Learn About Being an Accounting Assistant
What does an accounting assistant do?
Accounting assistants help accounting managers, CFOs or other personnel with accounting needs. An entry-level accounting assistant may work with a company’s accounting department, purchasing department or finance department. They may also work with a solo accountant to provide support and perform specific tasks, which can range from processing invoices to maintaining financial records of the hiring organization.
You may be required to maintain the general ledger, assist accounts payable with payments and outgoing checks, reconcile payroll hours and distribute checks to employees. You may also perform general office administration, including answering phones, filing, handling customers and other administrative tasks.
Duties may include:
- Providing general support to the accounting department
- Preparing and processing invoices, sales receipts and customer payments
- Processing new vendors paperwork including W-9 forms
- Updating general ledger
- Reconciling payroll hours
- Preparing and distributing employee checks
- Prepare purchase orders for approval and fulfillment
- Scanning and filing accounting documents
- Helping process accounts payable and receivable checks and payments
- Routine bookkeeping
An accounting assistant’s salary depends on the hiring organization, where they are located, their current hiring budget and specific requirements in the job posting.
- Common salary in the U.S.: $16.52 per hour
- Some salaries range from $15.15 to $20.71 per hour.
Accounting assistant requirements
Accounting assistants require a combination of the following:
For an entry-level position, a high school diploma or GED is a minimum requirement. An Associate Degree or Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting or Finance or an accounting assistant certificate from an accredited college would also be beneficial. You can typically get an accounting assistant certificate in one or two full semesters or an organization may hire an accounting assistant who has relevant experience.
Some companies may hire an accounting assistant while they are still in school and working towards a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting or a related field.
Accounting assistants are entry-level and usually receive training on the job by shadowing more senior personnel. Training usually includes building expertise with QuickBooks or other bookkeeping software. During training, accounting assistants will likely also learn the organization’s standards and practices for keeping records of income, expenses, and payroll.
While accounting assistants don’t need particular certifications, they could work towards becoming a Certified Public Accountant to further their career.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
To become a certified public accountant, you will need to complete about 150 undergraduate semester hours, including some graduate-level courses. The requirements will vary by state, so you will need to know what those are before finishing your degree. Upon meeting the requirements, you can then sit for the CPA exam. There are four exams, and candidates are required to pass all four within 18 months. Once certified, you will be required to maintain your certification through continuing education credits.
Some essential skills for an accounting assistant will include familiarity with accounting software like QuickBooks. Knowledge of general accounting and business terms, excellent communication skills and the willingness to work overtime to complete projects are all qualities that will likely help you get hired. Other skills include:
Experience with accounts payable/receivable
You will need to have a general knowledge of how accounts payable and accounts receivable work. Many larger companies have separate departments for receivable and payable, but knowing both will help you fit into either role.
Experience or familiarity with accounting software
Accountants use specific software that was made for accounting and finance. Well-known software includes QuickBooks or Microsoft Excel. Having experience or being familiar with these will help you do well in this position.
Data entry skills
Since you will be on the computer using accounting software, employers typically want you to have the ability to do data entry combined with 10-key skills and a minimum typing speed of 50 WPM. This can be a fast-paced job, especially during tax season, so being quick and precise will help make you a desirable candidate.
Excellent oral and written communication skills
As an accounting assistant, you will need to communicate with clients and your managers effectively and accurately.
Detail-oriented and highly organized
You are dealing with numbers and paperwork all day. Being organized and detail-oriented will help you do your job well with little to zero error.
Accounting assistant work environment
Many industries hire accounting assistants to help with their accounts payable or receivable departments. You are mostly working with sensitive data, so you may work independently in an office or share space with your boss. Most accountants, even in an open office setting, will still receive some space to keep confidential information safe. Accounting assistant hours are typically 9 a.m-5 p.m., with the expectation that you may need to work some overtime, specifically around tax season.
How to become an accounting assistant
Here are some steps to obtain a position as an accounting assistant:
1. Pursue education
Whether you’re attending classes and have a part-time job, or you’re working toward a degree in accounting or finance, getting an accounting assistant role will require you to learn more about the field. A formal education will teach you the duties that are involved as you move up to more prominent roles and find your future career path. A Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting or Finance is typical, especially for someone who may eventually become a CPA.
2. Earn certification
If desired, the primary accreditation is the CPA. You must meet specific requirements, including a degree from a college or university, passing the CPA exam, and working a set number of hours under the guidance of a current licensed CPA.
3. Look for an entry-level job
After earning education, certifications and experience, review the current job market for accounting assistants. Before applying, create a resume and cover letter that outlines your experience.
Accounting assistant job description example
The Blog Company of America wishes to find an accounting assistant with a minimum of two years of experience in an accounting-related job. The ideal candidate has familiarity with accounting software and is comfortable working under tight deadlines. We are seeking a fast learner who shows the initiative to learn our systems and understand our processes.
The ideal candidate will have excellent oral and written communication skills, along with being adept at time management and organization. The accounting assistant will report to the accounting manager directly and work with other team members to maintain team and company goals. The Blog Company of America has been in business for over 50 years and wishes to expand its business to other parts of the country.