Software underlies virtually every human activity today. The cars we drive the phones we talk on and use to connect to the internet, and nearly all the work we do is supported by software. Finance and accounting software are among the most popular of software suites, and with good reason given how software dramatically reduces the labor required for a/c functions.
A/C software is designed for both small and large enterprises. Small businesses typically want integrated “accountant in a box” applications that enable them to keep track of their business from their desktop or laptop computer with minimum effort. Medium and large businesses also use accounting software, but theyusually have several employees dedicated to keeping track of expenses, taxes, loans, payroll and the like.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys indicate that almost 1.6 million Americans were employed as accounting clerks and specialists in 2012. Furthermore, the BLS is anticipating a 14 percent growth rate, which means an additional 260,000 accounting specialist jobs will be generated from 2010 to 2020. A significant amount of this growth is related to more manpower being needed because of additional regulatory and disclosure requirements being implemented at the federal, state and local levels.
May employers prefer to hire certified bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks? The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers the Certified Bookkeeper designation, requiring at least 2 years of professional bookkeeping experience and passing a four-part exam. The National Bookkeepers Association offers another certification program. NBA certification requires answering at least 40 questions correctly on a 50-question exam (80%).
Accounting Assistant Training
Educational programs for accounting assistants can be found at most community colleges and vocational schools, and online programs are also available. A/C specialist training programstypically takefrom six months to two years, resulting in a certificate or associate degree. The BLS reports that nearly 25% of all accounting specialists had an associate or higher degree in 2009.
Twenty-first century computerized accounting specialist programs include basic math, bookkeeping (including double-entry bookkeeping) and accounting classes. You can also count on getting lots of practice using databases and all common accounting software applications.
On the Job Training
The first step in any new accounting specialist position is to complete any required on-the-job training. Although basic accounting principles always apply, companies have different a/c processes, so an introduction and training for new employees is common. Carefully read all training materials so you are fully prepared for any tests or qualifying exams.
The BLS reports that a/c and auditing clerks took home a median salary of $35,170 in 2012. Accounting specialists who worked for the U.S. Postal Service earned the highest, with a comfortable annual median salary of $59,150, and those who were employed in the motion picture and video industry came in second with a median salary of $46,840.
Accounting specialists have significant opportunities for career advancement. Working as an a/c clerk can be the first step in becoming a Certified Public Accountant. Many people have started as accounting assistants or auditing clerks and ended up as CPAs or even executives in major accounting firms. Becoming a CPA means going back to school and earning an degree, and passing the tough four-part CPA exam, but it is well worth it as experienced CPAs can six figure salaries in some areas.