What is an accounting assistant?
An accounting assistant is a professional who provides crucial support to an accounting department. Their role primarily involves handling basic bookkeeping and accounting tasks, helping ensure financial records are accurate and up to date.
While they often work under the supervision of a senior accountant or accounting manager, their contribution is vital in maintaining an organization’s financial integrity. Their work aids in painting an accurate picture of an organization’s financial health, which is instrumental for managerial decision-making and compliance with regulatory standards.
Duties and responsibilities
Accounting assistants are responsible for various tasks that help streamline the financial processes of an organization. Their duties often include data entry of financial transactions, reconciling bank statements, preparing and sending invoices, assisting with payroll, and maintaining financial records.
They may also be tasked with producing basic financial reports, processing expenses, and supporting the preparation of tax returns. Additionally, these assistants often collaborate closely with other accounting team members, providing the necessary documentation and information to facilitate more complex financial analyses or audits.
The typical work environment for an accounting assistant is an office setting, whether within a large corporate environment, a smaller private company, or an accounting firm. The nature of the job requires them to spend substantial amounts of time at their desks, working with computers and various accounting software.
They often have their own workspace but might work in more open environments where collaboration with other members of the accounting and finance teams is frequent. The atmosphere is generally professional, and there’s an emphasis on attention to detail, accuracy, and confidentiality, given the sensitive nature of financial information.
Typical work hours
Accounting assistants usually work standard office hours, from Monday to Friday, totaling around 40 hours per week. However, during certain periods, like the end of the fiscal year or tax season, they might face increased workloads and may need to put in additional hours or work weekends to meet deadlines and complete all necessary tasks.
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 to prove you have all the basic skills required to complete the job successfully. Here are some of the options available to 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 shows your knowledge of bookkeeping fundamentals and provides 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 an important aspect to understand for anyone in business.
- 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. They are typically listed on job search engines or job boards. Talk to your faculty advisors in college as well to see if they have any connections for internships or 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. Here are 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 – $59,270
- Massachusetts – $53,340
- Washington – $51,460
- California – $51,080
- Connecticut – $51,050
Types of accounting assistants
This career guide section highlights the various career types and areas of specialization for accounting assistants. Below, we highlight the unique attributes and responsibilities of each job title.
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. They 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.
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.
Accounting assistant 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.
Similar job titles
Accounting assistant position trends and outlook
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. It’s predicted that there will be a decline of 5% in these jobs through 2031.
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 accounting assistant jobs are
- Wells Fargo
- Sam’s Club
- Goodwill Industries
- New York
- District of Columbia
Top job sites
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.