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Accounting Assistant Career Guide

What is an accounting assistant?

If you’re looking for a career opportunity in the finance industry, an accounting assistant is a great position to begin your career. An accounting assistant supports the accounting department and performs clerical tasks. You must be detail-oriented, reliable, and have strong communication skills to excel at this position.

This career opportunity involves a large range of tasks and responsibilities. It is important that workers in this position know basic mathematics and can work with computer accounting software and basic computer skills. 

Duties and responsibilities

An accounting assistant is responsible for assisting accountants with bookkeeping and other related duties. This career is an entry-level finance position with opportunities for promotion and endless growth opportunities. 

Accounting assistants handle payments and transactions, prepare financial reports, and evaluate financial statements. Assistants handle communications with other team members and departments regarding expenses, invoices, and payroll documents. This role typically organizes the bookkeeping processes and files important documents and information.

Work environment

Accounting assistants work for corporations as a part of their accounting or finance departments. They may also work for private institutions, government agencies, and individuals. An accounting assistant usually works in an office setting but can travel from place to place. Leaving the office may be required to attend meetings with clients, customers, or coworkers. The work environment can include professional, scientific, and technical services industries.

Typical work hours

Accounting assistants work typical hours from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. During busy times of the year, overtime is common due to the end of the financial year and tax time. There are possibilities for part-time and flexible hours, usually obtained by freelance accounting assistants.

How to become an accounting assistant

In order to become an accounting assistant, you will need a combination of education, training, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Complete education requirements

Once you’ve earned your high school diploma, you’re ready to consider your options for secondary education. For all jobs in accounting, it’s important to have your bachelor’s degree in finance or an accounting-related field. Search for an accredited college or university near you to learn more about their degree programs.

Step 2: Take accounting classes and training

Once you have a bachelor’s degree, you can take some additional classes to earn certifications and add to your resume. There are certifications for accounting assistants that will prove that you have all the basic skills required to complete the job successfully. Here is a sample of some of the options available that you can take while looking for jobs:

  • Dive into the specifics of analyzing statements with the Accounting & Financial Statement Analysis training course. You’ll learn to build a balance sheet and understand the accounting equation and the principle of double entry.
  • Take the Accounting & Bookkeeping Masterclass from Udemy to bring your understanding of accounting to a new level. You’ll learn about the basics and dive into more complex transactions, like discounts and sales tax. 
  • Udemy offers a Financial Accounting course. It covers the basic accounting principles, like debits and credits, financial statements, and the difference between accrual accounting vs. cash accounting. 
  • Learn about bookkeeping and become certified with the Intuit Bookkeeping course from Coursera. The certificate is to show your knowledge of bookkeeping fundamentals and get real hands-on practice with real-world scenarios. 
  • The Fundamentals of Accounting Specialization course from Coursera is an option to learn more about the “language of business.” Accounting is important to understand for anyone in business because it allows you to understand how a business is performing.
  • Another great option from Coursera that offers a more specific deep dive is Create a Financial Statement using Microsoft Excel. You’ll get the information required to create a transactions page, a profit and loss statement, and a balance sheet, all within Microsoft Excel. It’s a great addition to your resume.
  • Accounting for Decision Making is a course that will provide information and tools to help you answer two important business questions, “what do I have?” and “How did I do over time?” This course will help you have more productive conversations in a business environment and highlight the importance of accounting when making decisions.

Step 3: Find a job and gain hands-on training

Start applying for entry-level accounting positions at companies that interest you. The jobs are typically listed on job search engines or job boards. Take to your faculty advisors in college as well to see if they have any connections for internships or accounting assistant jobs that you can apply for to get started.

Step 4: Continue your education and get certified

Once you’ve started your career and are ready to move up and learn more, consider getting certified in one of the standard accounting certifications or continue your college education and pursue a master’s degree.

  • Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) – CPBs must pass a four-part exam, complete 24 hours of continuing education each year, and agree to abide by a professional code of conduct.
  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – A CPA must take a licensure exam; each state’s requirements vary. However, most candidates need a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA) – This certification goes beyond a CPA. Most candidates get a CMA to do so before applying for executive-level positions.

How much do accounting assistants make?

There are many variables that go into determining how much an accounting assistant makes, from company size to experience to education just to name a few. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying places of employment and specific industries for accounting assistants are (shown in annual mean salary):

  • Finance and insurance – $46,910
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services – $46,640
  • Wholesale trade – $45,930
  • Healthcare and social assistance – $41,100
  • Retail trade – $37,710

The top-paying states for accounting assistants to work in are (shown in annual mean salary):

  • District of Columbia – $60,130
  • Massachusetts – $53,340
  • Washington – $51,460
  • California – $51,080
  • Connecticut – $51,050

Browse accounting assistant salary data by market

Types of accounting assistants

Accountants are necessary for almost all industries and businesses because someone needs to handle the money and ensure the business stays afloat and succeeds. Most large organizations have internal teams to handle the accounting (referred to as staff accountants), but some contract the work out to an external accounting firm. All these positions require accounting assistants to help get the work done. Let’s look at some of the most common types of accountants.

Tax accounting assistants

Tax accountants work to prepare tax returns, make payments to the government, and help both individuals and companies minimize the burden of taxes. Auditors work with companies to ensure their financial records are accurate and avoid problems with the government or investors. 

Forensic accounting assistants

Some firms specialize in forensic accounting, which reviews records and looks for any wrongdoing or criminal behavior. These accountants are often called expert witnesses in court cases. Some project-specific accountants work with a project manager to assess the budget and timeline for certain projects, help them cut costs, and stay on top of payments and invoices. 

Government accounting assistants

Government accountants work with cities, counties, states, and federal government groups on their budgets. They help ensure that taxpayer money is spent wisely and keep an eye out for any troublesome transactions. It’s essentially someone responsible for keeping government agencies in line and sticking to their obligations.

Investment accounting assistants

The last major role for accountants is in the investment space. Investment accountants and assistants work primarily with stocks, bonds, ETFs, and other investments. Brokerage firms and asset management firms employ them.

These different roles require entry-level staff, although some spaces are more competitive than others. Consider working in a few different accounting roles if you aren’t sure exactly what type of account you want to focus on with your career path.

Top skills for accounting assistants

To become an accounting assistant, you must be an excellent communicator with great time management skills. Accuracy is critical for this role, especially when working closely with financials and numbers. Any administrative experience is great, especially working in a fast-paced environment. Experience dealing with and understanding bank statements and how to process payments will help boost your qualifications. 

Accounting assistants should have some experience working with bookkeeping or accounting software and be skilled with computers since most of their work is done online. Understanding the importance of prioritizing important and time-sensitive tasks is another essential skill. Take some time to understand and become familiar with the financial regulations and procedures in the field that you are interested in, so you can speak to the restrictions in place.

Career path

Accounting assistants handle most of the basic entry-level accounting work in an organization. There are plenty of places that you can advance to from that spot. With two years of experience, you can move to a staff accountant position and utilize your knowledge to grow your position.

Other common advancement opportunities for accounting assistants include auditors and accounting managers. You can also move to a more administrative role in operations with the experience you receive as an accounting assistant. 

The increase in automation has replaced some assistant positions in the accounting field. It’s still a great entry-level position for the accounting department, but additional certifications and training will help you reach the top of the list.

Employment projections for accounting assistants

Due to ongoing technological advancements, accounting assistants are on a downward trend. From 2020 to 2030, it’s predicted that there will be a decline of 3% in these jobs. 

Accounting assistant career tips

Soft skills and traits for accounting assistants

In addition to education and some basic experience with accounting tasks and software, there are a few things you can do to help boost your resume and improve your chances of finding an excellent job. Understand guidelines on confidentiality and financial regulations in your geographical location. Each state and city is different regarding different industries’ laws and operating guidelines. The more you know, the more beneficial you are to a potential employer.

Commonly required skills and qualifications

Practice your math skills and keep your mind sharp regarding numbers. You can play different brain games that continue exercising that part of your brain. Take courses to expand on your Excel knowledge. Pivot tables and spreadsheets are commonly used in accounting departments, so it’s best to feel comfortable. Data-entry skills are important for anyone assisting in an office setting. Practice typing and getting faster and more accurate.

Develop a professional network

Learn about the different industries that accountants work in and take advantage of internship opportunities. There are so many directions you can go with accounting, so if you can gain some experience, you’ll have a better idea of the direction you want to take in your career. One good way to do that is by building a network. Here are a few great networks to check out:

  • Institution of Management Accountants (IMA)
  • National Society of Accountants (NSA)
  • American Accounting Association (AAA)
  • Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)
  • LinkedIn Groups

Where the jobs are


  • PepsiCo
  • Citi
  • Wells Fargo
  • Sam’s Club
  • Goodwill Industries


  • New York
  • Massachusetts
  • District of Columbia
  • Connecticut
  • California

job sites

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Dice
  • Careerbuilder
  • Monster


What is the most entry-level job in accounting?

If you’re looking for an entry-level position in accounting, it’s best to search for an accounting assistant. These jobs help you receive training and experience but have the supervision of a more senior member of the team who is available for questions. 

Is a bachelor’s degree required to become an accounting assistant?

It’s best to have completed a bachelor’s degree before entering an accounting position. If you can get an entry-level job while completing your schooling, you can gain experience simultaneously. Still, many open positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field.

What skills does an accounting assistant need?

The most important skills for a successful accounting assistant include excellent math skills, good organization, strong communication skills, and good knowledge of accounting software programs. It’s a great entry-level position to gain real-life experience and improve your overall skills. 

Are accounting clerks and accounting assistants the same?

There are many different names for those who work in the accounting departments. Each company may have slightly altered roles for assistants versus clerks, but most of the duties fall into an administrative role for the accounting department.

What are the advancement opportunities for an accounting assistant?

Accounting assistants work to gain experience in accounting after earning their bachelor’s degree. Once they are ready to advance their career, they can apply for openings in more senior accountant-level positions at their company or others. 

Is an accounting assistant a good career?

Accounting assistant positions are great for people who want to gain experience in the accounting field and want to develop their careers. It’s a great entry-level position that pays well and offers opportunities to move up.

What does an accounting assistant do?

The typical job description of an accounting assistant includes bookkeeping, data entry, reporting, and budgeting assistance. The role may be responsible for certain accounts or may assist the entire accounting team with certain tasks. 

Is it stressful to be an accounting assistant?

Accounting assistants work as part of a team underneath more experienced accountants, so there isn’t much individual stress in their daily routines. There might be some times during the year when the workload is higher due to tax deadlines or other time-sensitive duties.

Do you need a CPA to work in accounting?

Some accounting jobs require a CPA to apply, but many jobs available do not require certification. Having additional education to make yourself more appealing in a job search is always a good idea.

How long do accounting assistants need to work before advancing?

There is no documented time to work as an accounting assistant before advancing in your career. The best thing to do is to continue your education and gain the necessary experience for the job you’re looking to get in the future.

Are there other names for accounting assistants?

There are many names for people who do the tasks of an accounting assistant. The job title depends on the field and what the company filling the role calls their accounting teams. A few options include accounting payable specialists, accounting specialists, junior accountants, and bookkeepers.