How to Become an Accounting Clerk
| Accounting.com Staff
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A career as an accounting clerk offers a pathway to many high-level finance and business careers. To land a job as an accounting clerk, employers usually require a minimum of an associate degree. As accounting clerks gain more skills and pursue a bachelor's degree, they can boost their earning power and rise into managerial occupations in a growing industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for financial clerks, a position similar to accounting clerks, will grow 5% through 2028. Explore this guide to learn what it takes to pursue an occupation as an accounting clerk and discover helpful resources.
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WHAT SKILLS DO YOU NEED TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTING CLERK?
Employers need accounting clerks who can juggle multiple tasks. They must know how to prepare financial reports and update billing databases. These professionals must also be proficient in basic accounting software and know how to perform routine administrative tasks. For more details on the specific skills needed to become an accounting clerk, see the list below:
- Proficient in Excel, Word, and Outlook: Accounting clerks use multiple programs within the Microsoft suite, particularly Excel. They regularly update spreadsheets and use accounting software to generate summaries and invoices. Administrative tasks require accounting clerks to use Word and Outlook to correspond with customers or vendors.
- General Ledger Experience: Accounting clerks must routinely reconcile a company's general ledger. To create financial reports and keep track of financial transactions, accounting clerks must possess general ledger experience. They must ensure that bank statements correlate with transactions and credits recorded in the general ledger.
- Accounts Receivable and Payable: All companies need trained workers to handle accounts receivables and payables. Managing accounts payable consists of paying off vendors and all other non-payroll expenses. Accounting clerks who work in accounts payable handle invoices and bills. Professionals who work in accounts receivable handle incoming payments. They send out invoices and record payments as they arrive.
- Bank Reconciliations: Accounting clerks who perform bank reconciliations ensure that the bank account statements match the company's financial books. They use accounting software to reconcile bank records. When accounting clerks find errors, they must correct the inconsistencies. This process can help accounting clerks uncover fraud or theft.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTING CLERK?
The pathway to become an accounting clerk differs for everyone. The journey depends on multiple factors such as a person's family and work obligations, previous training, and prior educational background. See the four steps below to get a general idea of a possible pathway:
- FIND A PROGRAM: Employers do not always require accounting assistants to hold an associate degree, but college credit gives students the training needed to find work. The first step in this journey begins with finding an accounting or business associate degree. Degree-seekers should ensure that the school has regional accreditation. Having credits from a regionally accredited school helps students transfer smoothly to a four-year school if they decide to pursue a higher degree. Once they find a school, students must complete an application and submit supplemental materials, including high school or college transcripts. The application process can take weeks or months.
- RECEIVE A DEGREE: Generally, the process to earn an associate degree in accounting or business takes 24-26 months for full-time students. Some programs offer accelerated pathways that allow students to earn a degree in less than two years. During the program, students learn how to use accounting software programs. Associate programs also introduce students to basic concepts of taxation, business ethics, payroll, managerial accounting, financial statements, and system analysis. To graduate, students must complete 60-70 college credits.
- LOOK FOR A JOB: After earning an associate degree, students can seek work as an accounting assistant. Graduates should look to their school's career center, which typically offers access to career counseling, resume help, and job boards. Part of the job-hunting process includes building a resume that attracts employers. When graduates create a solid resume, they can access job postings through numerous professional accounting organizations. You can review some of these organizations below. With an associate degree in accounting, students can also work as a bookkeeping clerk, payroll clerk, or accounting receivable clerk.
- EARN CERTIFICATION OR TRANSFER: Students can earn certifications that build their skills and knowledge in specialty areas such as payroll or accounts receivable. Accounting assistants can move into positions handling payroll by earning a certified bookkeeper credential through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. They can also take the uniform bookkeeper certification examination to become a certified public bookkeeper.
WHAT EDUCATION DO YOU NEED TO BECOME AN ACCOUNTING CLERK?
No educational pathway provides a guarantee for a career; however, earning a college degree in accounting or business provides a great foundation for students and gives them the qualifications required for certain financial careers.
Many accounting clerks secure jobs with just a high school degree and basic administrative skills; however, employers often prefer candidates who hold at least an associate degree in accounting, business, or a related field. An associate degree in accounting equips students with many valuable skills. Online associate degrees in accounting allow working professionals the flexibility in their schedule to attend college while working full time. Students seeking an associate degree in accounting take courses in computerized accounting, Excel, QuickBooks, and payroll. In addition to major coursework, students also take general education requirements such as English or speech that help them build essential oral and written communication skills.
THE AVERAGE ONLINE BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN ACCOUNTING TAKES FOUR YEARS TO COMPLETE AND REQUIRES STUDENTS TO TAKE AN AVERAGE OF 120 CREDITS.
After earning a two-year degree, the next step in an accounting clerk's educational journey is often a four-year degree. A bachelor's degree offers opportunities for individuals who want to eventually work as a certified public accountant (CPA). The average online bachelor's degree in accounting takes four years to complete and requires students to take an average of 120 credits. Bachelor's degrees allow learners to earn specialties or concentrations in internal auditing, forensic accounting, project management, and entrepreneurship which prepares them for a variety of accounting positions. Program curriculum also readies students to sit for the CPA exam.
ACCOUNTING CLERK CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND CREDENTIALS
Earning certifications and taking continuing education classes can help an accounting assistant grow in their career and increase their earning potential. Much like earning a higher degree, the training that comes from voluntary continuing education courses and certifications can allow accounting assistants to change careers.
See below for certifications that can strengthen your resume and help you excel in your career.
- CERTIFIED INFORMATION SYSTEMS AUDITOR: The CISA certification, granted by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association, teaches working professionals about audit, control, and security measures in accounting. Applicants need no experience to take the 150-question exam.
- ACCREDITED RECEIVABLES SPECIALISTS CERTIFICATION: Earning an ARS certification lets employers know that you understand the fundamental concepts of accounts receivable. To earn a certification, applicants must take the program and pass an exam. Candidates with an associate degree must possess two years of accounts receivable experience. Applicants with no college degree need three years' experience.
- CERTIFIED PAYROLL PROFESSIONAL: The CPP, offered through the American Payroll Association, gives candidates the credentials they need to work in payroll. Eligible applicants need at least three years of payroll experience within the last five years from the date of the exam.
To become a CPA, accountants must meet state educational requirements and pass the exam. Having a CPA designation lets others know you have met stringent requirements and mastered accounting principles and concepts. A bachelor's degree usually provides students with the required hours of study they need to become a CPA. Many CPAs also have a master's degree. In addition to the educational requirements, students must also complete at least two years of work experience in accounting. After meeting these requirements, learners must pass four tests to earn their CPA. Earning a CPA prepares individuals to work as auditors, tax consultants, and business advisers.
LEARN MORE ABOUT ACCOUNTING CLERK CAREERS AND TAKE THE NEXT STEP TODAY
Careers and Professional Resources
American Accounting Association
Founded in 1916, AAA members aim to be thought leaders in accounting. Members can access the AAA Career Center, which offers a career fair and workshops. They also get discounted continuing professional education opportunities.
The American Finance Association
The AFA provides a community for people interested in finance. The website allows users to search for jobs after creating an account. They can create job alerts and find blogs with career advice.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
AICPA, established in 1887, sets the standards for CPAs. If an accounting assistant wants to become a CPA, the AICPA provides guidance and tips. Accounting students can also find scholarships through AICPA.
International Federation of Accountants
The 1977-founded IFAC, an international organization of more than 175 professional accounting organizations, offers the Global Knowledge Gateway, which provides students and accountants access to industry news and webinars.
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