How to Become an Accounting Assistant

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Updated October 3, 2022

Want to learn how to become an accounts assistant? This guide explores the required education and credentials for this career.

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An accounting assistant performs bookkeeping, budgeting, financial reporting, and accounts management responsibilities. Unlike bookkeepers and accounting clerks, accounting assistants help accounts departments with customer service and administrative support.

The role of an accounting assistant calls for strong problem-solving, analytical, and mathematical skills. Accounting assistants do not need advanced degrees or licenses to qualify for employment.

Individuals looking to pursue accounting assistant careers can use this guide for details on the steps in the process, including required credentials, job hunting tips, and opportunities for upward mobility.

Steps to an Accounts Assistant Career

The path to becoming an accounting assistant can vary depending on education and training. Higher education is not mandatory to qualify for a job as an accounts assistant — many candidates secure employment with high school diplomas or associate degrees. Although many employers prefer a college degree, prior accounting knowledge and experience may be more valuable than educational background.

The following sections describe common paths to becoming an accounting assistant.

Earn a College Degree

  1. Get a high school diploma: It is vital to have a high school diploma or GED certificate to qualify for a degree program in an accredited school.
  2. Pursue an undergraduate accounting program: An associate degree in accounting takes two years, while a bachelor's degree typically takes four years. Both degrees help develop essential accounting skills.
  3. Secure an internship: Some companies offer internships and on-the-job training to accounting professionals. A six-month internship or training builds fundamental skills required to become an accounting assistant. Qualified candidates can then look for full-time positions.
  4. Build experience: New graduates can often pursue entry-level accounting clerk or bookkeeping jobs that are limited in scope. With greater experience, they can qualify for more advanced roles.

Required Education for an Accounting Assistant

Since an accounting assistant's responsibilities revolve around finances, these professionals must have strong attention to detail and math skills. It is not mandatory for accounting assistants to earn college degrees. However, most employers prefer candidates who have completed undergraduate programs in accounting, business, or similar fields. Accounting hopefuls can also self-train for the profession in various ways.

Many accounting assistants start with two-year associate degrees that cover finance, bookkeeping, and math skills. Students with associate degrees can often finish their bachelor's degrees in two years. Both degrees prepare graduates for entry-level accounting jobs.

In many instances, it may be enough to pursue an undergraduate certificate in accounting or business finance to qualify as an accounting assistant. Many colleges offer these programs, which enrollees can complete in one year.

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Required Credentials for Accounting Assistants

Certifications and licensure are not required for accounting assistants, unlike many other accounting professions. However, higher education combined with certain professional certifications can open doors to advanced accounting roles.

Optional Certifications and Degrees

Being certified or licensed is not a requirement for accounting professionals but can help candidates — particularly individuals without college degrees — demonstrate their skills and expertise. Earning certifications can also lead to a higher income and more senior roles.

Accounting assistant certifications are available through various professional accounting organizations, such as the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. Each certification lasts for a different period, and some require annual renewal.

The certified public accountant (CPA) is the most common credential for accounting assistants. It is overseen by the AICPA and may help increase the pay and expertise of accounting professionals, also making them eligible for more specialized careers. The exam covers four topics: financial accounting and reporting, business environment and concepts, auditing and attestation, and regulation.

Accounting professionals can complete continuing education opportunities to boost their experience and qualify for more positions. This may involve watching videos, completing quizzes, and taking online courses.

Required Experience for an Accounting Assistant

Accounting assistants gain experience by working as junior bookkeepers or accounting clerks. On-the-job training is common in this profession, but degree-holders can stand out in this field even without the required experience.

Accounting assistants can keep honing their skills and knowledge to qualify for more senior roles, such as public or chartered accountants. Internships and practicums help develop knowledge and experience for accounting professionals.

Should I Become an Accounting Assistant?

Aside from knowing how to become an accounting assistant, it is also necessary to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this profession. Accountants have long been an important part of small and medium businesses in the past, but with the rise in accounting automation, the demand for these professionals has decreased. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a 3% decline in accounting, auditing, and bookkeeping jobs from 2020-2030. This may also lead to greater competition in the industry.

To increase employability, accounting assistants can consider pursuing advanced degrees and professional certifications that boost eligibility for senior accounting roles.

The Job Hunt

Accounting assistants can look for employment in several ways. Your school's career services department is a common starting point for finding leads. Other options include pursuing an internship, joining networking organizations, and browsing online job boards. The following job boards can help job-seekers find accounting assistant opportunities.

  • AICPA Job Board: The career hub of the AICPA brings together employers and job seekers on the same platform. Anyone can browse open jobs without a membership.
  • Accounting Jobs Today: This free job site lets users search for opportunities using keywords, titles, and locations.
  • LinkedIn: The biggest professional networking site also has a vast job board with opportunities from around the world.
  • Glassdoor: Accounting professionals can find job listings and reviews from past and current employees.

Upward Mobility

Some accounting assistants can climb the ladder to more senior roles, such as accounting manager. These professionals typically work at accounting firms and may also have CPA credentials.

The primary duties of an accounting manager include:

  • Overseeing all accounting functions such as financial reporting, payroll, billing, collections, and tax filing
  • Recruiting and training accounting staff
  • Planning and implementing the company's financial strategy

Along with several years of experience, an accounting manager typically holds a master's degree. Some candidates may pursue bachelor's degrees in accounting and later complete MBAs in related fields.

According to the BLS, accountants and auditors earned a median salary of $77,250 as of May 2021, with the top 10% earning over $128,970 annually.

Top Online Accounting Associate Programs

Explore programs of your interests with the high-quality standards and flexibility you need to take your career to the next level.

Questions on How to Be an Accounting Assistant

What degree do you need to become an accounting assistant?

Accounting assistants can find entry-level jobs with only associate-level education, but a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field can increase employability and eligibility for more advanced roles.

How long does it take to start an accounting assistant career?

The time it takes to become an accounting assistant depends on education and training pathways. Pursuing a college degree can take 2-4 years, while individuals training on the job take about six months to grasp fundamental skills.

What certifications do you need along the accounting assistant career path?

Accounting assistant roles do not require formal certifications. However, certified professionals can have a job market edge and qualify for higher-paying positions.

Is an accounting assistant an accountant?

An accounting assistant performs accounting work but does not carry the direct title of "accountant." Fortunately, working in this role can create a pathway to working as an accountant.

Is a bookkeeper the same as an accounts assistant?

A bookkeeper's duties mainly include recording financial transactions, while an accounts assistant also works on payroll, taxes, and financial reports.

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