shutterstock 437122786An accounting clerk can be a lesser-known position in the accounting world, however, once one does a bit of research, they will likely find accounting clerks all over the industry. As you look further into this career, note that there are two different careers in accounting that are often (somewhat inappropriately) used interchangeably: accounting clerk and accounting assistant. If you are applying for a job or trying to academically prepare yourself, make sure that you know which type of position it is and what they expect, regardless of the job title or vocabulary being used.

Accounting Clerk vs. Accounting Assistant

As mentioned, these two titles are technically different and usually have different requirements for hire. An accounting clerk is usually a no-degree required position. A high school diploma is often adequate. Alternatively, accounting assistant positions usually require an associate’s degree or an in-process bachelor’s degree.

Despite these technical differences in candidacy requirements, you will often find that tasks for these positions may look or sound very similar. Firm or client size can also affect responsibilities; clerks at smaller firms may have a much greater breadth of responsibility, while an assistant at a large firm may find that they have a very narrow and specific sphere of responsibility.

Accounting Clerk Job Description

Generally speaking, accounting clerks are responsible for a wide variety of both accounting and clerical tasks. They may find that they feel like a significant part of both the administration team and the financial team, as a clerk may find that they are involved in updating and maintaining financial documents, ledgers and business relationships, while simultaneously answering phones, managing correspondences, and being in charge of incoming and outgoing mail.

Specific Duties and Responsibilities

Particularly in a larger firm, some accounting clerks work in specific departments, like accounts receivable (AR), accounts payable (AP) or payroll. When this is true, their tasks may be very specialized compared to those in the following list.

  • Verifying invoice accuracy
  • Updating/maintaining accounting documents, ledgers, accounts, journals and other records of financial transactions
    • This may include data related to expenses, payroll, receipts, disbursement, accounts receivable or accounts payable)
    • Investigate and (if within scope) correct discrepancies or questionable data
    • Make recommendations based on any discrepancies
    • Understanding and use of different computer-based Systems Applications and Products in Data Processing (SAP) systems
    • Ability to compile data, prepare reports and (potentially) present findings
    • Input/utilize data inside of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks

Accounts Payable Clerk

As briefly mentioned, depending on firm size, some clerks spend all of their time working with a specific department. AP is usually one of these departments. 

What Does Accounts Payable Mean?

Accounts payable refers to the account or portion of a firm’s ledger that is related to the payments that a company owes to its suppliers or any other creditors. The numbers within an AP ledger are a representation of the financial obligation that a company has related to its short-term debt. On a company balance sheet, the sum of all of the outstanding (unpaid) amounts that are still owed will be represented in the AP balance. Because this is still money owed, it is considered a liability. When the AP balance increases or decreases in a period, this also directly affects the cash flow statement.

Accounts Payable Clerk Job Description

The duties and responsibilities of an AP clerk are going to be specifically related to the AP department function. Job tasks may include receiving, processing and verifying invoices from vendors and suppliers and processing any necessary or appropriate payments. Essentially, the AP clerks are responsible for making sure the bills get paid! AP clerks are also usually involved in ordering, tracking of orders, and the recording (and noting of any discrepancies) of purchase orders.

Accounts Receivable Clerk

Accounts receivable is another larger specific department in an accounting firm that may employ its own clerk.

What Does Accounts Receivable Mean?

Accounts receivable is the account that exists in opposite of the AP account. AR refers to the portion of a firm’s ledger that is related to the payments that a firm is owed related to goods and services that have already been delivered and/or used. This number will grow as a firm lets a buyer(s) make purchases on credit. The AR amount will show up on a balance sheet as an asset, because it is money that still needs to be received. Like the AP account numbers, the change in AR numbers has a direct effect on the cash flow statement. 

Accounts Receivable Clerk Job Description

An AR clerk’s duties and responsibilities are going to be directly related to the pursuit and or receipt of monies due a firm. Their tasks may include sending statements or bill reminders to clients with payments due. AR clerks may also be responsible for making banking deposits, ensuring that any financial transactions get transferred over (“posted”) to the firm’s accounting system, verifying and/or resolving discrepancies and maintaining AR records by updating and totaling unpaid invoices. 

Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable Clerk Salary

Per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median 2018 pay of an accounting clerk was $40,240 annually. The job outlook through the year 2028 is poor, expected to decline by 65,800 jobs (4%). Many believe that those interested in an AP or AR clerk job should pursue this while also in school for a bachelor’s in accounting. This choice would both prepare a student for more both professionally and academically, potentially preventing them from feeling the effects of this anticipated decline in the clerk industry.

The Future of Accounting Clerking

As the BLS reported, the future for a clerk-specific career is not incredibly strong. However, working as an AR or AP clerk can be an excellent first step for someone with hopes of continuing up in the accounting world. The job will offer great accounting experience, grow one’s accounting-specific network, develop and enhance communication and interpersonal skills, and likely open one’s eyes to the different nuances of the industry.

DQ Staff

March 2020

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