What is Accounting?

The accounting field provides ample employment opportunities for professionals with a range of educational backgrounds. The financial and business industry is growing faster than other sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the field to grow 6% through 2028.

Accounting assistants can get in on the ground floor and advance in a field that offers room for growth as they gain more experience and education. Several industries need accounting assistants to help with payroll, assist with accounts receivable and payable, and handle month-end reconciliations. With certification and a higher college degree, individuals can work as an accountant, auditor, and certified public accountant (CPA). Continue reading this guide to learn more about the qualifications and skills you need to get a job as an accounting assistant.

What is an Accounting Assistant?

Accounting assistants support accountants, small-business owners, and finance directors. They work in finance and insurance, entertainment, healthcare, retail, and accounting. This entry-level position may not require a college degree, but employers typically prefer candidates who at least hold an associate degree in accounting or business. Accounting assistants primarily help with financial matters but they also answer phones and craft emails. Specific job duties depend on the workplace. Accounting assistants may handle payroll, manage accounts receivable and payable, and process customer payments. For specific duties, keep reading this guide.

What Does an Accounting Assistant Do?

What is their focus?

The focus of an accounting assistant's job depends on the employer. Most accounting assistants record and process daily financial matters. Unlike a financial or accounting clerk, accounting assistants help with multiple areas of accounting and clerical work. Exact job descriptions vary by industry. Accounting assistants who work in real estate perform different job functions than professionals who work in healthcare. Accounting assistants provide crucial assistance to accounting and finance departments by processing incoming and ongoing payments. Some accounting assistants may need additional specialized skills and training to learn industry-specific rules and software. Typically, accounting assistants manage accounts receivable and payable. Duties may include making bank deposits or conducting bank reconciliations. These professionals also manage payroll and process employee expenses.

What skills do they need?

Accounting assistants need basic accounting, math, and administrative skills. Bookkeeping programs enable accounting assistants to track payments and deposits. Accounting assistants must be proficient in Excel and Word and familiar with QuickBooks. They also need strong problem-solving, time-management, and multitasking skills. Employers typically require accounting assistants to manage multiple time-sensitive assignments. To succeed as an accounting assistant, an individual must be able to work quickly and accurately. Employers may require other skills, depending on the company. For example, a retail company may prefer a candidate who possesses both accounting and retail experience. See below for more detailed descriptions of specific skills.

Who do they work for?

Nearly every accounting department needs accounting assistants. Typically, accounting assistants work desk jobs in offices; however, they may need to attend offsite meetings or workshops. While uncommon, some accounting assistants work on a freelance basis from home. Most accounting assistants work for insurance carriers, credit intermediation, healthcare, science and technical services, and administrative services. Employers also hire accounting assistants to manage financials at entertainment companies, real estate companies, roofing companies, and other retailers.

What Software is Used at the Job?

To help them perform their daily tasks, accounting assistants use various accounting software programs, including Excel or QuickBooks. They may also use industry-specific software programs that generate summaries or invoices. Accounting assistants use programs such as Microsoft Word and Outlook to complete clerical tasks. They must be able to work independently since most receive minimal supervision.

What are some job titles they might have?

An accounting assistant may have a title such as accounting associate, tax accounting assistant, accounting clerk, financial clerk, new accounts clerks, bookkeeper, or junior accountant. Job titles differ but job responsibilities remain similar. Specializations or concentrations in accounting associate programs allow accounting assistants to hone their skills for specialized occupations. As professionals gain more seniority within a company, they can take on higher-level titles, including senior accounting assistant, accountant, or CPA.

What are some specialties in this field?

Accounting assistants can find jobs in specific industries with specialized education. College courses in receivables or payables, forensic accounting, taxation, or professional accounting teach students specific skills for specialized careers. Accounting assistants can also earn certifications to find specialized work. Working professionals also gain specialized skills on the job.

What are the Responsibilities of an Accounting Assistant?

Accounts Payable

Accounting assistants handle accounts payable, which requires managing outgoing payments within a company. They assist in processing payments and purchase orders and updating accounts. They also reconcile invoices to ensure that the payments match account statements.

Accounts Receivable

Accounts receivable refers to the department in a company that handles incoming payments. An accounting assistant who works in accounts receivable ensures that customers pay invoices promptly. They generate invoices and submit payments, as well as update the general ledger and balance sheet. Smaller companies may require these professionals to deposit payments to the bank.

Data Entry

Accounting assistants often perform data entry, which includes updating journal entries, logging payments, and coding invoices for payment. To successfully complete these tasks, accounting assistants need entry-level typing skills. They must also be efficient and accurate in handling data entry.

Customer Service

Accounting assistants often need to contact customers or vendors to ensure that invoices have been paid. They need strong verbal and written communication skills to perform customer service tasks which include writing formal emails and handling business calls.

Payroll and Employee Expenses

Accounting departments often look to accounting assistants to assist with payroll. These professionals ensure that timesheets match reported hours. They also answer questions about sick leave and vacation, process employee expenses, and generate checks.

Clerical Work

Accounting assistants help CEOs, accountants, and finance directors. They may prepare correspondence, make photocopies, or book travel arrangements. Around the office, they may handle incoming mail and packages, assist with bank reconciliations, or prepare quarter-end reports.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become an Accounting Assistant?

Education

Find a Program Spend some time researching accounting or business programs with a curriculum that suits your interests and classes that fit your schedule.
Submit an Application Once you find a suitable program, gather all of the application materials and apply by the deadline.
Take a Specialty or Concentration While in college, many programs allow accounting students to hone their interests by taking a specialty in taxation or forensic accounting.
Earn a Degree Complete the required credits and meet GPA requirements to earn your associate or bachelor's degree in accounting or business.

Skills

Learn Excel and QuickBooks While in school, students learn about computerized accounting and how to use spreadsheets and create formulas in Excel. They may also learn how to use software such as QuickBooks.
Study Fraud Examination College classes teach students how to detect and prevent fraud within a company. Fraud examination skills strengthen an accounting assistant's resume.
Learn Payroll Accounting To complete payroll, accounting assistants must process payments for employees, verify paycheck accuracy, calculate overtime, and prepare tax reports.

Abilities

Written and Oral Communication Skills College classes in English and speech help students hone their writing and oral communication skills.
Time Management Taking online classes requires students to manage their time, a skill that comes in handy in the workplace.
Multitasking Much like online students, accounting assistants must manage multiple tasks while meeting deadlines.

Knowledge

Accounting Practices Every accounting department follows a system of practices to perform and record financial transactions. Students learn this in school and on the job.
Tax Accounting Accounting assistants become familiar through experience and education with the Internal Revenue Service's tax rules as they apply to businesses.
Business Law Working professionals in accounting must possess a firm understanding of the commercial laws that govern businesses.
Learn More About How to Become an Accounting Assistant

How are Accounting Assistants Employed?

See below for a list of some areas accounting assistants may work.

  • Professional, Science, and Technical Services

    This large sector includes a variety of fields. Accounting assistants who work in professional, scientific, and technical services may work in accounting and tax preparation, legal services, or computer system designs.

  • Retail

    Online and brick-and-mortar shops comprise the retail sector. Accounting assistants work in the finance departments of retail companies, preparing monthly bank reconciliations. They also complete other tasks, such as processing accounts payable invoices.

  • Healthcare

    Hospitals, clinics, social assistance programs, and nursing and residential care facilities employ accounting assistants to manage their incoming and outgoing finances.

  • Finance and Insurance

    Accounting assistants also work in finance and insurance. Their duties include handling accounts receivable or accounts payable. They may also assist in month-end closing tasks.

  • Credit Intermediation

    This industry includes private and government agencies. Accounting assistants employed in credit intermediation may work in a bank.

Learn More About Accounting Assistants and Take the First Step Today!

Professional Organizations for Accounting Assistants