An accounting clerk may be one of the lesser-known persons in an accounting firm or organization, but they are integral to successful day-to-day business operations. While researching this career, you may find that the terms accounting clerk and accounting assistant are often used interchangeably, but there are usually differences in their job description and salary, responsibilities, and educational path. Pay attention to these differences as you do your research to ensure that you are ready to potentially engage with this career.
What Does an Accounting Clerk Do?
It is important to understand that an accounting clerk is an entry-level position. A high school diploma is usually required, while a technical or bachelor’s degree is not. Don’t let this entry-level classification deter you; the work is important, often compared to the foundation of a house, keeping everything else in place.
Job Description and Salary
Accounting clerks perform a variety of general accounting support tasks. This may include:
- Verification of Documents: This may include verifying accuracy of invoices, basic administrative statements, and other basic documents and records.
- Updating/Maintaining Ledgers and Accounts: This work is extremely common on a job description. Many clerks work specifically with one account, like accounts payable or receivable, payroll, or inventory, daily updating and monitoring the inputs and outputs in these accounts. In large firms, a clerk may only be responsible for one account, while in smaller firms, a clerk may have responsibility for all of them.
- Accounts Payable Clerk: These clerks maintain accurate records related to all business expenses. This may include things like credit card payments or employee reimbursement payments. They will also be involved in reviewing and confirming that the appropriate payments are sent to the appropriate person(s), both internally and externally.
- Accounts Receivable Clerk: These clerks must pay attention to all payment activity. This includes preparing and submitting invoices, depositing receipts, and ensuring that invoices are paid.
- Payroll Accounting Clerk: These clerks are involved in maintaining, processing and preparing payroll checks. They will process time cards, calculate taxes, and ensure accuracy. Knowledge of applicable income tax laws and regulations is important.
- Cost Accounting Clerk: These clerks should expect work preparing price quotes, monitoring production information, and analyzing related data for expansion, reports, or costing determinations.
- Inventory Clerk: Inventory clerks maintain records of materials, finished goods, product purchases, and sales. They may have to correct discrepancies between book inventory and actual inventory, investigating, reconciling accounts, and adjusting entries.
- Data Entry: Accounting clerks will need to learn and be comfortable with different computer systems (Systems Applications and Products (SAP) data processing)
- Data Reconciliation: Clerks are often involved in ensuring there are no discrepancies between internal company documents and external vendor or customer documents. Clerks may also be expected to investigate data that seems questionable, as well as recommend the necessary actions to resolve any known discrepancies.
Job Skills Needed
As mentioned above, a high-school education is all that is required. Some employers may look for a two-year associate’s degree. If they do not, then expect some necessary on the job training. Additional skill sand aptitudes may include:
- A certain number of years experience
- Attention to detail
- Basic/standard computer skills – Excel, QuickBooks
- Ability to multi-task
- Strong organizational skills
- Highly competent communication skills, both verbal and written
- Awareness and adherence to confidentiality and discretion
Currently, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median annual salary of $40,240. This number is a median of salaries for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, so you can expect wages to vary about this point related to a specific position, size of the firm or organization, and the geographical location you are working in.
A note about Bookkeeping: The role of accounting clerk is often compared to a bookkeeper. While there are a lot of similarities between the two professions, accounting clerks typically have a more narrow range of tasks, specific to an account (as discussed above). They often work directly with an accountant or department. Bookkeepers usually perform a broader range of routine financial and administrative responsibilities. Though not always true, bookkeepers are often employed by smaller companies and are responsible for monitoring all accounts, payments, invoices, remittances, etc.
Moving Forward as An Accounting Clerk
If you want to start working in the accounting industry right away, a clerk position may be for you. Whether you are a high school graduate or want to work while in school, this can be an excellent place to begin. Pay attention to firm size and job responsibilities to ensure that you understand what you are signing up for. Your level and breadth of needed skills and responsibilities are likely going to look very different depending on where you land. And as with any career, be open to new learning. Take advantage of courses, seminars, and educational certificates or training that your firm offers. This continued interest in your profession should gain you valuable knowledge as well as communicate a passion and dedication to your employer.
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