Careers

Learn About Being an Accounts Payable Specialist

What does an accounts payable specialist do?

Accounts payable specialists ensure payment of a company’s bills and invoices. They work alongside other professionals in the accounting or finance department and produce bookkeeping and financial transaction records for accountants and auditors to use at tax time. Responsibilities may vary based on the size and industry of the company the accounts payable specialist works for, but they typically include: 

  • Maintaining petty cash accounts and log all outgoing disbursements 
  • Monitoring vendor payment agreements to find discounts to reduce invoice amounts 
  • Paying sales tax on invoices and make note of each tax payment made
  • Keeping track of credits owed to the company
  • Applying credits to vendor payments as needed 
  • Reconciling payable reports monthly to confirm that all amounts paid were accurate 

Average salary

Accounts payable specialists are typically full-time employees, but may also be part-time or seasonal workers. Salaries for accounts payable specialists vary depending on their level of education, relevant work experience, the geographic location of the job, the size of the company and the industry of the company. 

  • Average salary in the U.S.: $17.37 per hour
  • Some salaries range from $7.35 to $31.55 per hour.

Accounts payable specialist requirements

Securing a position as an accounts payable specialist typically involves these requirements: 

Education

Accounts payable specialists need a minimum of a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some companies prefer candidates who have completed at least some level of post-secondary education. Many candidates have not yet earned a bachelor’s degree. Relevant coursework includes basic financial accounting, business math, accounting technology and written business communication.

Training

The position of an accounts payable specialist is an entry-level role. Accounts payable specialists sometimes complete certificate programs that cover the basics of the role. Accounts payable specialists will also often receive additional on-the-job training specific to their role and company, usually as part of their onboarding process. This training can last for a few days to a few months.

Certifications

There are several certification programs accounts payable specialists may consider. Certifications allow you to prove your skills and qualifications to current and potential employers. Accounts payable specialists can also earn certifications to gain additional knowledge about their responsibilities and further their career advancement opportunities. Popular certifications for accounts payable specialists include:

Certified Accounts Payable Associates (CAPA)

The Institute of Financial Operations (IFO) offers the CAPA certification to individuals who have less than five years of accounting or bookkeeping experience. This certification allows entry-level candidates to verify their skills within the accounting industry.

To qualify for this certification, candidates must have at least one year of experience working with accounts payable and an associate degree in accounting or a related field. Candidates without a degree could also qualify with at least three years of relevant work experience.

Certified Accounts Payable Professional (CAPP)

IFO also offers the CAPP designation to individuals who have at least two years of managerial experience with a bachelor’s degree or higher, at least three years of managerial experience with an associate degree or higher or at least five years of managerial experience with no degree. 

Certified Bookkeeper (CB)

The American Institute of Bookkeepers offers the CB designation to individuals who have at least two years of professional experience in accounting, bookkeeping, accounts payable or a related field.

Microsoft Office certifications

Microsoft Office offers several certifications that verify an individual’s level of proficiency in using one or more of the five main Office apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and Outlook.

Skills

Accounts payable specialists need a combination of several hard and soft skills to succeed in their role. The necessary skills include:

Communication

This involves the ability to communicate both verbally and non-verbally with active listening, observing, speaking and empathizing. Accounts payable specialists must have excellent verbal and written communication skills so they can communicate with vendors, internally with the rest of the accounting team and across other departments. 

Data entry

Data entry skills involve a combination of technical computer skills with a strong attention to detail and accuracy. It is critical for an accounts payable specialist to be accurate in the data they are entering regarding bills and invoices. 

Time management

Time-management skills involve the ability to balance and prioritize responsibilities in a manner that helps you complete your work on time while also maintaining a work-life balance. Accounts payable specialists spend most of their day multitasking and need to prioritize tasks to ensure they complete their work on time. 

Computer literacy

These computer skills include a combination of typing and system and software knowledge. Accounts payable specialists need strong computer abilities as their job responsibilities include typing and using programs such as Microsoft Office and QuickBooks to complete their work. 

Accounts payable specialist work environment

Accounts payable specialists typically work full-time within an office environment. Some accounts payable specialists may work part-time or seasonally. Accounts payable specialists typically work standard business hours on a Monday-Friday shift but may need to work weekends and evenings depending on the needs of their business and the time of the year. They may spend most of their day working independently, but may also work with a team of accountants, managers and auditing clerks. 

How to become an accounts payable specialist

Here are the steps you should take to become an accounts payable specialist:

1. Get your education

Accounts payable specialists must have a minimum of a high school diploma or GED certificate. Some employers prefer candidates who also have an Associate Degree in Accounting or another related field. Relevant coursework includes economics, accounting principles, spreadsheets, computerized accounting and taxes. 

2. Gain relevant work experience

Many accounts payable specialist positions are entry-level roles and do not require prior work experience within the industry.

3. Get certifications

Once you have gained some experience as an accounts payable specialist, consider getting a certification in an area relevant to your position and industry to stand out to employers and advance your career. Popular programs include the CAPA, CAPP and CB certifications.

Accounts payable specialist job description example

Our law firm is seeking a reliable and accurate professional to help us properly maintain our payable information. The accounts payable specialist will maintain current accounts and help with invoicing functions. We are seeking an experienced candidate who can analyze expense reports to assign payments to the proper cost centers, work with clients and vendors to resolve past due invoices and reconcile monthly statements with clients and vendors.

Related careers

If you are interested in learning about careers similar to that of an accounts payable specialist, you could consider: