If you are someone who loves math and gets excited about figuring out budget details, then you may enjoy working as an accounting clerk. While this job is not for everyone, someone with a head for numbers could do very well. This job is also a nice stepping stone for a career in the accounting industry. It will allow you to gain experience while also learning whether accounting is the right field for you.
Find out more about what it is like to work as an accounting clerk. Get an accounting clerk job description, including job duties and general work environment details. Learn about the requirements to work in this position, where you may find jobs and how much you would earn.
What Is an Accounting Clerk?
An accounting clerk is a support person for an accountant or accounting department. As a clerk, you will not be the main person in charge but rather help those who are doing the actual accounting work. This means you may check over and prepare records and reports to give to the accountants. You will help with gathering documentation and ensuring records are complete, along with making updates as needed to records. You may be tasked with reconciling accounts or handling small accounting tasks. A large part of your job will be data entry and creating files in the computer for accountants to use. In short, you help ensure the accountants have the information needed to do the accounting for clients.
It is common for a clerk to be assigned very specific duties. For example, you may be an accounts receivable clerk or an accounts payable clerk. This is normal because accounting clerks typically work for larger companies where there are multiple clerks. It isn't as common to have a clerk working for a smaller business where the accountant can manage on his or her own.
Work Environment and Details
Most accounting clerks work full-time, with part-time being less common. Some work as temporary employees, hired during the busiest times of the year as support for company accountants. While a normal schedule is a typical 40-hour work week with standard business hours, during busy times, such as around tax time, hours can be longer and overtime is not uncommon.
Your work environment for this career is most likely professional. You would be expected to wear business attire and work in an office space.
Most accounting clerk positions are entry-level so you won't really need any experience in the field to land a job. However, you do need training and education. Most employers will expect you to have a degree in accounting, but you may also be able to get a job with a degree in mathematics or a related field. Some employers will even hire you just with a high school diploma and some background in accounting, such as taking accounting classes as part of your high school courses.
Typically, you will receive some on-the-job training once you are hired. This training will not be to teach you how to do the job tasks, rather it will be to teach you how things are done in the office and to familiarize you with procedures and policies for that specific employer. Employers generally expect that you will be able to begin working on assignments from day one, and they will not provide training to teach you how to do accounting tasks.
Some employers may expect previous experience. These are usually for more senior positions or for employers hiring around busy times when they may not have the ability to offer any training.
One of the most important parts about any career is how much you can earn. You want to choose a career where you have good earning potential. As an accounting clerk, you probably will not get rich, but keep in mind that this is often a stepping stone to a career as an accountant or auditor where you can earn big money.
PayScale.com reported the average hourly rate for accounting clerks was $15.40. The hourly rates ranged from $11.71 to $20.17. The range of salaries went from around $25,000 to $46,000. Salaries included earnings from bonuses, commission and profit sharing, which may be paid by some employers. Overtime also was a part of many salaries. However, it is common for benefits not to be offered, especially to part-time and seasonal workers.
Experience plays a large role in pay. Entry-level workers earned an average of $14.84 an hour. Those with more experience earned about $15.84 an hour, while the most experienced accounting clerks earned around $16.45 an hour on average.
Location always plays a role in pay, as well. In New York, for example, you could earn an average salary of $47,500. In Chicago, the average salary $40,700. Staying in the Midwest, Cincinnati accounting clerks earned an average of $34,632. Moving south, earnings in Dallas were $40,959. Do keep in mind wages are usually based on the cost of living, so places where it is more expensive to live, such as New York, have to pay more to keep employees than those with lower costs of living, such as Cincinnati.
Working as an accounting clerk presents you with opportunities for advancement. If you are serious about advancing, you may wish to earn the Certified Bookkeeper designation from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. To earn this certification, you must have at least two years of work experience and pass an exam. You must also agree to a code of ethics. The exam is four parts and will test you on adjusting and reconciliation, payroll and depreciation, inventory management, internal control and preventing fraud. Two of the exams are open book and require a 70 percent to pass. The other two require a 75 percent to pass.
You may also earn certification from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. The NACPB offers several options. Here is a look at the different certifications offered:
These certifications requiring passing the Uniform Accounting Certification exam.
Often the next step for an accounting clerk is working as an accountant or an auditor. Depending on your education, you may need to go back to school. You will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a similar field. You may also need to become a Certified Public Accountant. Having the CPA designation can expand your job opportunities and also lead to higher wages because it allows you to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Accountants and auditors can work in a variety of industries and for a range of companies. You can even open your own business. You may decide to focus on a specific area of accounting or offer general services. Some accountants specialize in taxation since that is a huge area of business. However, you could also handle books for small businesses or work in the accounting department of a large company. There are even jobs within the different levels of government for accountants and auditors. In addition, the pay scale for accountants is much higher than that for accounting clerks, which is often attractive to those who are looking to earn more.
Future Job Prospects
When choosing a career or career path, one thing you always want to consider is the job prospects. Throughout history, there have been industries that have ups and downs. Sometimes an industry will have a hiring freeze where it isn't really hiring anyone new. Some jobs have disappeared completely over time due to demand or technology. While the accounting field is sure to be around as long as people have to pay taxes and manage money, which is forever, there may still be dips in hiring phases. Technology can also affect this industry, although a human factor is always required to proper accounting. With those things in mind, let's look at what the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is anticipating as far as job growth for accounting clerks.
For the time period from 2016 to 2026, the BLS projects there will be an overall decline of about one percent in employment in this field. This is thanks to technology. Many of the tasks that clerks handle can be computerized, so there will less need to hire someone to do the job. However, there is always turnover as people retire or advance, so there should be a good number of job openings that you can still snag.
Now that you know all about what it is like and what it takes to be an accounting clerk, you should be able to make an informed decision about whether this is the career for you or not. Keep in mind this is often an entry-level job with room to advance. So, do not let the lower wages be discouraging. Also, despite the decline, this industry should see plenty of job openings thanks to retirements or advancements. Remember that you should situate yourself to be the best candidate by earning a degree in a field related to accounting and considering getting certifications, which can help you stand out from the competition.