What is an accounts payable clerk?
An accounts payable clerk is a professional responsible for managing and processing an organization’s bills and making sure they are paid on time. This role is pivotal in a company’s financial operations, ensuring that financial obligations to suppliers, vendors, and other external parties are met without incurring late fees or damaging business relationships.
By efficiently managing the outflow of cash related to expenses, they ensure the organization maintains a healthy financial standing and fosters trust with its business partners.
Duties and responsibilities
The primary responsibility of an accounts payable clerk is to review and process invoices from vendors and suppliers. This entails verifying transaction information, ensuring that the goods or services have been received and priced correctly, and entering the details into an accounting or financial software system. They schedule payments, often handling checks or electronic transfers, and maintain records of all transactions.
Reconciliation tasks are also vital, where the clerk verifies statements and transactions to ensure that balances are accurate. When discrepancies arise, they are responsible for resolving them, which might involve liaising with vendors or other internal departments. They might also regularly prepare reports detailing the organization’s accounts payable status.
Accounts payable clerks typically work in office settings within an organization’s finance or accounting department. The environment is usually desk-based, with a significant portion of their time spent on computers using accounting software and tools.
Given the precision required in financial transactions, the role demands high attention to detail. Collaboration is also integral, as they often work alongside other finance professionals and interact with departments that order goods or services, ensuring all expenses are accurately accounted for.
Typical work hours
In most cases, an accounts payable clerk will work a standard 40-hour work week aligned with typical business hours. However, during certain periods, such as the end of a fiscal month, quarter, or year, they might work longer hours to ensure all invoices are processed, payments are made, and accounts are reconciled.
While the role is usually full-time, some organizations might employ part-time clerks depending on the volume of transactions and the business size.
How to become an accounts payable clerk
In order to become an accounts payable clerk, 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 your education
Accounts payable clerks require a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent. Most positions also require at least an associate’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field. Having a two-year degree will give you a better knowledge base for the role and allow you to continue to a bachelor’s degree in the future easily.
Step 2: Learn specifics about accounts payable
Some incredible online courses can provide in-depth information about accounting functions specific to accounts payable. Here are a few great options:
- The Principles of Accounts Payable and Receivable Management course from Coursera covers bookkeeping basics. Upon completion, you’ll be able to classify inventory, manage purchase and sales orders, and create and maintain budgets.
- Udemy offers an Accounts Payable Processing Course, which reviews the importance of a strong accounts payable process. It will help businesses manage cash flows and establish strong processes and guidelines.
- For a program-specific course, check out the QuickBooks Vendors and Accounts Payable course from Udemy. QuickBooks is a popular software program for businesses, so learning how to enter bills, pay bills, and record credits and refunds are all important features anyone in accounts payable should be familiar with.
- Bookkeeping Basics on Coursera is another fantastic option to understand the role’s basics and feel confident in your abilities. It covers a bookkeeper’s ethical and social responsibilities and teaches the concepts of accounting management.
- Take it to the next level with the Accounting 201: Advanced Accounts Payable Concepts and Tools course from Udemy. This course covers more advanced topics, like reducing expenditure, preventing fraud, managing cash, and being more efficient with your time.
Step 3: Obtain a certification
You can obtain a few professional certifications to show you have mastered the basics of accounts payable. These will look great on your resume and show that you already have some critical training and education to take on the job. You may work toward these once you are in a position to boost your chances at a promotion. Here are two of the best options for AP clerk positions:
- Certified Accounts Payable Professional (CAPP). The CAPP sets you apart from your peers by demonstrating that you have the knowledge and skills required to succeed as an accounts payable professional. This self-paced program contains 13 modules covering AP best practices and procedures. Two or more years of work experience are required to obtain certification, which must be renewed every two years.
- Accredited Payables Specialist (APS). The APS shows your strong understanding of accounts payables fundamentals, best practices, and commitment to accuracy and compliance. The self-study online program covers invoices, payments, internal controls, taxes, and more. Three years of experience is recommended without a degree and one year of experience with a degree. To maintain certification, you must complete 15 continuing education units per year.
Step 4: Apply for openings
Once you have the necessary training and understanding of the accounts payable process, you can apply for open jobs. Check the online job search engines and job boards. You can also use specific companies’ websites to check for openings if you know where you want to work.
How much do accounts payable clerks make?
There are many variables that go into determining how much an accounts payable clerk makes, from company size to experience to education just to name a few. The top-paying places of employment and specific industries are (shown in annual mean salary):
- Postal Service – $70,350
- Metal Ore Mining – $64,410
- Support Activities for Water Transportation – $61,050
- Monetary Authorities – $59,630
- Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution – $57,720
The top-paying states for AP clerks to work in are (shown in annual mean salary):
- District of Columbia -$54,243
- Massachusetts – $53,340
- Washington – $51,460
- California – $51,080
- Connecticut – $51,050
Top skills for accounts payable clerks
To become an accounts payable clerk, at least an associate’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field is advised. It’s essential to have excellent attention to detail and strong organizational skills. Proficiency in Microsoft and accounting software programs and good communication skills will also be extremely beneficial.
These professionals work with numbers all day, every day, so having solid mathematical skills is critical. Any skills involving bookkeeping, managing financial records, and other accounts payable work will help you when applying for openings.
Accounts payable clerk career path
Accounting is a valuable department in every business. The larger the company, the larger the accounting team must be. Accounts payable clerks are a great entry-level position, and once you’ve worked in that role for a few years, you can move up to management jobs.
If you want more experience and knowledge within the accounting team, consider lateral moves to the accounts receivable departments to learn the other side of the finances.
Similar job titles
Accounts payable clerk position trends and outlook
The accounts payable field is continually evolving. Rather than being viewed as a back-office function, AP departments are beginning to be seen in a more strategically important way. Not only is this department depended on its traditional function, but companies will be looking to accounts payable departments to supply essential data.
In the near future, job growth may not be as high due to technological advancements. There may be fewer clerk positions and more reliance on managers.
Employment projections for accounts payable clerks
Due to ongoing technological advancements, accounts payable clerks are on a downward trend. It’s predicted that there will be a decline of 5% in these jobs through 2031.
Accounts payable clerk career tips
Soft skills and traits for accounts payable clerks
Familiarize yourself with financial records and processes in the accounting department. The more you know, the easier it will be to acclimate to a company’s specific processes. Keep up your math practices with brain games. Being strong with numbers is important in accounting because that’s what you’re always working with.
Commonly required skills and qualifications
Boost your skills in Microsoft Office. Learn some tricks and hacks for pivot tables, spreadsheets, and other helpful tools. Speed up your typing skills to complete data entry quicker and more efficiently. There are some great typing classes available online to help boost your speed.
Develop a professional network
Having a network of people within your industry helps with career development. There are many accounting networks, but here are a few to look into:
- Association for Financial Professionals (AFP)
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- International Accounts Payable Professionals (IAPP)
- LinkedIn Groups
- Professional Association of Small Business Accountants
- National Association of Certified Accounts Payable Professionals
Where the accounts payable clerk jobs are
- GE Corporate
- UnitedHealth Group
- New York
Top job sites
What degree do you need to be an accounts payable clerk?
You need at least a high school diploma or equivalent to apply for an accounts payable clerk position. Some companies also require an associate’s degree or a certificate showing that you have some additional education in the accounting field.
Which skills do you need to be an accounts payable clerk?
To start an accounts payable clerk career, you need strong organizational skills and a good brain for numbers. You’ll need to be able to work independently and process a large amount of data entry while maintaining accuracy.
Can you get an accounts payable clerk role without experience?
If you are just starting out your career in accounting, you can look for entry-level positions as an accounts payable clerk. The starting positions may have a lower salary because you have no experience, but you’ll gain training on the job. It’s a great way to get started in the field.
What are the four functions of accounts payable?
Accounts payable clerks have four primary functions in their job description. They are responsible for calculating, invoice processing, posting business transactions, and verifying financial data.
Are accounts payable clerks the same as accountants?
Accountants can work as accounts payable clerks, but it’s not too familiar. Accountants usually have at least a bachelor’s degree, whereas accounts payable clerks don’t require a college education.
What’s the difference between an accounts payable clerk and a specialist?
The two positions are interchangeable in most situations. Some companies have accounts payable specialists, and others utilize the clerk title. Their job duties are very similar.
Is it stressful to work in accounts payable?
When working on accounts payable, there might be a few deadlines you’re working against, but if you prioritize your workload well, you shouldn’t be faced with much stress at work. Work hours are pretty standard and allow for an excellent work-life balance.
What are the hardest parts of working in accounts payable?
With a career in accounts payable, you might face a few challenges if there are mistakes, discrepancies, missing invoices, or unauthorized purchases. With attention to detail and an organized workflow, you shouldn’t face those challenges very often.
Do all companies have an accounts payable department?
All companies have accounting needs. Some small companies might outsource some of the bookkeeping responsibilities. Still, any medium or large company will have positions in the accounting department that help take care of the accounts payable duties.
Who do accounts payable clerks report to in an office?
Accounting departments usually have an accounting manager whom all the employees report to on the team. With larger teams, there might be a lead person on the accounts payable team that the clerks report to.