What is an accounts receivable clerk?
An accounts receivable clerk plays an important role in the financial department of an organization, particularly in the management and collection of outstanding client invoices. They help maintain a company’s financial health by ensuring that clients fulfill their payment obligations on time. Their work greatly impacts cash flow and overall financial stability.
These professionals are instrumental in maintaining accurate financial records and ensuring all transactions comply with company policies. They interact with customers and internal departments, handle billing discrepancies, and contribute to the efficient operation of the finance department. Their role is essential in maintaining good customer relations and ensuring a steady flow of income for the organization.
Duties and responsibilities
Accounts receivable clerks are responsible for managing and collecting outstanding balances from clients. They issue invoices, track payments, follow up on overdue accounts, and answer client queries related to invoices or payments. They are also responsible for processing payments and updating account records to reflect payments and outstanding balances.
Professionals in this role maintain financial records, including creating and updating client accounts, processing transactions, and preparing reports. They may also reconcile invoices, resolve billing issues, and ensure the accuracy of financial data.
Accounts receivable clerks typically work in an office setting, although remote work is increasingly common in many organizations. They often spend a large portion of their day working with computer systems to track payments, update accounts, and generate financial reports. Their work involves frequent communication with other members of the finance department, as well as with customers and other departments within the organization.
While the environment can be deadline-driven, particularly during financial reporting periods, it also requires a patient and professional approach to handling customer interactions.
Typical work hours
The standard work hours for an accounts receivable clerk usually align with regular business hours, typically from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. However, additional hours may be required during financial reporting periods or when billing cycle deadlines approach. Their role is pivotal to ensuring the smooth operation of financial processes, and flexibility may occasionally be necessary to meet the job’s demands.
How to become an accounts receivable clerk
Becoming an accounts receivable clerk involves a combination of education, hands-on work experience, and, potentially, professional certifications. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:
Step 1: Obtain a high school diploma or equivalent
The minimum educational requirement is typically a high school diploma or equivalent. You should focus on math, accounting, and business courses, which will provide a basic foundation in these areas.
Step 2: Complete postsecondary education (optional)
While not always necessary, many employers prefer candidates with some form of postsecondary education in accounting, finance, or a related field. This could be an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, which will provide a more comprehensive understanding of accounting principles and practices.
Step 3: Learn specifics about accounts receivable
Some great online courses can provide in-depth information about accounting functions specific to accounts receivable. 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 Accounting 101 course, which reviews best practices and the accounts receivable cycle from start to finish. Whether you’re an accounting student or already in the world of accounting, this course is a great option to learn and understand the entire process quickly.
- 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.
Step 4: Gain relevant work experience
Begin by seeking entry-level accounting, finance, or bookkeeping positions to gain hands-on experience. Practical experience in accounts receivable or a related field will be invaluable in helping you develop the necessary skills for managing invoices, payments, and customer relationships. As you progress, aim to specialize in accounts receivable roles within your organization.
Step 5: Obtain professional certifications (optional)
While not mandatory, earning a professional certification can help set you apart from other candidates and demonstrate your commitment to the field. Certifications relevant to accounts receivable clerks include the Certified Accounts Receivable Specialist (CARS) and the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. These certifications usually require a combination of work experience, education, and successful completion of an exam.
Step 6: Develop your technical and soft skills
Strong technical skills, including proficiency in accounting software and Microsoft Office applications, particularly Excel, are essential for these professionals. Take time to learn and master relevant software to enhance efficiency and accuracy. Additionally, work on communication, organizational, and problem-solving skills, each critical for success in this role.
Step 7: Network and apply for positions
With the necessary education and experience, start networking within your industry and apply for accounts receivable clerk positions. Ensure your resume and cover letter highlight your skills, experience, and any certifications earned. Attending job fairs, industry events, and connecting with professionals in the field can help you discover job opportunities and make valuable career connections.
How much do accounts receivable clerks make?
The salary of an accounts receivable clerk can be influenced by geographic location, level of education, years of experience, the industry they work in, and the size of the employer. Bonuses or commission-based schemes may also contribute to their total income. Those with advanced degrees or certifications and substantial experience generally earn more.
Highest paying industries
- Postal Service: $58,770
- Natural Gas Distribution: $55,140
- Finance: $53,760
- Government: $53,450
- Insurance Carriers: $52,830
Highest paying states
- District of Columbia: $54,375
- Alaska: $54,300
- Connecticut: $54,240
- California: $54,220
- Massachusetts: $53,800
Types of accounts receivable clerks
In this career guide section, we will explore the diverse types and specializations of accounts receivable clerks. Specializations can cater to different industries, company sizes, and companies.
General accounts receivable clerk
A general accounts receivable clerk manages various tasks related to billing and collections. Duties include preparing invoices, recording payments, following up on overdue accounts, and assisting in preparing financial statements. Their work is essential to maintaining the flow of revenue into the organization and ensuring accurate financial records.
Accounts receivable analyst
An accounts receivable analyst applies a higher level of financial analysis to the accounts receivable process. They monitor the organization’s accounts receivable performance, identify trends, and provide actionable insights to improve collection rates and reduce days sales outstanding (DSO). Their role often involves developing and implementing strategies to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the accounts receivable process.
Medical accounts receivable clerk
A medical accounts receivable clerk specializes in managing receivables within the healthcare industry, including processing payments from patients and insurance companies, handling billing inquiries, and navigating the complexities of medical coding and insurance procedures. The role requires a thorough understanding of healthcare billing and insurance practices.
Accounts receivable collections specialist
An accounts receivable collections specialist focuses on the recovery of outstanding debts. They communicate with customers to negotiate payment plans, resolve disputes, and maintain positive customer relations while ensuring the organization receives the revenue it is owed. This role requires strong negotiation and customer service skills, along with a thorough understanding of debt collection laws and regulations.
Top skills for accounts receivable clerks
Success in this position requires excellent attention to detail, strong organizational skills, proficiency in relevant accounting software, a good understanding of accounting principles, and effective communication abilities.
Attention to detail is a fundamental skill for these professionals, as accuracy in invoicing and payment processing is critical to the financial health of an organization. They must promptly identify any inconsistencies or errors in invoices and customer accounts. A meticulous approach enables them to detect mistakes early and ensure that all transactions are accurate, reducing the likelihood of disputes and supporting the organization’s cash flow.
Organizational skills are crucial due to the high volume of invoices, payments, and customer accounts they handle. The role requires the ability to maintain an efficient system for tracking invoices, following up on unpaid bills, and updating customer account information. This level of organization ensures that payments are processed promptly, invoices are issued correctly, and any overdue accounts are quickly identified and addressed.
Proficiency in relevant accounting software is essential for accounts receivable clerks. Familiarity with tools like QuickBooks, Microsoft Dynamics, or other enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems allows them to efficiently manage invoicing and payment processes, maintain accurate records, and generate insightful financial reports. Keeping up-to-date with the latest technological developments in the field enables them to improve their workflow efficiency and accuracy continuously.
A solid understanding of accounting principles is necessary to ensure that all transactions comply with standard financial practices and regulations, which includes knowledge of concepts such as revenue recognition, matching principle, and accrual accounting. Consistent application of these principles helps maintain accurate financial records and supports the organization’s overall financial management.
Effective communication abilities are also important for clerks. They often interact with customers, colleagues, and other departments, requiring clear and concise communication to resolve any payment issues or discrepancies in invoices. Good communication skills can help build strong relationships with customers, leading to timely payments, and it also aids in internal coordination, ensuring smooth financial operations.
Accounts receivable clerk career path
The career path typically begins with securing an entry-level position in the field. Most entry-level jobs require at least a high school diploma, although an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field is often preferred. In this role, individuals learn the basics of managing customer payments, balancing accounts, and maintaining financial records.
As an AR clerk gains experience, they may advance to become an accounts receivable specialist or analyst. These roles often involve more complex tasks, such as resolving billing issues, conducting account analyses, and improving the collections processes.
Further progression can lead to supervisory or managerial positions, such as accounts receivable supervisor or manager. These roles require strong leadership and communication skills, as they involve overseeing a team, ensuring compliance with financial regulations, and managing the overall accounts receivable function.
Continuing education and professional certifications, such as Certified Credit & Collections Specialist (CCCS), can provide a competitive edge in the job market and help accelerate career advancement. Some professionals also choose to broaden their skills to encompass other financial areas, eventually moving into more general financial management roles.
Similar job titles
Accounts receivable clerk position trends and outlook
The landscape for this position has been evolving, particularly with the widespread adoption of digital technologies. Expertise in accounting software, data management, and digital payment systems is increasingly important. As more businesses globalize, AR clerks with knowledge of international payment processes and foreign currency transactions are particularly valuable.
Employment projections for accounts receivable clerks
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of accounts receivable clerks is projected to decline 5% through 2031, which means there will be fewer jobs available in the future. Several factors contribute to this decline, including the increasing use of automation in accounting and finance. Automation can replace many of the tasks currently performed by AR professionals, such as processing invoices and tracking payments.
Another factor contributing to the decline in employment is the outsourcing of accounting and finance functions to other countries. Outsourcing can save companies money and give them access to a wider pool of qualified workers. Despite the decline in employment, there will continue to be job openings; created to replace workers who leave the occupation, such as to retire or to take other jobs.
Accounts receivable clerk career tips
Stay updated on accounts receivable best practices
As an AR clerk, it’s important to keep up to date with industry best practices to ensure efficient operations and accurate financial records. This can be achieved by reading industry publications, attending webinars, and participating in online forums or discussion groups.
Build a professional network
Networking can provide valuable insights into your field, keep you informed about industry trends, and open up potential job opportunities. It’s beneficial to join relevant professional associations and networks. These might include:
- American Collectors Association (ACA)
- International Association of Commercial Collectors (IACC)
- National Association of Credit Management (NACM)
- Association for Financial Professionals (AFP)
Improve customer service skills
You will regularly interact with customers in the role, so developing excellent customer service skills can help manage these interactions effectively, ensuring timely payment and maintaining positive relationships with clients.
Become proficient in accounting software
Proficiency in accounting software is vital. Familiarize yourself with popular platforms such as QuickBooks, Microsoft Dynamics, or SAP. In addition, stay informed about advancements in automation and other technology trends to improve efficiency in the accounts receivable process.
Develop strong attention to detail
Accuracy is paramount to avoid invoicing or payment processing errors, which can lead to significant financial discrepancies. Cultivate your attention to detail to minimize mistakes and ensure precise record-keeping.
Pursue continuous learning and professional development
Continuously expanding your knowledge and skills is beneficial in any profession. Consider taking courses, certifications, and workshops related to accounts receivable and financial operations. Some areas to focus on might include:
- Accounts receivable processes and best practices
- Regulatory compliance and reporting requirements
- Cash management and forecasting
- Customer service and communication skills
- Dispute resolution and negotiation
Hone your negotiation skills
AR clerks sometimes negotiate payment terms with clients. Improving your negotiation skills can help you navigate these discussions effectively, ensuring the best outcome for your organization.
Cultivate analytical and problem-solving skills
Accounts receivable clerks often analyze financial data and solve problems related to invoicing or payment issues. Developing your analytical and problem-solving skills can help you identify and address these issues quickly and effectively.
Where the accounts receivable clerk jobs are
- JPMorgan Chase & Co.
- Wells Fargo
- Bank of America
- New York
Top job sites
What qualifications are typically needed for an accounts receivable clerk?
The qualifications for an accounts receivable clerk often include a high school diploma, although some employers may prefer candidates with an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Familiarity with financial software, spreadsheets, and databases, plus strong math, organizational, and communication skills, are beneficial for this role.
Is any specific certification necessary to become an AR clerk?
While certification is not typically required, obtaining a Certified Bookkeeper designation from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or a similar certification can enhance career prospects and credibility. These certifications validate knowledge and expertise in the field, which can be advantageous when seeking more advanced positions.
What does a typical day look like for an accounts receivable clerk?
A typical day for an accounts receivable clerk may involve a variety of tasks, such as updating and maintaining records of expenditures, sending out payments, preparing invoices, and ensuring that receivables are collected promptly. The job also includes running account reports for management, processing payments and transactions, and dealing with discrepancies or disputes.
What are the key skills required for an accounts receivable clerk?
Attention to detail, the ability to work with numbers and financial data, proficiency with financial software, and excellent organizational abilities are all important. AR clerks should also have good communication skills, as they may need to interact with clients regarding payments, discrepancies, or billing inquiries.
What types of companies hire accounts receivable clerks?
A variety of businesses hire accounts receivable clerks. Any company that bills its clients for goods or services will likely need this role.
What is the role of technology for an accounts receivable clerk?
Technology plays a crucial role in the work of AR clerks, who often use accounting software to track invoices and payments, databases to maintain financial records, and spreadsheets to analyze data. They may also use electronic communication tools for corresponding with clients and colleagues.
Is there a high demand for accounts receivable clerks?
The demand for accounts receivable clerks mirrors the overall economic landscape. As businesses grow and transact more, the need for professionals who can manage and track financial transactions increases. However, advancements in financial software and automation will likely lessen the demand over time.
How stressful is the job of an accounts receivable clerk?
Like any job, it can have stressful moments – especially at the end of fiscal periods or during audits when accuracy and timeliness are critical. However, the job can be managed effectively with good organizational and time management skills.
Is prior experience necessary to become an accounts receivable clerk?
While some employers may hire candidates with no prior experience for junior roles, many prefer at least a few years of experience in a similar position or in the accounting field. Gaining experience through internships, part-time jobs, or even relevant volunteer work can help break into this field.
Can an accounts receivable clerk work remotely?
Yes, an accounts receivable clerk can often work remotely, especially as many financial systems and tools are now cloud-based. However, the possibility of remote work will depend on the specific employer’s policies and the nature of the business. Some companies may require their clerks to work on-site due to the sensitive nature of the financial data they handle.