Pros and Cons of Becoming an Accounting Clerk
Accounting clerks update and maintain financial records, utilizing specialized computer software. Check out the pros and cons to find out if it's the right career for you.
|Pros to Becoming an Accounting Clerk|
|Jobs in a variety of industries*|
|High school diploma usually enough for entry-level jobs*|
|Industry employment expected to grow by eleven percent from 2012-2022 (for all financial clerks)*|
|Specializations available, such as accounts payable or receivable*|
|Most employers offer medical and dental benefits**|
|Cons to Becoming an Accounting Clerk|
|Long hours sometimes required*|
|Repetitive tasks could cause pain, injury or functional impairment*|
|Usually need additional training to be considered for promotion*|
|Must keep abreast of changes in industry procedures and new software.*|
|Low salaries (around $36,000 median annual wage for all bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks in 2014)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com; ***State Departments of Labor
Job Description and Duties
Accounting clerks organize financial records, determine expenditures, pay bills and create receipts. In small companies, one accounting clerk might handle all the financial record keeping. In large organizations, the positions could be specialized, such as accounts receivable and accounts payable clerks. Accounting clerks are generally be responsible for a company's billing and might have to communicate with customers and clients. Accounting clerks typically work at computer stations in offices. Most work during regular business hours, but they could have to put in overtime during busy periods, such as tax seasons.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
With about 154,200 new jobs expected between 2012 and 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cited the accounting and auditing clerk and bookkeeper career as one with average growth. Increased demand for transparency in financial reporting could contribute to the increase in employment. If you're proficient in a broad spectrum of accounting duties, the BLS expects that you'll have the best job opportunities.
Though entry-level wages were reportedly low, based on statistics found from state departments of labor, the median annual salary for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks provided by the BLS was about $36,000 in 2014. Half the people in this profession made between $29,000 and $46,000. The U.S. Postal Service offered the highest average wages at over $61,000 a year. Other industries that paid more than the national average included securities and commodities contracts, rail transportation and monetary authorities.
What Are the Requirements?
You can get a job as an accounting clerk with only a high school diploma. However, the BLS stated that employers are increasingly looking for candidates with a college education, and a degree in accounting or business could be required in some cases. The BLS pointed out that many graduates with more advanced education, such as a bachelor's degree, take entry-level jobs in accounting with hopes of advancement.
Accounting clerks must be detail-oriented and highly organized. Honesty and the ability to protect confidential information are important. Clerks should possess basic office skills and know how to use accounting and bookkeeping software. Job postings in March 2012 indicated general expectations employers had for accounting clerks, including:
- Knowledge of Microsoft Word, Excel and QuickBooks
- Ability to learn new software
- Skilled in multi-tasking
- At least a year of office experience
Job Postings from Real Employers
Many job postings for accounting clerks are from temporary agencies, though some ads say these jobs could lead to permanent employment. Almost all require knowledge of office practices, and some require specialized knowledge and skills. Below are some examples of real job advertisements posted in March 2012 on Monster.com:
- A production company in Los Angeles needed an accounting clerk to review ADP payroll, bank reconciliations and fixed assets. The company required a bachelor's degree and at least two years' experience.
- In North Carolina, a firm was looking for an accounting clerk who was fluent in English and at least one other language, preferably Dutch, German, Japanese or French, to contact vendors. An associate degree and two years' experience was required.
- A company in Hawaii was seeking a general accounting clerk who could handle duties ranging from payroll to accounts receivable. A high school diploma and at least a year of clerical or accounting experience was necessary.
- In New York, a healthcare company needed a high school graduate with one year of experience to work in accounts receivable, primarily processing insurance checks. Successful candidates must be proficient in accounting software and have excellent keyboarding skills.
How to Stand Out in the Field
Though a college education isn't always required, the BLS and many employers indicate that postsecondary training or a degree can improve your employment options. Some positions require a bachelor's degree, but an associate degree from a community college or technical school can fulfill the requirements of most employers. Holding a degree could boost your chances for promotion, too. If you don't want to pursue a bachelor's degree, some community colleges offer certificate programs that allow you to supplement your associate degree with more advanced accounting training.
Earn Professional Certification
The BLS also states that earning a professional credential, such as the Certified Bookkeeper designation from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB), could help you in your career. To earn this designation, you must have at least two years of accounting or bookkeeping experience and pass a 4-part exam that includes questions on payroll, inventory and fraud prevention. Since tax codes, financial regulations and accounting technology is constantly changing, the continuing education required to maintain your certification can help you stay up-to-date in the field.
Other Career Options
If you like working with numbers and want a fast-growing field, but the additional education for accounting clerk jobs doesn't sound appealing, consider a career as a billing clerk. Billing clerks figure charges, compile bills and send them to customers. You'll need a high school diploma and familiarity with computers. The BLS expected jobs for billing and posting clerks and machine operators to grow by 15% from 2008-2018, about 81,000 new jobs. This increase was thanks to an increase in the number of transactions, especially in the health care industry. The median annual salary for billing and posting clerks was about $32,000 in 2010, according to the BLS.
Another position with lower education requirements and a comparable salary is a payroll or timekeeping clerk. Payroll clerks tally and post information to ensure that employees are paid on time and receive the correct amounts. The BLS says completing a certificate program might help you advance, but you only need a high school diploma to start. While increased automation could mean a decline of about five percent in the number of jobs from 2008-2018, according to the BLS, vacancies caused by those leaving the occupation will need to be filled. The BLS reported that the median salary for payroll and timekeeping clerks was approximately $36,000 in 2010.
Bill and Account Collector
If it's working with numbers that doesn't interest you, but you have great customer service skills, you could become a bill collector. Instead of sending out statements, you'd be responsible for contacting people who owe past due amounts and attempting to collect payment. In addition to a high school diploma, customer service experience is beneficial. On-the-job training is required to learn company procedures. The BLS predicted employment of bill collectors would increase by about 19% from 2008-2018. The median salary for bill collectors was about $31,000 in 2010.