Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy.
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks typically do the following:
- Use bookkeeping software, online spreadsheets, and databases
- Enter (post) financial transactions into the appropriate computer software
- Receive and record cash, checks, and vouchers
- Put costs (debits) and income (credits) into the software, assigning each to an appropriate account
- Produce reports, such as balance sheets (costs compared with income), income statements, and totals by account
- Check for accuracy in figures, postings, and reports
- Reconcile or note and report any differences they find in the records
The records that bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work with include expenditures (money spent), receipts (money that comes in), accounts payable (bills to be paid), accounts receivable (invoices, or what other people owe the organization), and profit and loss (a report that shows the organization's financial health).
Workers in this occupation have a wide range of tasks. Some in this occupation are full-charge bookkeeping clerks who maintain an entire organization’s books. Others are accounting clerks who handle specific tasks.
These clerks use basic mathematics (adding, subtracting) throughout the day.
As organizations continue to computerize their financial records, many bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks use specialized accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases. Most clerks now enter information from receipts or bills into computers, and the information is then stored electronically. They must be comfortable using computers to record and calculate data.
The widespread use of computers also has enabled bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks to take on additional responsibilities, such as payroll, billing, purchasing (buying), and keeping track of overdue bills. Many of these functions require clerks to communicate with clients.
Bookkeeping clerks, also known as bookkeepers, often are responsible for some or all of an organization’s accounts, known as the general ledger. They record all transactions and post debits (costs) and credits (income).
They also produce financial statements and other reports for supervisors and managers. Bookkeepers prepare bank deposits by compiling data from cashiers, verifying receipts, and sending cash, checks, or other forms of payment to the bank.
In addition, they may handle payroll, make purchases, prepare invoices, and keep track of overdue accounts.
Accounting clerks typically work for larger companies and have more specialized tasks. Their titles, such as accounts payable clerk or accounts receivable clerk, often reflect the type of accounting they do.
Often, their responsibilities vary by level of experience. Entry-level accounting clerks may enter (post) details of transactions (including date, type, and amount), add up accounts, and determine interest charges. They also may monitor loans and accounts to ensure that payments are up to date.
More advanced accounting clerks may add and balance billing vouchers, ensure that account data is complete and accurate, and code documents according to an organization’s procedures.
Auditing clerks check figures, postings, and documents to ensure that they are mathematically accurate and properly coded. They also correct or note errors for accountants or other workers to fix.
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks held about 1.8 million jobs in 2012.
The industries that employed the most bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks in 2012 were as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||12%|
|Health care and social assistance||7|
|Finance and insurance||7|
The professional, scientific, and technical services industry includes the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services sub-industry.
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work in offices. Bookkeepers who work for multiple firms may do site visits to their clients’ places of business. They often work alone, but sometimes they collaborate with accountants and managers, and depending on the size of the organization, they may work with bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks from other departments.
Many bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work full time. About 1 in 4 worked part time in 2012. They may work longer hours to meet deadlines at the end of the fiscal year, during tax time, or when monthly or yearly accounting audits are done. Those who work in hotels, restaurants, and stores may put in overtime during peak holiday and vacation seasons.
Most bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks need a high school diploma, and they usually learn some of their skills on the job. They must have basic math and computer skills, including knowledge of spreadsheets and bookkeeping software.
Most bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks need a high school diploma. However, some employers prefer candidates who have some postsecondary education, particularly coursework in accounting.
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks usually get on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or another experienced employee, new clerks learn how to do their tasks, including double-entry bookkeeping. (Double-entry bookkeeping means that each transaction is entered twice, once as a debit (cost) and once as a credit (income) to ensure that all accounts are balanced.)
Some formal classroom training also may be necessary, such as training in specialized computer software. This on-the-job training typically takes around 6 months.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Some bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks become certified. The Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation, awarded by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, shows that people have the skills and knowledge needed to carry out all bookkeeping tasks, including overseeing payroll and balancing accounts, according to accepted accounting procedures.
For certification, candidates must have at least 2 years of full-time bookkeeping experience or equivalent part-time work, pass a four-part exam, and adhere to a code of ethics.
The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers also offers certification. The Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Examination is an online test with 50 multiple-choice questions. Test takers must answer 80 percent of the questions correctly to pass the exam.
With appropriate experience and education, some bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks may become accountants or auditors.
Computer skills. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks need basic computer skills. They should be comfortable using spreadsheets and bookkeeping software.
Detail oriented. These clerks are responsible for producing accurate financial records. They must pay attention to detail to avoid making errors and to recognize errors that others have made.
Integrity. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks have control of an organization’s financial documentation, which they must use properly and keep confidential. It is vital that they keep records transparent and guard against misappropriating an organization’s funds.
Math skills. Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks deal with numbers daily and should be comfortable with basic arithmetic.
The median annual wage for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks was $35,170 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $21,610, and the top 10 percent earned more than $54,310.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks in the top five industries in which these clerks worked were as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$36,600|
|Finance and insurance||35,750|
|Health care and social assistance||34,960|
Many bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks work full time. About 1 in 4 worked part time in 2012. They may work longer hours to meet deadlines at the end of the fiscal year, during tax time, or when monthly or yearly accounting audits are performed. Those who work in hotels, restaurants, and stores may put in overtime during peak holiday and vacation seasons.
Employment of bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks is projected to grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Job growth for these workers is largely driven by overall economic growth. As the number of organizations increases, more bookkeepers will be needed to keep these organizations' books. In addition, in response to the recent financial crisis, investors will pay increased attention to the accuracy of corporate books. Stricter regulation in the financial sector will create demand for accounting services, creating opportunities for accounting clerks.
Some tasks that these clerks do have been affected by technological changes. For example, electronic banking and bookkeeping software has reduced the need for bookkeepers and clerks to send and receive checks. However, when checks are sent or received, these workers are still needed to update statements and check for accuracy. Rather than reduce the need for these workers, these technological changes are expected to help bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks do their jobs.
Because bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks is a large occupation, there will be a large number of job openings from workers leaving the occupation. This means that opportunities to enter the occupation should be plentiful.
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