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3 career steps for accounting clerks

Accounting clerk at his desk reviewing spreadsheets.

Working As an Accounting Clerk

Accounting clerks are responsible for maintaining and reviewing financial records of a business. Typical accounting clerk duties include:

  • Performing data entry tasks for accounts payable and accounts receivable processes
  • Calculating interest on loans and credit accounts with financial databases and spreadsheets
  • Preparing financial reports
  • Organizing and reconciling company accounts and investigating any discrepancies detected
  • Supporting the work of certified public accountants (CPAs)

To succeed as an accounting clerk, you will need a number of skills, including:

  • Bookkeeping and record-keeping
  • Strong communication skills for dealing with co-workers and customers
  • Good organization skills for monitoring and working with a number of financial documents
  • Critical thinking skills for solving problems
  • Math skills and attention to detail when working with financial documents
  • Ability to exercise discretion when handling confidential documents
  • Computer literacy, especially for financial and common office software. You should be able to use basic Microsoft Office programs and QuickBooks. Understanding payroll, performance analysis, and depreciation programs is also helpful.

Many accounting clerks have a high school diploma or an associate's degree. Those with a bachelor's degree have a greater earning potential and more opportunities for career progression. Certification from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers can also improve salary and career opportunities.

Next Steps: Junior Accountant

The experience accounting clerks gain assisting accountants often makes transitioning to a junior accounting role easy. Many responsibilities overlap between these two positions, including preparing financial reports, reconciling financial statements, and making sure financial records are up to date. In addition, junior accountants may be responsible for the following tasks:

  • Suggesting ways to improve performance of accounting department
  • Handling taxation issues and preparing tax reports
  • Completing financial audits

Junior accountants need similar skills to accounting clerks, including good problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills. They must be able to work efficiently and accurately.

Some accounting clerks may be promoted to junior accountants with time and experience. However, earning more qualifications is the best way to advance to a junior accountant role. As a junior accountant, you should have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, commerce, or business administration. Gaining your master's degree is preferable for new hires, although if you've been working as an accounting clerk, your experience should help you transition without an advanced degree.

Next Steps: Auditor

Working as an accounting clerk or a junior accountant will expose you to auditing procedures. If you enjoy this specialized area of accountancy, you may want to pursue a career as an auditor. As with junior accountants, auditors need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field.

While accounting clerks and junior accountants deal with all facets of accounting, auditors have a much narrower focus. They need the following skills:

  • Analytical skills to process data, break down reports, identify problems, and reach necessary conclusions
  • Good communication skills for working with auditing clients and co-workers and documenting audit results
  • Ability to work under pressure to meet auditing deadlines

Next Steps: Certified Public Accountant

For many people interested in accounting careers, working as a certified public accountant (CPA) is the goal. The experience you've gained working as an accounting clerk and junior accountant can serve you well in this role.

While other accounting professions are flexible and accept candidates with a range of qualifications, all CPAs require CPA certification. Requirements vary from state to state, but usually, CPAs need to:

  • Complete 150 semester hours of postsecondary study in accounting or a similar area of study
  • Complete at least two years of work experience in accounting
  • Pass four CPA exams within 18 months

Meeting these criteria requires a significant commitment of time, but many employers will give some flexibility to their employees pursuing CPA qualifications. CPAs must complete further studies in most states to maintain their CPA licenses.

CPAs are accounting leaders, so good management skills and public-speaking abilities are important. CPAs should also show strong business acumen and a commitment to learning by staying up to date with accounting and tax practices.

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