By: Accounting.com Staff
Last Updated: December 2019

An accounting assistant career can lead to ample job opportunities. While bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerk employment shows little to no growth for the next 10 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an influx of jobs due to workers leaving the occupation. The BLS projects 1,641,900 total jobs for accounting, bookkeeping, and auditing clerks in the United States in 2028.

When considering this career, you may be asking yourself, what is an accounting assistant? What does an accounting assistant do? What are the job responsibilities of an accounting assistant? You can learn the answers to these questions below, including education requirements and certification opportunities.

What Skills Do You Need to Become an Accounting Assistant?

When hiring an accounting assistant, employers typically look for detail-oriented candidates with specific skills. The section below details recommended job qualifications, which accounting students can gain in an educational program.

Computer Skills

To succeed as an accounting assistant, candidates must know how to use computers to record and calculate data. Accounting assistants also use computers to find information and communicate with clients. They also use specialized computer accounting software, databases, and spreadsheets to enter information from receipts or bills and to perform a variety of tasks.

Attention to Detail

Accounting assistants must pay close attention to detail to avoid making errors. They must know how to recognize errors to produce accurate financial records. Accounting assistants usually update statements, record financial transactions, and check financial records for accuracy in figures, postings, and reports.

Integrity

Accounting assistants keep records transparent to guard against misusing an organization's funds, which means they must use financial information properly and keep information confidential. Assistants also need to inform supervisors of any discrepancies in reports or transactions.

Math Skills

Accounting assistants work with numbers daily and must possess basic math skills. While they can use specialized computer software to calculate most transactions, assistants must check math for accuracy to avoid computer errors. Assistants may also need to know how to determine interest charges, balance billing vouchers, and perform internal auditing.

How Long Does It Take to Become an Accounting Assistant?

Individuals must complete several steps to work as accounting assistants. They must complete education and training, find an entry-level job, earn certification, and pursue continuing education opportunities.

The first step to becoming an accounting assistant involves education and training. While some candidates find employment with only a high school diploma, most employers prefer some college experience. Candidates receive on-the-job training, but college experience can differentiate candidates for entry-level jobs. Full-time students can typically complete an associate degree in accounting or business in two years or a bachelor's degree in four years.

Earning some experience can help you stand out among job candidates for more advanced positions.

Next, individuals should find entry-level jobs and gain field experience. This step could take weeks or months, depending on qualifications. Earning some experience can help you stand out among job candidates for more advanced positions.

Individuals may find entry-level accounting jobs by using online job boards and search engines. Professional organizations, such as the American Accounting Association, provide helpful career advice, interviewing tips, and job listings for accounting and bookkeeping positions. Consider joining and adding your resume to LinkedIn, a professional networking website. LinkedIn provides job listings and allows professionals to network with other accounting professionals.

While not required, seeking a certification or licensure in accounting or business can help candidates without college experience demonstrate expertise. This step can also advance your career and lead to higher income. You can find certification and licensing opportunities through several professional organizations for accounting, such as the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB). The time to complete certification varies. Certification usually requires annual renewal.

While not required, seeking a certification or licensure in accounting or business can help candidates without college experience demonstrate expertise.

Completing continuing education credits is the fourth step for gaining accounting assistant experience. Individuals can find continuing education opportunities through professional organizations for accounting and business. Continuing education usually involves completing online courses or webinars. NACPB offers continuing professional education for accounting, which involves watching videos and completing quizzes.

What Education Do You Need to Become an Accounting Assistant?

Education can be helpful for working as an accounting clerk. Although not required, most accounting assistants have some college education, especially coursework in accounting or business math. However, some employers will hire candidates with only a high school diploma.

An associate degree in accounting prepares students for entry-level positions, while a bachelor's in accounting or business can lead to more advanced clerical positions. Additional master's-level coursework can prepare learners for certified accountant exams. Graduates also earn more with a college degree than a high school diploma, according to the BLS.

An accounting degree can also allow candidates to pursue professional certifications, which help them stand out.

Some employers prefer to hire candidates with an associate or bachelor's degree in accounting or business. Candidates with a business or accounting degree usually complete coursework in business, financial accounting, economics, financial management, business statistics, and law.

An accounting degree can also allow candidates to pursue professional certifications, which help them stand out. Some certifications require yearly continuing education credits, which can be completed through online courses and webinars. Accounting assistants can also learn some skills with on-the-job training. According to the BLS, on-the-job training for accounting clerks usually lasts six months.

Accounting Assistant Career Development and Credentials

As an accounting assistant, you may have an advantage when applying for jobs or advancement if you earn certification or licensure. There are a number of options when it comes to accounting licensure.

Certifications and Continuing Education

Certification usually requires previous accounting experience and good exam scores. While some colleges offer certification pathways, accounting clerks may also pursue the following certifications through professional organizations.

Certified Bookkeeper

The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers awards the bookkeeper certification to clerks with the necessary skills and knowledge to complete bookkeeping tasks, including balancing accounts and payroll. To receive the certification, accounting clerks must adhere to a code of ethics, pass a four-part exam, and demonstrate two years of full-time experience or equivalent part-time work.

Certified Accountant

Awarded by NACPB, this accounting certification helps employees show credibility and validate accounting knowledge. To receive the certification, candidates must pass the uniform accounting certification examination and complete an accounting principles course. NACPB offers online study resources for this certification exam, including a pre-assessment test, quizzes, and videos.

Credentials and Licensing

Licensing can also help accounting professionals demonstrate credibility. NACPB awards the following licenses.

Certified Accounting Paraprofessional

To qualify for this license, candidates need an associate or bachelor's degree. They also must demonstrate a year of accounting or bookkeeping experience, pass a five-part exam, and earn 24 hours of continuing education credits each year. The license allows professionals to place "CAP" behind their name.

Certified Payroll Specialist

This license demonstrates payroll knowledge and allows professionals to place "CPS" behind their names. To receive this licensure, candidates must pass a three-part exam and complete 16 hours of continuing education credits each year.

Learn More About Accounting Assistant Careers and Take the Next Step Today

Career and Professional Resources

  • American Accounting Association Founded in 1916, this professional organization comprises the largest community of accountants in academia. The AAA offers webinars, networking and award opportunities, and publications featuring the latest field research.
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants With more than 429,000 members in 122 countries and territories, AICPA is the world's largest member association for the accounting profession. Membership benefits include news and publications, discounts, and advocacy.
  • The National Society of Accountants Created in 1945, NSA serves the tax and accounting profession through advocacy, education, and discounts. This professional organization awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to accounting students each year.
  • The National Tax Association An educational association founded in 1907, NTA is the premiere association of scholars and professionals dedicated to advancing public finance. Members receive access to publications, conferences, and a membership directory.
  • Accounting & Financial Women's Alliance Founded in 1938, AFWA strives to increase opportunities for women in all fields of accounting and finance through networking and leadership opportunities. AFWA offers different memberships for students and young professionals.