Accounting clerk career guide

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Accounting clerks – all you need to know

Every journey has a first step, and that’s also true for career pathways. Do you like to work with numbers? Do you usually pay attention to every single detail? Are you dependable, and do you maintain a strong work ethic? If that’s the case, a career in accounting can be a perfect match. If you plan to start with a typical entry role in the field, then becoming an accounting clerk may be your ideal choice.

Although it’s an entry-level position, as an accounting clerk, you’ll find that many new employment opportunities will be gradually unveiled. With perseverance and willingness to develop new skills and acquire know-how, you can continuously climb any organizational ladder towards better-paid jobs and more complex roles.

What does an accounting clerk do?

No matter how big or small the company they work for is, accounting clerks usually perform their day-to-day activities in office environments. Some of their main responsibilities include organizing financial documents, applying debits or credits to accounts, verifying data accuracy, and suggesting corrections if needed.

They verify figures by conducting periodic computations and regularly record and classify data to complete financial records accurately. They play a crucial role in ensuring compliance so that their organizations are fully aligned with local, national, and international rules, regulations, and policies.

Your actual responsibilities as an accounting clerk can vary depending on your employer, work experience, education, and skill level.

What to expect from an accounting clerk role?

As an accounting clerk, you primarily have to verify the accuracy of official documents and figures issued by the company that employs you. On a daily basis, you will use different software packages, including accounting, fund accounting, and tax software. Microsoft Access is also one of the easy-to-use data management systems you will work with, together with other database user interfaces and query or compliance software tools.

Accounting clerks are also responsible for dealing with cumulative, long-term tasks, like keeping an accurate record of transactions and entering daily work log data into the organization’s general archiving system. Besides this, they may need to support the executive staff by performing several accounting tasks.

Other assignments may include:

  • Keeping a constant record of all company issued refunds or charges
  • Verifying the operations’ accuracy
  • Filing customer information
  • Providing documents that the accounting department should issue, including invoices, checks, vouchers, and other accounting reports or statements
  • Processing bills or invoices

The median hourly salary in 2020 in the U.S. for accounting clerk roles was $16.37, which corresponds to a median annual wage of $39,580.

What you need to become an accounting clerk

Although this is an entry-level position compared to other roles in the accounting industry, candidates who plan to become accounting clerks still need to meet some requirements. For that, they should have a set of abilities and competencies that may prove helpful in other accounting roles.

Numerical competencies

Good arithmetic knowledge is probably the most critical skill you should have in any accounting role. Also, you should double your strong numeracy skills by pairing them with thorough analytical thinking.

Communication abilities

Efficient verbal and written communication can be useful for any professional who works with people on a daily basis. It’s beneficial for accounting clerks to convey clear and unambiguous messages to persons who don’t have accounting knowledge or background.

Carefulness

As an accounting clerk, you’ll work with different formats and use various tools and software. Therefore, you’ll have to pay attention to every detail and focus on the current tasks so that you keep everything on your radar among different competing priorities.

Computer literacy

Accounting clerks are responsible for introducing key data into various software programs. They have to work with numerous tools and systems. Thus, the ability to use technology efficiently and to quickly adapt to new releases is crucial.

Strong moral standards and work ethics

No matter what career path you choose, integrity plays an important role and will help you build excellent business relationships based on mutual trust. In accounting, this quality is indispensable to avoid fraud, embezzlement and compile accurate fiscal statements that reflect an organization’s financial health.

Compliance know-how

Accounting clerks must make sure their companies meet the latest regulations and comply with local, federal, or international laws. To verify conformity, you should be aware of any legislation that directly affects your company or clients.

Logical thinking and data management

Accounting clerks must use their critical thinking and reasoning to deal with complicated situations or problems. For that, they must be able to manage, store, and organize data efficiently.

Double-checking your work

After having finished a task, the capacity to review your work to identify any possible slips is crucial. During this quality check step, you may spot and fix numerical errors, typos, or inconsistencies so that all the documents issued by your organization are correct and complete.

Competence and maturity

Despite having an entry-level position, accounting clerks should show a high level of professionalism and maturity. These qualities will help you follow your organization’s internal rules and a strict code of business conduct. Punctuality, politeness, and sincerity will prove to any employer that you are a competent and dependable candidate.

Financial Clerks salary information by state
future outlook tooltip icon

Payscale is a salary survey service meant to provide employers and employees with salary data at local levels to benchmark and compare. While Payscale has a much smaller sample size than BLS, Payscale does update more frequently so data may be considered fresher. Payscale also indicates salaries at a wider range of roles whereas BLS sometimes aggregates numerous professions into one category which may skew salary data. For this reason, we find Payscale to be a good secondary salary indicator. All information received from payscale is via a paid API. You can read more about payscale and their data methodology here.

Nominal
Real salary
future outlook tooltip icon

The nominal salary is the unadjusted salary paid.

The real salary is adjusted to consider the purchasing power by state. We multiply the nominal salary by a state purchasing parities index to indicate the relative value of salaries by state. For instance, while New York or California might pay the highest nominal salary, these states are relatively expensive and so the real value of the salary is often less than a cheaper to live in state with a lower nominal salary.

Highest salary states

1.

Alaska

$42,165

Average salary

2.

California

$41,448

Average salary

3.

Hawaii

$40,388

Average salary

4.

Massachusetts

$39,903

Average salary

5.

Connecticut

$39,499

Average salary

6.

New York

$38,574

Average salary

7.

Washington

$38,422

Average salary

How experience affects earnings
future outlook tooltip icon

Payscale aggregates all employee salaries into experience and degree cohorts and charts out the average salaries accordingly. While this is interesting information, it is simply an indicator and should not be considered as a definitive accounting.

Average

Timeline Salary
Less than 1 year $33,729
1 to 3 years $36,374
4 to 6 years $38,703
7 to 11 years $40,414
12 years or more $42,695

The effect of specialization on pay
future outlook tooltip icon

Payscale looks at the skills listed on employee CVs by career and takes the average salary to extrapolate which skills correlate to a higher salary, on average. While this is interesting information, it is simply an indicator and should not be considered as a definitive accounting.

Reconciliation

Reconciliation

0.30% Average salary increase

or approximately

$112 in annual pay

How to compile a strong resume

If you have some of the previously-mentioned qualities and you plan to apply for an accounting clerk role, then it would be a good idea to mention them in your resume. You'll thus gain the higher ground against other candidates, and your future employer can get to know your pluses and abilities before the hiring interviews.

In your CV, you can also mention any relevant internship programs you have enrolled in, part-time roles, or volunteering tasks you have done. These prove you are a dedicated professional, ready to adapt to new situations, eager to learn, and willing to build a stable career in the field.

Although your resume should emphasize your studies and accounting work experience, disclosing any relevant soft skills you may have is also helpful. Additionally, it's advantageous to hold an industry-related certificate. Employers do not necessarily ask accounting clerks to hold an associate degree, yet college credit offers candidates the minimum needed training to find a suitable job. Here are some of your best degree options.

Earn an undergraduate certificate in accounting

To understand the basic principles and gain enough accounting know-how to get an entry-level job in the field, earning an undergraduate certificate can be the first step. Before opting for a particular program, make sure that the school you choose has at least regional accreditation. If you decide to get higher degrees at a later stage, you can seamlessly transfer the credits you have already acquired.

Depending on the institution you choose, the duration of your studies to get an undergraduate certificate in accounting may vary. Usually, you can finalize these programs in less than a year, earning 20 to 30 credits. Schooling costs differ from one institution to another. You will have to pay around $100 per credit if you join a lower-ranked school, but the price can be even double when studying in more prestigious educational institutions.

Earn a bookkeeping certificate

The primary differentiation between a bookkeeper and an accounting clerk is that a bookkeeper may be the sole accounting professional in a smaller company. At the same time, the latter can do a more specialized type of work.

Nevertheless, some employers who seek to hire accounting clerks consider that candidates who have already earned a bookkeeping certificate are more prepared for the job. By enrolling in a program like this and earning the certificate, you'll end up acquiring basic bookkeeping techniques.

While understanding the role of a bookkeeper, you'll learn how to process various transactions, deal with payments and receipts, create invoices or handle payroll. If you prefer a more flexible program, you can opt for online programs instead of on-site training.

Acquire an accounting associate's degree

Earning an associate degree in business or accounting usually takes about 2 years for those who choose to study full-time, but there are also programs that you can complete in less than 24 months. Besides theoretical accounting knowledge and fundamental principles, you will start working with dedicated accounting software.

Other topics covered in the curricula include business ethics, systems analysis, payroll, taxation, record keeping, and various financial statements. Students should complete 60-70 credits to graduate, while tuition fees are half what you would normally pay to earn a bachelor's degree in accounting.

In-depth knowledge, multiple career options

According to a study recently issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a direct correlation between your education and the employment opportunities you can get. High education, commitment, and hard work always pay off. By enrolling in more advanced educational programs, you will start developing your skills to become an excellent accounting professional.

If you are willing to develop your career and apply for more complex positions, take into consideration earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Furthermore, you can deepen your knowledge with a master’s degree in accounting, or you can even access MBA or doctoral programs in this field.

American Accounting Association (AAA)

Established more than a century ago, the AAA gathers under one roof an extensive community of accountants from all walks of life, including the academic field.

National Society of Accountants (NSA)

With a core mission of helping tax and accounting professionals further their knowledge, NSA is a society that has been active for 75 years.

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

Established in 1887, AICPA is the official body that represents CPAs, developing and grading the CPA certification examination at state and national level.

International Federation of Accountants (IFA)

This organization represents accounting professionals in more than 130 countries around the world, acting as a global common ground for networking and best practices in the accounting industry.

The Institute of Internal Auditors of North America (IIA)

Founded in 1941 and based in Florida, the IIA is an organization with 200,000 members globally that represents internal auditors' interests at national and international levels.

Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)

Founded in 1969, ISACA now has more than 150,000 members in over 180 countries and is a global organization for information governance, control, security, and audit professionals.

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)

Established in 1908, NASBA acts like a forum for the 55 State Boards of Accountancy in the US, which administer the Uniform CPA Examination. In partnership with AICPA, NASBA facilitates CPA examination for professionals oversees.

Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)

Home to over 85,000 members, CFE is an organization that offers anti-fraud training, certification, and education.

European Accounting Association (EAA)

Founded in 1978, EEA is an academic organization that supports Europe’s accounting community through research, education opportunities, and knowledge sharing.

Institute of Management Accountants (IMA)

Also known as the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, IMA is the body in charge of organizing and grading CMA and CSCA examination certifications.

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB)

Founded in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1973, FASB is an independent organization that sets the standards for public and private organizations following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the field of financial accounting.