Accounting assistants are essential for busy accounting firms because they fulfill many roles and tasks that the full accountants can’t get to. For example, you might have to fill out certain forms or help customers with small transactions or issues. Becoming an accounting assistant is fairly easy, and the minimal requirements are simple to fulfill. At the same time, most firms require the same educational requirements as for full accountants. This makes it easier to get a promotion if you fulfill these requirements. The best thing about being an accounting assistant is that it's easy to get a promotion. The educational requirements are nearly the same for full accountants, and most dedicated assistants will become accountants in a few years.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the accounting assistant career has a job outlook of about 11 percent, which represents about average growth. It’s a little on the higher end, which is good for those are interested in this career. The median pay is around $35,000 a year, or over $16 an hour. At the same time, more experienced accounting assistants can get up to $50,000 a year.
Accounting assistants will work with accounting programs to enter and review numbers. Some assistants will also have to analyze the numbers to ensure that they are right, but this is often left to full accountants. You will also have to tally revenue and loss for the company and certain clients. Another common responsibility is to create reports and balance sheets when needed.
The minimal educational requirement for an entry-level position is a high school diploma, GED or equivalent degree. If you want to prepare for this career during high school, then try to take as many math classes as possible. If your high school has business classes, then they might also be good because you will be dealing with many business clients. At the very least, you should be good at working with percentages and decimals. While this is good enough for an entry-level position, it’s a much better idea to get postsecondary education.
If you want the best chances of securing this career, then work towards a four-year or six-year degree in accounting or a similar mathematics field. Accounting is a very common field, which means that you don’t need to look for a specific college that offers this program. Be sure to take courses that cover subjects such as taxation, auditing, law and business ethics.
To further improve your odds, you should also secure an internship with a local accounting firm. You can typically do this while in college, but some programs might only be available to graduates who recently finished their studies. While an internship may not pay much, you will get essential experience that will help you find a position as a accounting assistant. Not only that, but the internship might turn into a career if you prove yourself.
Whether you take an internship or not, you should learn how to use industry-specific programs. Every firm will have its software preferences, but showing that you have experience with these programs will make you look like a better applicant. The most common programs include Quickbooks, Cognos, Excel and Banner. If you only have a limited amount of time, then focus of Excel and Quickbooks.
Certifications might be useful, but they aren’t entirely necessary for an accounting assistant. They can help your chances, and they will definitely help if you want a promotion. In fact, they are essential if you want to become a full accountant. The most common certification is the CPA exam, but other certifications that apply to accountants and accounting assistants are the CMA, CIA and CISA exams.
When you’re ready, you should apply to an accounting firm for an accounting assistant position. This position is relatively easy to get, but you might be competing with many other people since the requirements are fairly low. If you want the best chances without using too much money or time, then it’s best to apply when you have a four-year degree and some experience through an internship program. If you're still in college and working towards your degree, then this might be enough for certain employers.
Tips for Applying for An Accounting Job
When you are applying, you should highlight your experience and education in the accounting field. It’s also good to show the employer that you are experienced with applicable software. This will make you a better applicant because the employer will have to waste less time in training you. If you have worked with any clients during your internship or significantly helped the firm that you worked with, then you should definitely tell the employer about that. This field is obsessed with results, and showing that you are a capable worker will significantly improve your chances of being hired.
The vast majority of accounting assistants with four-year or six-year degrees and certifications will be promoted to full accountants within a few years. It typically takes about three years, but it might be between five and seven years depending on the firm’s promotion policies and employees.
If you are having a hard time finding an accounting assistant position in your area, then there are several other positions that you can apply for that have similar responsibilities and educational requirements. Budget analysts, cost estimators, financial clerks and loan officers are perfect for those who want to enter the accounting field. You can use this experience to become an assistant when a position opens up.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks
eHow: How to Become an Accountant Assistant
eHow: Educational Requirements for Accountant Assistant
WiseGeek: What Does an Accountant Assistant Do?
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Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks
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