Accounting clerks play a vital role in most businesses and organizations by maintaining financial records and assisting with the general operations of the finance department. In many smaller or local businesses, accounting clerks might handle a broad spectrum of accounting duties such as general bookkeeping, payroll, accounts payable and accounts receivable. In larger corporations and business organizations, accounting clerks tend to be assigned a very specific role in the finance department. For example, one clerk may handle multiple categories of related tasks such as accounts payable and accounts receivable.
Accounts payable and receivable clerks work in a variety of industries and organizations. All businesses, both large and small, use accounts payable and receivable clerks to manage their financial transactions, statements, and records. Federal, state and municipal government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations also employ these specialized clerks to monitor revenue streams, send out invoices and pay financial obligations as they come due.
Job Duties Specific to Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable Clerks
While the overall objective of accounts receivable and accounts payable clerks is to assist with the management of a company’s finance or accounting department, there are separate and distinct duties associated with the each of the positions.
Accounts Payable Clerks manage outgoing bills and invoices on behalf of the company. These bills might include utility payments, product or inventory invoices, employee expense accounts and reimbursements. In some companies, the accounts payable clerk may also be required to assist with payroll. Some of the other specific duties associated with this position include:
- Updating and maintaining records of expenditures
- Sending out payments for company credit cards
- Responding to vendor invoices
- Ensuring that all payments are made in accordance with company policy
- Ensuring that all payments are sent on time
- Resolving payment discrepancies and disputes on behalf of the company
Accounts Receivable Clerks manage incoming payments on behalf of the company. Accounts receivable clerks accomplish this objective by performing the following tasks:
- Preparing and mailing invoices to customers
- Posting payments to customer accounts
- Organizing and filing deposit receipts as invoices are paid
- Preparing reports on delinquent accounts and customer payment profiles
- Reconciling cash receipts and deposits
- Analyzing financial records for accuracy
Most employers require accounts payable and receivable clerks to have obtained at least a high school diploma or its equivalent. While some employers offer entry-level positions that do not require prior experience or training, employers almost always show preference to candidates with several years of accounting-related experience or some formal education. For this reason, would-be accounts payable and receivable clerks often pursue associate’s degrees in accounting, finance or payroll accounting. In today’s competitive job market, candidates with specialized skills and training may have an advantage over those who lack formal education that gives them some background in the field in lieu of experience.
Employers rarely require job candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field in order to be considered for accounts payable and receivable clerk positions. However, individuals holding bachelor’s degrees often seek clerk positions as a way of gaining employment in a specific company or industry, while ultimately intent on pursuing promotions.
Many online and campus based colleges and technical schools offer certificate programs specific to accounts payable/receivable. These programs involve courses in basic financial accounting, business math, computerized accounting and written business communication.
The Institute of Financial Operations is a professional association that offers two distinct levels of accounts payable certifications:
Certified Accounts Payable Associates (CAPA) is a designation specifically geared toward individuals that have less than five years of accounting or bookkeeping experience. This certificate allows accounts payable clerks to demonstrate their skills within the profession while still holding entry-level positions within a company or organization. CAPA candidates must have at least one year of experience working with accounts payable and have an associate’s degree in accounting or a related field, or three years of relevant work experience in lieu of formal education. Once experience and/or educational qualifications are met, candidates sit for the CAPA exam. The CAPA designation is awarded upon successful completion of the exam.
Certified Accounts Payable Professional (CAPP) is a designation reserved for accounts payable professionals who meet one of the following qualifications:
- At least 2 years of managerial experience with a bachelor’s degree or higher
- At least 3 years of managerial experience with an associate’s degree or higher
- At least 5 years of managerial experience with no degree required
All candidates must successfully complete the CAPP certification exam.
An alternative certification is provided by the American Institute of Bookkeepers (AIPB). This nationally recognized professional association offers the Certified Bookkeeper Designation (CB) to qualified candidates. In order to qualify for the designation, candidates must have at least two years of professional experience in accounting, bookkeeping, accounts payable or a related field. Once the minimum qualifications are met, candidates are required to pass a 4-part exam that covers several accounting-related topics. The first two portions of the exam must be taken at one of the 300 Prometric Testing centers that are located nationwide. The remaining two sections are in open-book format and can be taken online at candidates’ convenience.
As of 2020, the median yearly salary for these professionals was $42,410, while the top ten percent earned more than $63,900 that year. The majority worked in professional services earning a median of $44,420, followed by the finance and insurance industries where they earned $44,140. Wholesale trade was next, where the annual salary was $43,370, followed by healthcare where the median salary was $41,100 that year.
May 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and labor market information for Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks is based on national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2021.