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An accounting clerk assists accounting departments with various tasks. These professionals process invoices, organize office mail, record business transactions, and manage customer accounts on any given day.
This role differs from the work of bookkeepers and accounting assistants. Bookkeepers typically analyze financial information to help organizations make informed decisions. In contrast, accounting clerks organize and verify financial information. While accounting assistants usually help one accountant, accounting clerks may assist entire accounting departments.
Organizations in virtually any industry, including healthcare, finance, and professional services, may employ accounting clerks. Some smaller businesses may only hire one clerk, but large organizations typically employ multiple accounting clerks to meet the needs of busy accounting departments.
According to Zippia data, the United States employs more than 1.3 million accounting clerks, with nearly half holding bachelor's degrees. However, it is not uncommon to enter the field with an associate degree and climb the corporate ladder with experience.
Over time, qualified accounting clerks may transition to roles as junior accountants. This position typically includes a higher salary and more accounting-specific responsibilities.
Continue reading to learn more about the accounting clerk job description and what to expect from this career path.
What Does an Accounting Clerk Do?
Accounting clerks have multiple responsibilities within accounting departments. On any given day, professionals in this supporting role oversee and organize financial transactions, communicate with accounting and budgeting staff, and prepare financial reports.
Their daily tasks may shift as an organization's needs change. Additionally, responsibilities may vary by industry. The following list includes a few tasks most accounting clerks perform.
Key Hard Skills for Accounting Clerks
Accounting: Accounting skills are central to an accounting clerk's responsibilities. These professionals assist accounting departments with budgeting, accounting, and reporting every day. They must have a solid understanding of accounts payable and receivable, coding, and transactional accounting. Financial Reporting: Accounting clerks process and organize financial information, such as invoices, payments, and balance sheets. They also create reports from this data to assist accounting departments and financial decision-makers. Data Management: These professionals work with financial information and must know how to organize, process, and make sense of data. They may also have proficiency in using digital data management tools. Computing: Accounting clerks regularly use word processing, spreadsheet, and email tools to perform tasks. Understanding how computer applications and software work can help them complete tasks efficiently.
Key Soft Skills for Accounting Clerks
Multitasking: Accounting clerks wear many hats each day. Multitasking skills allow them to perform multiple duties within a given period while remaining organized and managing time effectively. Communication:Accounting clerks communicate daily with other accounting professionals, financial decision-makers, and clients. They also interact through various methods, including phone, email, and face-to-face, making oral and written communication skills equally important. Teamwork: Accounting departments rely on accounting clerks to keep their departments running smoothly. These professionals must work well in teams, thrive on team culture, and understand the importance of each role in the office. Willingness to Learn: Accounting clerk responsibilities can change as an organization's needs evolve. An eagerness to learn allows accounting clerks to adapt to changes, learn new skills, and work their way up the career ladder.
Accounting Clerk Areas of Expertise
Accounting clerks often specialize in an industry or financial niche to meet their organizations' and clients' needs. The following list explores common accounting clerk areas of expertise.
Accounting clerks specializing in taxation may work for private companies or government offices. They review tax responsibilities and organize tax account statements along with accepting, processing, and sending payments.
Entry-level tax clerks usually focus on clerical and administrative tasks. Higher-level positions may require in-depth tax compliance research, detailed reporting, and managing more complex accounts. Advancement opportunities include roles as tax accountants, tax preparers, and actuaries.
Common Job Titles
- Tax accounting clerk
- Payroll clerk
- Credit and collections clerk
- Tax and compensation clerk
- Accounts payable clerk
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), increasing technology has reduced the demand for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks.
However, Qian Song, Ph.D., an associate professor of accounting at Rochester Institute of Technology, says that accounting clerks can stay ahead of the curve by specializing in data analytics. Data analysis skills allow these professionals to work with tools to extract and process data to assist in informed decision-making.
Common Job Titles
- Data analysis clerk
- Data entry clerk
- Budget analyst
- Medical records clerk
- Accounts payable specialist
A government accounting clerk's duties are similar to those in the private sector. However, accounting clerks working in government offices manage different budgets, transactions, and reports.
For instance, these accounting professionals may perform accounting duties for school districts, public welfare agencies, or city governments. This type of accounting requires in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of the government organization's financial processes.
Common Job Titles
- Accounts payable clerk
- Accounts receivable clerk
- Accounting technician
- Forensic accounting clerk
Investment accounting clerks work with investment firms to handle real estate, personal, and other investments.
They primarily manage investment accounts by tracking fees, transfers, and other financial transactions. These professionals may also buy and sell stocks, purchase real estate assets, and perform other investment duties based on consultations with investment accountants and clients.
Like other accounting clerks, investment clerks also perform clerical duties, like sorting mail, filing documents, or assisting with customer support.
Common Job Titles
- Investment clerk
- Investment specialist
- Investor account clerk
How to Become an Accounting Clerk
Multiple pathways can lead to accounting clerk jobs. Some organizations hire candidates with high school diplomas. On-the-job training from a junior or senior accountant can enhance necessary skills. This pathway is more common in smaller businesses or accounting departments than in larger firms.
Holding an accounting certification can also open the door to diverse accounting clerk opportunities. For instance, a certified tax preparer credential could set a candidate apart from others competing for tax clerk positions.
Accounting Clerk Job Outlook and Salary
The BLS reports a median 2021 annual salary for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks of $45,560. Because broader use of technology has affected the industry, the BLS projects a 3% decline in these positions from 2020-2030.
Still, the outlook for accounting clerks somewhat depends on factors like location, experience, education, and industry. For instance, earning an accounting degree or certification can lead to advanced positions as auditors or accountants.
Additionally, Payscale's August 2022 data notes that accounting clerks with more than 10 years of experience earn, on average, about $2.60 more per hour than entry-level professionals.
Populous states like California and Texas employ high numbers of these professionals. The District of Columbia and Massachusetts pay the highest salaries, according to BLS data from May 2021.
Career Spotlight: Bryan Sharpe
What is the difference between an accounts payable clerk and accounts receivable clerk?
The main difference is the type of transactions they handle. Accounts payable clerks are responsible for issuing payments to vendors and processing invoices. Accounts receivable clerks, on the other hand, manage customer payments and reconcile bank statements.
Is an accounting clerk similar to an accounting assistant?
An accounting clerk is similar to an accounting assistant in that they both provide support to the accounting department. However, accounting assistants typically have more responsibilities, such as preparing financial statements and tax returns. They may also have supervisory duties, whereas accounting clerks typically do not.
What education do you need to pursue the position?
Most accounting clerk positions require at least a high school diploma, although some employers may prefer candidates with an associate or bachelor's degree in accounting.
What does a typical day as an accounting clerk look like?
A typical day as an accounting clerk involves processing invoices, issuing payments, reconciling bank statements, and preparing financial reports. I start my day by reviewing the invoices that have come in overnight and assigning them to the appropriate accounts. Then, I issue payments to vendors and update our accounting software with the latest transactions.
After that, I reconcile our bank statements and prepare financial reports for our management team. Throughout the day, I also handle customer inquiries and provide support to other members of the accounting department.
How did working in accounts payable and receivable prepare you for your current role?
Working in both accounts payable and receivable gave me a well-rounded understanding of the accounting process. I was able to see how all of the different pieces fit together, which has been helpful in my current role as a senior accountant. In addition, working with vendor invoices and customer payments has helped me develop strong attention to detail and problem-solving skills.
What do you think is the most important skill accounting clerks need to succeed?
The most important skill accounting clerks need to succeed is attention to detail. This job requires a high level of accuracy, as even small mistakes can have big consequences. In addition, accounting clerks need to be able to effectively manage their time and prioritize tasks. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are also important, as you will be working with a variety of people on a daily basis.
What advice would you give to students considering this job?
If you're considering a career as an accounting clerk, I recommend taking classes in accounting, finance, and business administration. These courses should give you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed in this field. I also suggest pursuing internships or entry-level positions in accounting to get a feel for the job. And finally, always remember to pay attention to detail.
Bryan Sharpe is a senior accountant at Solar Panels Network USA. He has worked in accounting for over 20 years, and has experience with both small and large businesses. Bryan is a hard worker and takes great pride in his work. He is a detail-oriented individual who pays close attention to the numbers and makes sure that everything is in order.
Questions About the Accounting Clerk Job Description
What are the main duties of an accounting clerk?
Accounting clerk jobs include financial record-keeping, budgeting, and reporting for accounting departments. They also perform clerical duties, such as answering phone calls and emails, filing paperwork, and scheduling appointments.
What skills are needed for an accounting clerk?
Accounting clerks should have excellent communication, time management, and organizational skills. They must also be proficient in accounting, mathematics, computing, and data management.
Are accounting clerks in demand?
Some industries have a higher demand for accounting clerks than others. According to the BLS, company management and accounting industries have the highest employment numbers for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks. However, the overall industry has a projected 3% decline in job growth from 2020-2030.
What is the difference between an accountant and a clerk?
Accounting clerks generally do not need more than a high school diploma to begin their careers. They assist accounting departments with accounting and clerical duties. In contrast, an accountant usually has a minimum of a bachelor's degree and can perform complex accounting duties.
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