeeping and maintenance jobs and charge them separately for the tax preparation. Tax preparation is a more complicated task, so you should bill them for this according to the amount of time and research it takes you to complete it.
Help to the Accounting Department
Another possible job that you could find yourself doing in your role as an accounting clerk is that of helping the accounting department. While clerks do not serve as the primary accountant in most cases, they can be of great help to the other accountants and help them remember things they may forget to keep the finances of a business running smoothly.
Many larger firms or businesses choose to use a clerk at the front office to handle things like payroll, invoices, and incoming receipts or purchases, then pass the more difficult, tax-preparation type jobs to the CPAs (certified public accountants). This is the best scenario if a business can afford to hire both. Check with your local businesses as you are proceeding with your training to see which companies have this type of business model.
Smaller businesses may opt only to hire an accounting clerk and not have a full-time accountant. Others may outsource their accounting work to one accountant instead. It's wise to check around to see which business or institution offers the best opportunity for you to work in this profession.
What are the Education Requirements to Become an Accounting Clerk?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that you are not required to receive a degree in accounting, business, or any other related field to work as an accounting clerk. However, some college is needed to learn the basic math and business skills that you will likely encounter on the job.
BLS also states that "some college" is needed, but a college degree is not required to seek employment as an accounting clerk. However, the more education and skills you can master along the way, the more you can offer your clients once you get ready to set up shop. That said, you may consider an associate’s in accounting or even a bachelor of accounting to improve your job prospects.
The primary job of an accounting clerk is to log all of the incoming and outgoing invoices and payments that a company makes. They may also be required to dispute a charge made to the business if it appears they were overbilled. Taking care of the business owner's best interests and keeping their books in order is the first order of the day for an accounting clerk. They are also the first line of defense when it comes to audits and other issues that might threaten the finances of a business. While they are not attorneys or accountants, the accounting clerk is a "watchdog" of the funds of a business that guard it against potential loss. This is an outstanding job, and many business owners are willing to pay nicely for this service.
Career Development and Average Salary
Average Accounting Clerk Salary: $39,400
If you are looking for the salary information for accounting clerks, the median annual salary was listed as $37,516-$42,085 as of January 30 of this year (2018). This varies, however, based on the particular job you are doing, who you are working for, and other factors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.com) listed the median salary at $39,240 per year.
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If you aspire to pursue a career as an accounting clerk, we've designed an accessible guide that you can use to follow that will help you reach your goals. Remember that this is not the only path to success as an accounting clerk, but it is one of the simplest ways to reach your goals.
What Certifications or Licensing is Required?
To obtain the credentials to become an accounting clerk, follow these steps to achieve this status:
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent from an accredited public or private school.
- Attend college and take some basic math and business or accounting courses. (An associate’s degree may help you be more competitive.)
- Consider getting an accounting certificate or degree to present yourself as an accounting professional.
- Apply for an internship or ask to shadow a clerk in a reputable firm or business to learn the ropes and "best practices."
- Apply for a job and update your resume to show any accounting-related positions or courses you have taken to increase your chances of success.
Start Your New Career Path
Many business owners will pay top dollar for anyone who is good at handling the books for them. Why? They don't want to do it. It is time-consuming and can be a headache, especially at tax time. Business owners want to get the best tax break they can, save money on purchases, and keep up with the daily income and expenses that are required to keep the business solvent at all times.
Accountants do the heavy lifting when it comes to the harder jobs of business with their finances. They may file taxes, dispute claims, or refer things to the legal department when needed. The accounting clerk is an expert, too but they do not have the educational background that a CPA does, making the job more simplistic.
For the person seeking a good job that does not require the time and investment of the CPA, the accounting clerk career is a good one. If you are good at math, love crunching numbers and helping stay on top of a business's income and outgo, this might be the career for you.
Attending a business or technical school to get the basics of accounting may be all that is needed to prepare yourself for this rewarding and interesting career path. There are also a growing number of online accounting programs, so you can earn a degree or certification from your home. Unlike CPAs, you will not usually be required to update your credentials.
This is one of those jobs that many business owners do not want to do and will often hire out for these tasks. As an accounting clerk, you can make your mark in the accounting field without spending years in traditional education settings.