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Accounts Payable Clerk Career Guide

What is an accounts payable clerk?

An accounts payable clerk handles a company’s bills and makes sure they get paid on time. Their job is really important for the company’s financial matters. They pay suppliers and vendors, ensuring there are no late fees or problems with business relationships. By taking care of cash going out for expenses, they help keep the company’s finances in good shape and maintain trust with business partners.

Duties and responsibilities

An accounts payable clerk’s main job is to check and pay invoices from vendors and suppliers. They verify that everything on the invoice is correct, like whether the goods or services were received and priced correctly. Then, they enter these details into a financial software system. They set up payments, often using checks or electronic transfers, and keep track of all these transactions.

They also make sure the company’s records match the vendor statements, which is called reconciliation. If there are any mistakes or differences, they have to fix them, sometimes by talking with vendors or other teams in the company. They might also make reports showing what the company owes to others.

Work environment

Accounts payable clerks usually work in an office, mainly in the finance or accounting department. They spend a lot of time at their desks, using computers and accounting software. The job requires them to be really careful with details because they’re dealing with money and need to get everything right.

Typical work hours

Accounts payable clerks normally work a regular 40-hour week during typical business hours. But sometimes, like at the end of a financial month, quarter, or year, they might need to work extra to get all invoices sorted, payments done, and accounts matched up. Some companies might have part-time clerks too, especially if there aren’t too many transactions or if the business isn’t very big.

How to become an accounts payable clerk

To become an accounts payable clerk, follow these steps:

Step 1: Finish your education

You’ll need at least a high school diploma. Most jobs also want you to have an associate’s degree in accounting, finance, or a similar field. This gives you a good foundation and can lead to a bachelor’s degree later.

Step 2: Learn about accounts payable

Check out online courses for more in-depth knowledge. For example:

Step 3: Get certified

Certifications show your skills and knowledge. Consider:

  • Certified Accounts Payable Professional (CAPP): Requires two years of work experience and covers best practices in AP.
  • Accredited Payables Specialist (APS): Focuses on AP fundamentals and best practices. It’s good to have three years of experience or one year if you have a degree.

Step 4: Apply for jobs

Once you’re trained and understand accounts payable, start applying for jobs. Use online job search engines, job boards, and company websites.

How much do accounts payable clerks make?

The salary of an accounts payable clerk can vary based on factors like the size of the company, their experience, and their education. The pay also depends on where they work and the industry they’re in. Some industries and places of employment tend to offer higher salaries than others.

Highest paying industries

  • 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

Highest paying states

  • District of Columbia: $54,243
  • Massachusetts: $53,340
  • Washington: $51,460
  • California: $51,080
  • Connecticut: $51,050

Browse AP clerk salary data by market

Top skills for accounts payable clerks

  • Attention to detail: You need to be really careful and accurate because you’ll be working with important financial details.
  • Organization: Being organized is key since you’ll handle lots of documents and data.
  • Software skills: Knowing how to use Microsoft Office and accounting software is really helpful.
  • Communication: You should be good at talking and writing clearly because you’ll need to explain things and work with others.
  • Math skills: Strong skills in math are essential because you’ll deal with numbers a lot.
  • Bookkeeping skills: Any experience with bookkeeping, managing financial records, and other accounts payable tasks will be a plus when you’re looking for a job.

Accounts payable clerk career path

Starting as an accounts payable clerk is a good entry-level position in accounting. After gaining experience, you can move up to higher roles:

  • Management jobs: With a few years in accounts payable, you can aim for management positions in the accounting department.
  • Lateral moves: To get a broader understanding of accounting, consider moving to the accounts receivable department. This lets you learn about the other side of a company’s finances, making you more versatile and knowledgeable in the field.

Working in different areas of accounting can open up more opportunities for advancement and growth in your career.

The accounts payable field is changing. Here’s what’s happening and what it might mean for job prospects:

  • Strategic importance: AP departments are no longer just back-office functions. They’re becoming critical for providing important data and insights.
  • Technological changes: New tech might mean less need for clerk roles and more focus on management positions.

Employment projections for accounts payable clerks

Because of these technological advancements, there’s an expected 5% decline in accounts payable clerk jobs through 2031. This means the field might become more competitive, with fewer openings for traditional clerk roles.

Accounts payable clerk career tips

Know your financials

Learn as much as you can about financial records and accounting processes. The better you understand them, the easier it is to adapt to a company’s specific ways of doing things.

Stay sharp with numbers

Since you’ll work with numbers all the time, keep your math skills strong. Try brain games to stay sharp.

Improve your Microsoft Office skills

Become a pro at Excel, learning pivot tables and other useful functions. This can make your work more efficient.

Type faster

Quicker typing means faster data entry. Look for online typing courses to improve your speed and accuracy.

Build your network

Connecting with others in your field can open doors and offer support. Check out these groups:

  • Association for Financial Professionals (AFP)
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
  • International Accounts Payable Professionals (IAPP)
  • LinkedIn Groups related to accounting
  • Professional Association of Small Business Accountants
  • National Association of Certified Accounts Payable Professionals

Where the AP clerk jobs are

Top companies

  • AT&T
  • GE Corporate
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Walmart
  • Aramark

Top states

  • Connecticut
  • Alaska
  • Washington
  • New York
  • Massachusetts

Top job sites

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Dice
  • Careerbuilder
  • Monster


What degree do you need to be an accounts payable clerk?

You need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. 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?

You need strong organizational skills and a good brain for numbers. You’ll must also 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 AP 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?

AP 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 AP 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.