Become an Accounts Payable Specialist or Manager – Careers & Outlook

You might be considering attending school to earn an accounting degree. One of the many positions this will give you access to is accounts payable specialist. You can earn this with a lower-level degree or use it as a steppingstone to higher career goals. A good accounts payable specialist course (degree or non-degree) ensures that you learn all of the important concepts behind this professional role. When you finish, you’ll be ready to take and pass certification which may be required: Accounts Payable Specialist (APS). This is offered by the Institute of Finance & Management (OFM).

Should you have your eyes on a position for a certified accounts payable manager, you’ll be able to take and complete a course as above, then earn your certification and work your way up into this position. Those who have experience in accounts payable are more likely to be hired as managers.

What is an Accounts Payable Specialist or Manager?


This professional needs to have at least a high school diploma, though an associate degree in accounting is preferable. Managers will usually have two years or more of accounts payable (AP) experience. They may work in an accounts payable department specifically in a larger company, or they might work in the general accounting department and even have secondary responsibilities beyond AP. This might be general accounting and ledger keeping or accounts receivable tasks.

Steps to Become an Accounts Payable Specialist:


  • Step 1: Enroll in a Community College or University Degree Program

  • Step 2: Find and Participate in an Internship

  • Step 3: Begin Searching for Payroll Specialist Positions

  • Step 4: Earn Your Certification

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Step 1: Enroll in a Community College or University Degree Program

You can begin this journey by exploring various community college or university accounting programs for yourself. They should offer an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in accounting at a minimum, though a Bachelor of Science in Accounting may be preferrable if you really want to have the best chance to move into a manager’s position. Either of these will give you the knowledge and skills you need to begin working in an entry-level position as an account payable specialist.

Any good accounting degree program should offer you entry-level job preparation, the ability to find job opportunities, and preparation for continued studies in business and accounting beyond the degree level you are completing.

In your core classes, you’ll learn how to use and apply accounting principles and practices. Your instructors will teach you how to use the accounting cycle to enter transactions, use and store information, and prepare financial statements. You’ll also learn about the process of organizing and analyzing, then managing and delivering information to your fellow employees.

Step 2: Find and Participate in an Internship

Colleges and employers often develop partnerships that allow them to offer internships to students preparing for careers in given fields. For students in accounting programs, these give you a chance to gain real work experience that allows you to use your newly developed analytical skills and values as an accounts payable specialist. One of your educational goals should be to find and enter an internship that will give you a better shot at finding a job after you graduate. As you are working with your mentor, you may learn about accounts payable processes, the career path, and average salary for your role. You may be working under the supervision of the accounting manager at your internship site on your own or they may pair you with another accounts payable worker.

Step 3: Begin Searching for Payroll Specialist Positions

Once you’re close to completing your degree of choice in accounting and getting ready to graduate, it’s time to consider where you go from here. As you prepare for your finals, don’t forget that you should also be seeking job announcements for accounts payable specialists. You may also see openings for accounts receivable specialists and you should consider these as well if listings are few as your internship experience would prepare you well for either side of the accounts payable/receivable process. However, you may want to focus on AP openings if you are put off by the idea of contacting customers who are late on payments or any of the other tasks of an accounts receivable position.

Once you receive and accept a job offer, you’ll begin working with other professionals in the accounting department for your employer. For example, you’ll work on and prepare financial transaction records and bookkeeping for the company’s auditors and accountants to use when they are getting ready to file taxes. You may monitor vendor payment agreements by seeking discounts, maintain the petty cash accounts and keep track of all outgoing payments, pay the sales taxes on invoices and log each completed tax payment, reconcile payable reports every month so your accounting manager can confirm all payments were accurate, and keep track of credits that are owed to the company.

Step 4: Earn Your Certification

Earning your Accounts Payable Specialist certification proves that you have the knowledge you need to do your work no matter what comes your way. Certificate courses will give you what you need to get ready for the Institute of Finance & Management’s (IOFM) Accounts Payable Specialist (APS) program if you aren’t 100% sure you can pass it after completing your degree.

No matter where you work hope to work, there are likely employers who are seeking accounts payable specialists with their certifications. Even in places where work in these positions is harder to find, it will be easier to gain a position with certification because they know that your work will be high-quality and accurate. When they see the APS certification on your resume, you immediately become more attractive to them because they know you understand payments, automation, invoices, and other activities pertinent to their company.

This certification has been designed for new or existing accounting professionals who need the certification to find a job or to advance in their career. This program is delivered through an online personal instructor format.

What Does an Accounts Payable Specialist or Manager Do?


An accounts payable specialist will accurately and reliably pay the invoices of vendors who need to be paid for products or services; they may record sales tax, document loans, and assist with bank reconciliations if they are in a senior position. they will also often match checks with a backup for the financial manager to review if there seem to be issues with payments. They’ll go through both unpaid and paid invoices, to include cleared payment inquiries and both void bad checks, put stop payments in place when necessary, and verify check voiding when issues occur. They record some transactions and make changes to the general ledger in accordance with company standards.

An accounts payable manager may also conduct research, looking for information to obtain the most accurate and quick solution for the benefit of both vendors and internal clients located in multiple locations. They also ensure that vendor invoices are accurate and that the right general ledger account codes have been used when they reconcile accounts at the end of each month and yearly.

They may also be directed to create and maintain a filing system to hold financial information, financial records, and documents so that information can be quickly located. The accounts receivable specialist or manager may also review auto-payments, ensure that authorization has been given for especially large payments, and verify the presence and accuracy of documentation and contracts.

A specialist or manager may also monitor account balances, prepare analyses of accounts, track expenses, and follow up on related financial activity so they can produce needed financial reports.

Skills Needed for Accounts Payable Positions


As an accounts payable specialist, you need specific skills to carry out your job effectively. First off, you’ll want to develop your computer skills, because you’ll spend the majority of your workday on spreadsheet software, reports, and tax documents. You should learn those skills specific to bookkeeping in your courses, as well as Microsoft suite (Word, Excel, and even PowerPoint). Those most pertinent to accounting include Excel, QuickBooks, and Costpoint (General Ledger) software but companies may use bespoke computer programs or lesser-known programs as well, so you’ll need to be competent and able to learn on the job.

Attention to detail allows you to focus on the smallest details that your employer requires. This means that you won’t overlook even the smallest amounts in your daily tallies of account balances, general ledgers, payroll, and petty cash.

Communication skills are always vital, even though you’re working with numbers. You need to be able to speak to your colleagues and supervisors as well as being able to write clearly and effectively since you may be required to write reports.

Math skills are likely to be the highest in priority, along with analytical skills. Both of these skills fit hand in hand as you compute numbers and/or search for areas where costs can be cut.

Organizational skills allow you to know where every document and form is – many accounting personnel find that their life is hectic during tax time and it’s best to know where everything is so that you can make the busy season as easy as possible on yourself.

Alternative Paths


It might be best to attend college and earn an accounting degree when you decide to become an accounts payable specialist, but as long as you have either your high school diploma or a GED certificate you may be able to enter an accounting firm and begin working at an entry-level job before working your way up.

If you are still in high school, look to take basic accounting or bookkeeping courses and the highest-level math courses you can. If you have already graduated from high school but you aren’t looking to earn a degree, consider completing a course that will give you access to bookkeeper certification. With this and enough experience, you may be able to work your way into a lower-level accounts payable position. Having basic accounting skills and understanding the concepts will help you.

An associate or bachelor’s degree in business or finance may also allow you to access this position.

Accounts Payable Manager Careers & Salary


Where Might You Work?


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You may work in nearly any type of company in any industry. If a company buys items or materials or pays vendors for services, then they must perform accounts payable tasks. In your position as an accounts payable specialist (payable clerk), you’ll get invoices in the mail from the companies selling services or products. You’ll enter the invoices into an accounting software program and, once your supervisor has approved bank deposits, you’ll issue the payments and enter the details of each transaction.

More specifically, you may work alone in your employer’s office but you may end up consulting with other accountants, auditing clerks, or managers from different departments. Your skills will easily transfer to other accounting positions as well.

Because your position transfers so easily, you may work in a hospital’s accounts payable office. Or you may work in a retail store. Anywhere a company has to buy products or services, you will be able to find a job, because you will be needed to help ensure that payments for those purchases are made on time and properly tracked. You may even be able to work remotely from an office in your own home. In a remote position, you can expect to report to and communicate with your manager consistently for assignments. The majority of your communications will be with suppliers or vendors on invoices.

Career Outlook


The employment of accounts payable specialists, bookkeepers, auditing clerks and accountants is expected to go down by 6% between 2019 and 2029. The transition to automation and technological changes are driving this decline, as companies will hire fewer workers in this field. In another report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of financial clerks was predicted to stay stable during this same period. Because newer online tools now allow customers to carry out these transactions themselves, the demand for accounts clerks, credit authorizers, procurement clerks, checkers, and clerks may still decrease.

However, the job prospects for accounting in general continue to be good. Employers will be hiring new financial employees to replace those who have left their jobs (replacing through attrition). Some companies may decide to continue employing financial (accounts payable specialist) clerks. A supervisor with accounts payable skills will easily be able to detect errors as they go through reports and may then send the work back to the AP department for corrections.

Jobs


Your job role involves making sure the bills your company owes are paid and correctly recorded on the books. You may also be given the responsibility of tracking budgetary expenses, depending on what your employer has decided you and other accounts payable specialists are doing. If outside balances are allowed to get too large, it could put the largest business under, so your role is vital. Among its internal values, keeping the bills paid should be right at the top of the list for any company. Here are just some of the positions you may hold with AP experience and expertise.

  • Bill and Account Collectors:
    A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for this position. Your job is to contact people who are behind on a bill and get them to make their accounts current. This falls under the accounts receivable purview, but the job is similar to accounts payable work. The median annual salary for this position is $37,000.
  • Information Clerks:
    A high school diploma and on-the-job training are sufficient for you to carry out your daily duties in this position. Your daily work consists of routine clerical work, data collection, records maintenance, and giving information to your employer’s customers. The median annual salary for this position is $35,000.
  • Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks:
    If you have earned some college credits, but you haven’t earned your degree, you may still be able to gain access to these types of positions. In them, you’ll check financial records for accuracy and produce financial records and reports for your employer. The median annual salary for this position is $41,000.
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technicians:
    You should hold a post-secondary award or certification to work in this field. It’s not accounting-focused, but you’ll need many of the same skills to succeed. These specialists are responsible for organizing and managing health information data. The median annual salary for this position is $43,000.
  • Tellers:
    In this position, you’ll process transactions at a bank and a high school diploma or GED is usually sufficient. The median annual salary for this position is $31,000.

Find Accounts Payable Specialist or Manager Jobs Near You


Advancing from Here


In order to advance from an accounts payable position, you’ll need experience and education. Experience will come with time, but you can decide where you want to go with your education. You might choose to earn a bachelor’s if you haven’t yet, which you can focus on accounting if you hope to move into a controller position, or you can focus on management if your interests lie in moving up in the company in general. If you’ve already earned your degree, you might want to consider earning an MBA rather than a general master’s degree. You can focus your MBA on accounting and gain new knowledge in accounting, business, and management at the same time.

Business Career Paths