If you’re detail oriented, strong at mathematics and feel comfortable working with computers, becoming an accounting clerk could be an ideal career choice. A starter position at many firms, the pay is good, and advancement opportunities abound in several corporate departments: since accounting clerks often specialize in one phase of the accounting process, clerks have titles that reflect their specialties, such as billing clerks, payroll clerks, purchasing agents, accounts payable clerks, and accounts receivable clerks.
You need to distinguish between accounting clerks and bookkeepers. They are two separate but similar occupations, although often they are thought to be the same. For example, an accounting clerk may be asked to perform important clerical duties, such as recording transactions in billing, purchasing, payroll, accounts payable or accounts receivable, while a bookkeeper does a more broad-based reconciling of all those transactions. Skill in a particular company silo, or department, can lead to fast-track advancement.
Average salaries for accounting clerks range between $25,000 and $46,000, according to PayScale.com. Those salary numbers are not etched in stone. Indeed.com reports a $56,773 travel accounting clerk, which is 41% above the national average. Not surprisingly: The location of the job is the biggest factor affecting pay, followed by experience level and the particular employer’s pay structure.
Accounting clerk jobs were projected to decline of 8% from 2014-2024 for all bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks. The BLS combines all those occupations on its review page. Many of the clerk jobs available “should be due to existing accounting clerks advancing to other positions or retiring,” PayScale.com says. In May 2015, accounting, auditing and bookkeeping clerks earned a median salary of $37,250 per year, according to the BLS. Due to the exacting nature of the work, accounting clerks can logically advance to higher paying jobs like account manager. The median salary for that position is $61,000 a hefty salary bump. Other possible paths can lead to a regular staff accountant, which again offers an increase in compensation.
The BLS notes that accounting clerks have the following traits:
- Attention to detail and a mind for organization.
- High ethical standards and professionalism, since they are often responsible for the banking and bookkeeping of a business.
- Familiarity with computer technology and knowledge of a variety of software programs related to the field. For example, competency in MS applications, including Word, Excel, and Outlook are tools of the trade.
- Good communication skills, since clerks work with and for more senior staff.
What an accounting clerk does largely depends on the company that hires her or him, and the department in which the clerk is assigned. But in general, a clerk’s chief responsibility is to assist others. Specific tasks will vary from department to department. According to monster.com, an accounting clerk’s job description might include some of these tasks:
- Reconciles bank statements by comparing statements with general ledger. Maintains accounting records.
- Maintains accounting databases by entering data into the computer; processing backups. If working with hard copies, files documents.
- Verifies financial reports by running performance analysis software programs.
- Determines value of depreciable assets by running depreciation software programs.
- Protects organization’s value by keeping information confidential.
- Updates job knowledge by participating in educational opportunities.
Necessary education and experience
Educational requirements for an accounting clerk position depends on the responsibilities of the specific position and department. You won’t necessarily need a post-secondary degree, associate or bachelor’s, to be hired, but having at least a high school diploma will likely be a requirement. Certainly, no matter where an accountant clerk is placed in an organization, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of documents such as receipts, sales slips, bank statements, and financial statements. At some companies, you’ll learn through on-the-job training. You can learn more through some excellent degree programs that can help you get a leg up on the competition for a job. Meanwhile, having college coursework in accounting or a related business field on your resume can help you stand out among job applicants.
For an overall perspective of the accounting field, and your educational path to success in the occupation, check out our other Accounting FAQ pages here.
Reading up on the profession can help clerks gain an advantage in the job market without necessarily seeking a higher educational degree:
Learn about the value of an accounting clerk associates (some say experience plus having an associates is the most efficient path to a good job), by going here.
For some personal perspectives about the field you are about to enter, try reading blogs by insiders and experts. The best blogs about accounting and related fields can be found here.