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Accounting Technician: A Guide & Tips For Career Success

You’ve likely heard the saying that accounting is the language of the business world.  The essential nature of accounting-related professions, combined with the potential for above-average pay, is often what prompts many high school graduates or adults returning to school to pursue an accounting degree at a university or community college.

Boss Baby bored falling asleep in the classroom. Those who don't like numbers should try to become an accounting technician.
If you look like a sleepy Boss Baby during accounting class, accounting may not be for you.

For those who want to fast-track their way toward an accountant job (and salary), the role of an accounting technician is a great pathway. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already hunting for a job that has a great salary and that’s situated in your ideal geographic location.

While the salary of an accounting technician (also known as an accounting clerk) is much lower than that of an accountant or similar position, a clerk job can provide you with valuable work experience that a university education alone would not provide for you.

For those who want to fast-track their way toward an accountant job (and salary), the role of an accounting technician is a great pathway. If you’re reading this article, you’re likely already hunting for a job that has a great salary and that’s situated in your ideal geographic location.

While the salary of an accounting technician (also known as an accounting clerk) is much lower than that of an accountant or similar position, a clerk job can provide you with valuable work experience that a university education alone would not provide for you.

As you research the path toward becoming an accountant, you may see the role of accounting technician being mentioned as an entry-level job. With very few education requirements and few qualification measures, an accounting clerk role can show you a working, day-to-day view that college classes and university courses cannot offer you.

In this article, we’ll discuss the role of an accounting technician, explain how accounting technicians differ from accountants, and offer tips to help you become an accounting technician.

What Is An Accounting Technician?

Ron Burgundy’s face when he hears the phrase “accounting technician”….

An accounting technician evaluates the information on financial statements and tax documents to ensure accuracy for accountants. Depending on their position and specific industry, accounting technicians may perform the following tasks:

  • Oversee payroll accounts processing
  • Generate invoices
  • Reconcile bank transactions, vendor payments, and other accounts
  • Analyze accounts receivable and accounts payable
  • Monitor financial transactions
  • Prepare financial reports and budget data
  • Train company staff on payroll processes and procedures
  • Ensure all required tax documentation is present and that it complies with IRS guidelines
  • Assumes responsibilities for ensuring the accuracy of information related to finance management and company budget

Accounting Technician Vs. Other Accounting Jobs

The role of an accounting technician is different from those of other professionals within the accounting industry. Here are a few key differences between accounting technicians and other accounting roles:

Accounting technician vs. Bookkeeping professional

Accounting clerks usually handle specific accounting duties while bookkeepers often manage numerous aspects of a company’s accounting.

Job TitleAccounting TechnicianBookkeeper
Alternative Job Titles Accounting clerk, accounting assistantAssistant bookkeeper
Required Education/CredentialsAssociate’s degree in AccountingHigh school diploma
Job Outlook*-6% decline between 2019-2029-6% decline between 2019-2029
Median Annual Salary (U.S.)**$40,891$44,204
Common Job DutiesRecords financial transactionsCreates financial statementsCompiles bank deposits & general ledger postingsPrepares & present financial reports to managementFiles tax returnsParticipates in continue education regarding accounting practice & methodsSets up accounts and posts transactionsEstablishes chart of accounts & accounting systemsVerifies, allocates, & posts transitions to subsidiary accountsCreates financial reports by collecting & summarizing account information and trendsEnsures compliance with federal, state, and local accounting requirements
Skills Required For RoleBookkeeping, QuickBooks Software, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Invoicing, Data Entry, General Ledger, Financial Statements, Journal Entries, Bank Reconciliation, Vendor Management, US GAAPBookkeeping, QuickBooks Software, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Invoicing, Data Entry, General Ledger, Financial Statements, Journal Entries, Bank Reconciliation, Vendor Management, US GAAP
Traits Required For RoleBusiness savviness, integrity, self-motivation, teamwork, organizational skills, integrity, flexibility.Excellent communication, adeptness with accounting software and technologies, organization, teamwork mindset, integrity, flexibility 
Work EnvironmentOfficeOffice
Based on data from Bureau of Labor Statistics* and Salary.com (2021)**.

Accounting technicians typically have specialized roles within larger companies while bookkeepers have generalized accounting roles within smaller companies.

Although accounting clerks and bookkeepers often have similar job experience, bookkeepers tend to earn a higher starting wage than accounting technicians (PayScale, April 2018).

Accounting Clerk vs. Accountant

Accounting clerk positions are limited to bookkeeping and administrative tasks. However, accountants are responsible for providing insights to their clients. Those within accountancy can serve any number of roles within taxation, auditor services, managerial accounting, and various other sub-fields.

Job TitleAccounting TechnicianAccountant
Alternative Job Titles Accounting clerk, accounting assistantCertified public accountant, tax accountant, staff accountant, business analyst
Required Education/CredentialsAssociate’s degree in AccountingBachelor’s degree in accounting or a similar field
Job Outlook*-6% decline between 2019-202911% increase between 2019-2029
Median Annual Salary (U.S.)**$40,891$67,190
Common Job DutiesRecords financial transactionsCreates financial statementsCompiles bank deposits & general ledger postingsPrepares & present financial reports to managementFiles tax returnsParticipates in continue education regarding accounting practice & methodsAssessing financial operations & systems to improve compliance and recommend best practicesAdvising management on cost reduction and revenue generation.Forecasting cash flow and risk analysis assessmentsPreparing tax returns & ensuring tax fees are paid punctually to the appropriate entities
Skills Required For RoleBookkeeping, QuickBooks Software, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Invoicing, Data Entry, General Ledger, Financial Statements, Journal Entries, Bank Reconciliation, Vendor Management, US GAAPAdeptness with software used for financial reporting, tax preparation, and accounting; knowledge of accounting principles (GAAP), tax laws and regulations, accounting methods; general business acumen; technological literacy.
Traits Required For RoleBusiness savviness, integrity, self-motivation, teamwork, organizational skills, integrity, flexibility.Detail-orientedness, good communication, literacy with computers and accounting systems, business savviness, mathematical skills
Work EnvironmentOfficeOffice
Based on data from Bureau of Labor Statistics* and Salary.com (2021)**.

Experienced accounting clerks can earn an annual salary of up to  $49,530, while experienced accountants can earn an average annual salary of up to $103, 620.

Accounting Clerk vs. Tax Preparer

Job TitleAccounting TechnicianTax Preparer
Alternate Job TitlesAccounting clerk, accounting assistantTax accountant, tax professional
Required Education/CredentialsAssociate’s degree in AccountingHigh school diploma
Job Outlook*-6% decline between 2019-202914% increase through 2022***
Median Annual Salary (U.S.)**$40,891$44,204
Common Job DutiesRecords financial transactionsCreates financial statementsCompiles bank deposits & general ledger postingsPrepares & present financial reports to managementFiles tax returnsParticipates in continue education regarding accounting practice & methodsSets up accounts and posts transactionsEstablishes chart of accounts & accounting systemsVerifies, allocates, & posts transitions to subsidiary accountsCreates financial reports by collecting & summarizing account information and trendsEnsures compliance with federal, state, and local accounting requirements
Skills Required For RoleBookkeeping, QuickBooks Software, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Invoicing, Data Entry, General Ledger, Financial Statements, Journal Entries, Bank Reconciliation, Vendor Management, US GAAPBookkeeping, QuickBooks Software, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Invoicing, Data Entry, General Ledger, Financial Statements, Journal Entries, Bank Reconciliation, Vendor Management, US GAAP
Traits Required For RoleBusiness savviness, integrity, self-motivation, teamwork, organizational skills, integrity, flexibility.Excellent communication, adeptness with accounting software and technologies, organization, teamwork mindset, integrity, flexibility 
Work EnvironmentOfficeOffice
Based on data from Bureau of Labor Statistics*, Salary.com (2021)**, and O-Net Online***.

Career Outlook For Accounting Technicians

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for accounting clerks (another name for accounting technicians) is expected to decline 6 percent between 2019 and 2029.

This is to be expected since accounting software like QuickBooks continues to innovate and automate many manual aspects of accounting like data entry and data verification. Although this means data entry tasks will be reduced, this opens up numerous opportunities for accounting professionals to increase their focus on advising their accounting clients, rather than manually verifying transactions.

Salary is one of the biggest factors that most students consider when choosing a university program or college degree. This is completely understandable since the true goal of attending school and applying for jobs is to make a comfortable living – not working a job that doesn’t properly reflect your education level.

As you look at jobs in your area, considering the average salary for that position before you apply will help you avoid submitting job applications to employers that are offering jobs you don’t want.

How to find salary information for accounting jobs near you

If you want to find more salary records for popular jobs in locations near you, I encourage you to search for jobs on Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and other job sites. These websites have become popular because they let you search their database records for jobs in locations all over the United States. On these sites, you search for and find jobs based on filters for location, openings, salary, educational requirements, and more.

Is It Worth It To Become An Accounting Technician?

A young businessman weighing out pros and cons of his career choice.
Those interested in accounting must be careful to weigh out the pros and cons of an accounting career.

There are a number of perspectives and concerns that accounting students have regarding the role of an accounting technician. It’s best to take a balanced look at both the pros and the cons of an accounting technician position so you can make an informed decision.

Why people think accounting clerk jobs are doomed

Tom from Tom & Jerry TV show looks for a new home after his owners get a robot cat.
Automation makes people think accounting clerk jobs are doomed to fail

A 2018 study done by Andrea M. Rozario and Miklos A.Vasarhelyi (The CPA Journal) showed that “[n]ew technologies are increasingly able to mimic human activity, taking on repetitive tasks more quickly and accurately than people can.” As accounting software and other aspects of fintech become more advanced, some accounting and tax professionals have reached the alarming conclusion that accounting clerk positions are doomed to be replaced.

Accounting professionals increasingly rely on their accounting software to automate manual, routine accounting tasks. This widespread automation of accounting endangers the traditional role of an accounting technician, which typically consists of manual and basic administrative tasks.

The rote processes and manual workflows of an accounting technician position can also cause many newcomers to the accounting industry to find the role distasteful. Payroll processing, reconciling transactions, and onboarding clients can become wearisome if you’re doing it every day for years.

Why accounting technician jobs are still important

Although there are many naysayers who predict only doom for accounting clerks, I see the industry shift as a prime opportunity for newcomers to the accounting field.

I’ve always believed that it’s best to see the role of an accounting technician as a stepping stone or gateway to a more profitable career opportunity within accounting, such as a CPA or tax accountant.

Accounting automation is a great opportunity for accounting professionals to cross-train and educate themselves in more than one area of business. Although the study by Rozario and Vasarhelyi showed that machines are better at computation and numerical calculations, there will always be a need for human creativity. This is especially true within the business world, where situations are not always of the cookie-cutter variety.

Traits Of A Good Accounting Technician

The traits needed to become a good accounting technician are changing as technology continues to innovate traditional accounting roles. It’s been said that “accounting is the language of business”. With this perspective, it’d be best to view innovations within the accounting industry as transitional shifts that gradually adjust the roles that accounting professionals play within a business.

  • An aptitude for numbers
  • General business knowledge
  • Ambition
  • Dedication
  • Integrity
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Innovative thinking

An aptitude for numbers

Screenshot of Jim Carey looking horrified, showing how accountants react to accounting errors.
This is the face of an accountant (who looks a lot like Jim Carey) after discovering an error that undoes the past 3 hours of their work.

A full-time accounting technician job within a company requires proficiency with numerical calculations and a deep understanding of the figures and amounts listed on financial statements, tax documents, and financial reports.

The job of an accounting technician is usually to support the work of an accountant or other related jobs within the financial industry. When a business owner needs to pull up their financial reports and discuss them with their accountant, it’s vital that each amount and calculation on that financial report is accurate. Because accounting clerks play such a critical role within the larger context of business management and especially business accounting, it’s crucial for accounting clerks to possess a high level of numerical savviness.

General business knowledge

An accountant discusses data as he presents a presentation to his team.
Accounting jobs require business savviness as much as accounting knowledge.

Because the job of an accounting clerk is so vital to successful business accounting, it’s imperative for accounting technicians to have a decent knowledge of business management requirements. Having a working knowledge of the various parts of a company helps young accounting professionals appreciate how valuable their part or position is within their employer’s company.

The educational requirements for becoming an accounting technician are minimal, often allowing those with only a high school diploma to begin working a part-time or even full-time job. Although the work of a clerk can be monotonous, it’s a vital job that requires a high level of professional skills and business acumen.

Ambition

Handwritten target on a yellow background with a wooden checkmark in the middle, representing how ambition is vital for professional growth.
Ambitious individuals see failures as opportunities for growth and success.

This ambition is great because it drives people to acquire the skills, experience, and Bachelor’s degree needed to get an upper-level accounting job with a much higher salary. It’s crucial to view every job as a way to earn valuable work experience later on in your career. Whether you’re at a university or community college, it’s important that you learn the value of work experience.

Dedication

Runner sprinting along a racetrack, representing professional dedication.
Those who are starting out in accounting often perform routine, administrative tasks. Those who persevere will work their way into more profitable roles.

At every level or stage of your career, it’s easy to become discouraged about some aspect of your job. Clerk jobs can feel stifling and it’s common for those who’ve worked for years as an accounting clerk to desire another job with a higher salary. Individuals who possess the dedication necessary to succeed and grow within an entry-level position will be well-prepared to excel in an upper-level accountant position.

Integrity

Man refusing a yellow manilla envelope, representing the anti-bribery and corruption concept.
Integrity is a vital trait of any professional, especially accountants and bookkeepers, so they can bypass opportunities for bribery and corruption.

Earlier this year, on February 5, 2021, a Seattle bookkeeper was found guilty of stealing approximately $200,000 from their employer, a small bike shop. This story illustrates the importance of integrity for anyone within the finance industry.

An above-average dedication to ethics is paramount for anyone within the corporate arena, but this is especially true for accounting clerks. Because accounting professionals are directly responsible for managing their client’s money, as well as advising them on how to increase their revenue, integrity is a necessary skill for all who desire an accounting position at any level.

Familiarity with information technology

Young man, older woman, and older man sit use electronic devices in a cafe.
The explosive growth of fintech requires accounting professionals to stay technologically savvy.

As the financial technology (fintech) industry continues to grow, the general skills, training, and responsibilities for accounting professionals are changing as well. Those who are working in, or training for, an accountant position within a company of any size may be expected to provide limited support for accounting technologies and systems.

It’s unlikely that a clerk position will be asked to learn how servers work or be expected to troubleshoot advanced support tickets. However, the view that accounting clerks are nothing but number crunchers and data input clerks with a diploma is inaccurate. If you’re going to apply to a full or part-time finance position, you’ll need to know more than how payroll processing works.

Kickstart Your Accounting Career

If you want to get a higher salary beyond that of an accounting technician, you’ll need to possess the skills and work experience that’s required for an advisory finance management job.

Unfortunately, some employers expect their employees to sit and crunch numbers all day, working in an office for a low-paying salary. This view is dangerous because it stifles the potential for employees to grow and also limits opportunities for employers to attract great talent.

This is why forward-thinking employers are adopting the view that even a general office position can help young professionals gain the level of qualification and education needed to get a higher-paying job in the future.

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