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Accounting Assistant

Education and Training High school diploma or trade school diploma
Average Salary $28,120-$38,791 per year
Job Outlook Good

An accounting assistant is a junior rule assumed by those wishing to pursue an accountancy career. Accounting assistants are sometimes called ledger clerks or junior clerks. Under the supervision of an accounting supervisor or a certified public accountant (CPA), an accounting assistant is expected to perform several duties.

Accounting assistants perform routine bookkeeping work, meaning they are responsible for doing entry-level accounting tasks. Depending on the size of the firm, they may be required to assess and encode financial data, handle payroll, and create simple financial statements. They must also verify the information printed on documents before proceeding with transactions. If errors are found, they make the necessary amendments. Because the duties of an accounting assistant revolve around arithmetical computations and fiscal record-keeping, he/she must be proficient in Microsoft Excel, specifically in the use and manipulation of formulas. Apart from MS Excel, some employers may require the use of specialized accounting software such as Quickbooks, Oracle or Peachtree. But regardless of the software being used, all accounting assistants are expected to retrieve, encode, update, and reconcile financial data.

Accounting assistants are expected to do secretarial duties such as maintaining an inventory of office equipment and supplies. In preparing purchase orders for the company, they must coordinate with all of the departments. Sometimes, they may be asked to prepare documents like invoices, checks, and deposit slips. Before these are sent out, accounting assistants obtain approval from their immediate supervisor.

Good communication skills are a must for accounting assistants since part of their work is to liaise between vendors and employees to settle discrepancies. They are also expected to contact customers in relation to billing concerns or outstanding payments. In addition, accounting assistants may be required to take over reception duties in case the staff is out.

Education and Training Requirements

Most employers require prospective candidates to only possess a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) or a high school diploma. What they’re focusing on is relevant work experience or training in accounting systems, bookkeeping, and file maintenance rather than a higher formal education.

Basic courses in high school Math and English would be very helpful. As part of their work, accounting assistants need to be knowledgeable in basic arithmetic. They should also possess fine written and oral communication skills.

Those who wish to sharpen their skills may attend trade schools offering an accounting assistant program. Here, you will take business math, computerized accounting, communications, and computer applications for ten months to a year. Depending on the school, you will also undergo an on-the-job training to prep you for actual work.

Getting the Job

As with any other office worker, an accounting assistant is expected to work with minimal supervision and exercise good judgment in executing transactions. This, plus some formal education and training in bookkeeping is desired by employers.

Given the intense competition for work, breaking into the field of accounting can be tough especially if you have zero work experience. One tip to differentiate you from other applicants is to attain a diploma in a trade school. By doing so, you can get your foot in the door more easily and make more opportunities available to you. You should also participate in an internship program to obtain work experience.

Once you’re equipped with the knowledge, it’s time to start job hunting. You may check for account assistant openings via the web or through your personal network. If you’re successful and you’ve landed an interview schedule, prepare for it. What employers are looking for are those who are organized, punctual, meticulous, and highly analytical.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

For accounting assistants, the job outlook is good. Because of the 2008 financial crisis, more jobs were opened to improve the financial industry’s transparency, accountability, and accuracy. Furthermore, new accounting regulations and reporting methods (i.e. International Financial Reporting Standards) will call for more workers in auditing and accounting.

However, due to advancements in document-scanning technology and improvements in accounting systems that make it easier to manage financial information, job growth is limited. In fact, the US Department of Labor sees a 10% growth—equivalent to 212,400 jobs—from 2008 to 2018. Additionally, more companies will continue to outsource their bookkeeping and accounting functions to third parties located abroad for cheaper labor.

Accounting assistants usually progress to the next employment grade level by assuming more complicated work and are subsequently given higher pay. Most organizations meet their need for supervisors and managers by promoting existing employees. Thus, accounting assistants with the required experience and technical skills boost their chances for advancement. Armed with know-how in the field and further studies, they may become auditors or senior accountants later on.

Working Conditions and Environment

Accounting assistants work in an office setting. Because they have to go over numbers while sitting for extended periods, they may experience back pains, eyestrain, and headaches.

Most accounting assistants follow the standard 40-hour work week, although some may do overtime on evenings and even on weekends. This is true especially if it’s the end of a fiscal period, during accounting audits, and during tax time. In addition, those who work in industries with seasonal demand (i.e. malls, resorts, hotels) usually work overtime during the holidays and vacation season.

Salary and Benefits

An accounting assistant’s salary can vary depending on experience, industry, and location.

An entry-level employee’s median salary is between $28,622 and $39,064 annually. On the other hand, an accounting assistant with more than 20 years of experience earns from $34,060 to $45,627.

Accounting assistants can belong in the banking, healthcare, manufacturing, accounting, and auditing industries. Among these, it was found that those in the healthcare industry are earning the highest at an hourly $12.57 to $16.77, followed by banking wherein hourly rates range from $12.24 to $16.11.

In terms of location, the highest salaries for accounting assistants are currently in Irvine, California. There, the rate per hour ranges from $17.78 to $21.06. Chicago, Illinois comes at a close second at $12.48 to $20.90.

Accounting assistants usually are allotted two to three weeks of vacation leave per year and are given standard company benefits such as health insurance and life insurance.

Where to Go for More Information

American Accounting Association
5717 Bessie Dr.
Sarasota, FL 34233-2399
(941) 921-7747

American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers
6001 Montrose Rd., Ste. 500
Rockville, MD 20852
(800) 622-0121

The Professional Accounting Society of America

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesAccounting & Finance