There are many different levels of responsibility in the accounting profession. At the entry level, accounting clerks record and process accounts receivable and payable, that is the money coming in and going out of a company.
In small companies, all of the accounting functions may be the responsibility of only one person, the bookkeeper. However, in large offices and accounting departments accounting clerks, who have more specialized responsibilities, do the work and report to either a Bookkeeper or an Accounting Manager. Their titles often reflect the type of accounting they do, such as accounts payable clerk or accounts receivable clerk.
Accounting clerks use accounting computer software to perform their job and work in both government and private organizations. Some professionals who worked as accountants in their home country might consider working in one of these accounting positions.
Related Job Titles
These different titles may indicate jobs with more specific responsibilities or may be reflective of the industry in which the individual works. For example, a tax clerk might work in a government department.
- Budget Clerk
- Costing Clerk
- Finance Clerk
- Invoice Clerk
- Tax Clerk
The accounts payable clerk (a/p clerk) codes, verifies and prepares cheque requisitions for monies owing to suppliers. In this position it is important to have sound knowledge of the business and the products and services it sells in order to properly code invoices. The accounts receivable clerk (a/r clerk) tracks monies owing to the company and may need to make collection calls. This person must have an understanding of the customers, their business cycles and their credit worthiness.
The duties of a/p clerks and a/r clerks may include the following but can vary depending on the company and/or the industry:
- Code, total, enter, verify and reconcile transactions such as accounts payable and receivable, purchase orders, cheques, invoices, cheque requisitions and bank statements in a ledger or computer system
- Input all approved journal entries into the accounting system
- Compile budget data
- Maintain petty cash fund
- Calculate cost of materials
- Respond to customer inquiries
- Assist with other clerical duties such as filing, faxing, scanning and photocopying
- Produce monthly reports required by the bookkeeper for the financial statements
Qualifications and Requirements
- Require a high school diploma which is equivalent to 12 years of formal education, preferably with courses in Accounting, Mathematics and Computer Applications
- May prefer a college diploma in accounting or business (2-3 years)
- Often hire university graduates with a 3 or 4 year degree
NOTE: Even though high school level education is the minimum requirement, you will see that most advertisements for accounting clerks prefer someone with second level CGA (Certified General Accountant) or higher. If you graduate from a Canadian College business program, you will probably be at the second year level. (For more information on CGA, visit www.cga-ontario.org). If you decide that further education is necessary, you may be able to get credit for your experience or education. You may also refer to the ONIP article entitled Accounting Professional Designations in Ontario.
Also necessary are:
- Computer skills including word processing, spreadsheets, database, and accounting software and the internet. Some companies have customized accounting software but most use commercial software such as ACCPAC, Great Plains, M.Y.O.B. (Mind Your Own Business) or Simply Accounting
- Familiarity with office equipment such as fax machines, photocopiers and scanners
- Good keyboarding and data entry speed
- Ability to work independently
- Ability to pay close attention to detail
Some large companies may require knowledge of an integrated computer system such as SAP or J.D. Edwards.
Some buzz words and catch phrases to describe qualifications are:
- Complete set of books
- Able to work under pressure as required during peak periods
- Demonstrate good judgement
- Maintain A/R or A/P sub-ledgers
- Excellent telephone manner for dealing with customers and/or suppliers
- Tracking average days’ sales outstanding
- Monitor compliance with bank covenants
- Establish and monitor customers’ line of credit and report this to the Sales Manager
- Ability to answer questions regarding specific accounts
- Perform account and month-end receivables reconciliation
- Daily review of aged receivables
Accounting clerks are usually paid a salary and typically work 9 to 5. However, when it is tax season or year-end, it may be necessary to work overtime. These positions are generally not unionized in the private sector but are always unionized in government environments. The average salary is about $28,000/yr., with a low of $15,000 and a high of $42,000. Some people are self-employed in this profession but this is not usual.
Who are the Employers?
- Accounting and bookkeeping firms (they provide this service for their clients who are operating small businesses)
- Banks and other financial institutions such as credit unions
- All levels of government – federal, provincial and municipal
- Professional and business services such as law firms, advertising firms
- Retail and wholesale trade
- Construction companies
All companies use accounting personnel in some form. The best way to organize your job search is to focus, at first, on industries that have accounting requirements similar to those where you have worked before, that is a similar size or similar industry. This will help you to research and target suitable companies and positions.
- Many of the positions advertised are posted by personnel agencies and thus it is recommended to register with two or three agencies that specialize in accounting positions. Agencies place both permanent and temporary workers (see the Do’s and Don’ts of Temporary Work). The placement service is always free for job seekers as these agencies are paid by the company that is seeking to fill a vacancy. Agencies may test your accounting knowledge and your proficiency with specific accounting software. If it appears on your resume, then you need to be able to demonstrate your competency with that software.
- Large companies advertise positions on their own website. Look on the website for human resources, careers, employment, positions available, or similar words to find the job postings. Also colleges, universities and school boards actively seek suitable candidates on their websites. If you respond to a posting on a company’s website, then the company knows that you are really interested in them.
- You can find companies by industry or location by referring to directories found in public libraries and employment resource centres. Some examples are: Scott’s Directory, Dun and Bradstreet, The Blue Book of Canadian Businesses, The Career Directory, The Mississauga Business Directory, and Toronto Business Directory.
- Job Banks
- There are many websites which post positions for a variety of occupations, including accounting clerks, in many different industries.
- HRDC – government site that posts company advertisements for free.
- Workopolis – a large Canadian job posting website.
- Monster – another large Canadian job posting website.
- Charity Village – This is the site for non-profit organizations to advertise vacancies. There are not many accounting related positions.
- Public Service Commission – This is a website for federal government jobs. Preference is usually given to Canadian citizens but there may be some entry level opportunities.
Job Posting Examples
Accounts Receivable Specialist
This role presents an exciting opportunity for a specialist in Accounts Receivable who wants to make an immediate impact at one of Canada’s largest packaged food companies. Under the direction of the Manager, Credit & Collections, you will have a direct impact on working capital through effective A/R cash management. You will provide effective financial analysis and reporting on customer spending in relation to sales accruals and objectives. You will provide support to the sales/customer marketing organization by helping them to work through credit terms and contractual commitments, and will work directly with customers to proactively manage their accounts.
- Overall management of customer accounts including:
- Researching open transactions and reconciling to customer contracts
- Monitoring receivables and making daily collection calls and updating company records
- Following up on outstanding items
- Working with sales and customer marketing group to manage trade spend (deduction) system
- Monitoring accruals and adjusting as required
- Performing balancing functions, entering cash and making journal entries
- Reviewing and improving credit and receivables processes as required
- Trend analysis and ad hoc analysis/reporting as required
- Special projects as needed
- In conjunction with sales team, proactively working with customers to manage the account
- Certificate/degree in Accounting or Finance
- Level 2-3 CMA/CGA
- 1 to 3 years of experience in a corporate A/R environment
- Strong analytical and statistical skills
- Proficiency in MS Office including Advanced Level Excel
- Proficiency in mainframe applications (AS 400 preferred)
- Process driven with ability to focus and produce results
- Proven ability to work within a dynamic team environment
- Excellent written and verbal communications skills levels
- Self motivated and professional with the ability to work with a wide range of individuals and subject matters
- Superior problem solving skills
- Ability to work well in a high volume environment
- Able to adapt in a changing work environment
- Bilingualism is an asset
Accounts Payable Clerk
- Match, audit, enter and reconcile invoices/ expense reports received for payment for assigned accounts ensuring discounts are maximized wherever possible and proper authorization is evident
- Liaising with Materials Management to reconcile Purchase Orders
- Process cheque requests by retrieving information and verifying proper approval/ authorization, sufficient information and discussing any concerns with staff as appropriate
- Communication and resolution of issues with suppliers and staff as required including vendor statement reconciliations
- Cheque runs including matching cheques to invoices for mailing and filing invoices
- Communication with Coordinator and team for issues
- Back-up for Front Desk reception daily at noon
- Maintenance and reconciliations of Petty Cash
- Other duties as assigned
- Diploma from a post-secondary institution in Business Administration or Accounting or equivalent
- Minimum 3 years in Accounts Payable
- Accurate, deadline driven and detail oriented
- Excellent organization and customer service skills
- Strong communication, both oral and written, and interpersonal skills
- MS97 Office Applications with Intermediate Excel
- Teamwork and the ability to work additional hours if required
- Flexible and able to balance multiple priorities
- Propensity to learn and master an industry and technology
- Ability to work independently and experience in resolving issues
Since this is not a regulated profession and licensing is not required there is no association attached to the accounting clerk occupation. However, if you are interested in becoming a Bookkeeper, you may be interested in the accreditation program offered through the Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping.