Accounts Payable Specialist: Job Description, Education & Certification

Oct 20, 2021

Learn how to become an accounts payable specialist. Research the education requirements, training and experience you need to start a career as an accounts payable specialist.

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Accounts Payable Specialist Career Info

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent; some employers prefer associate degree
Degree Field Accounting
Certification Voluntary from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or National Bookkeepers Association
Experience 1-2 years sometimes preferred
Key Skills General math and 10-key calculator skills; detail-oriented; working knowledge of accounting principles and accounting and financial management software
Salary $41,230 (2019 median for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2019)

Accounts payable specialists, also known as accounts payable clerks, process vendor invoices and ensure that a company's accounts payable reports are accurate and that payments for unpaid invoices are sent out in a timely manner. This occupation might be stressful when deadlines hover nearby, and overtime is often required at busier times of the year.

In addition to work experience and some education, employers might look for accounts payable specialists who have a few key skills. These include general math skills, knowledge of accounting principles, knowledge of accounting and financial management software, 10-key calculator skills, and attention to detail.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks made a median annual salary of $40,240 per year in 2018.

Accounts Payables Job Description

An accounts payable job description will vary based on the specific role that a person has within a company. Anyone working in accounts payable should keep in mind the following elements of the job:

  • Calculating financial information for a company
  • Processing all invoices that a company receives
  • Resolving invoice issues quickly and efficiently whenever possible
  • Keeping track of tax information
  • Fielding phone calls and emails about financial information
  • Ensuring accuracy at all times

The following skills are helpful for someone considering a career in accounts payable, though many are learned on the job:

  • Attention to detail
  • Digital literacy
  • Strong mathematics skills
  • Data entry skills
  • Ability to follow complex instructions
  • Ability to adapt to new software and new policies as needed
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Technological troubleshooting skills

Earn an Associate's Degree

Although most accounts payable clerks have a high school diploma or the equivalent, possessing an associate's degree may increase the number of jobs for which an individual is eligible. An associate's degree in accounting can prepare individuals for a job in the field. Classes in these programs cover topics like economics, accounting principles, spreadsheets, computerized accounting and taxes.

Some associate's degree programs allow students to complete a work experience with a local business. These opportunities provide students with hands-on experience working in the field. This experience may impress employers, thereby making it easier to find a job after graduation.

Work in Accounts Payable

Many accounting clerk jobs are entry-level positions. These workers are responsible for entering vendor invoices, managing vendor databases, scheduling payments according to invoice terms, preparing checks for signature and mailing payments. Higher-level clerks may perform tasks like coding bills and verifying transaction accuracy.

Earn Accounts Payable Specialist Certification

The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers offers the Bookkeeper Certification. Earning this certification requires a minimum of two years of work experience and passing an exam. This credential demonstrates that an individual is able to perform all the functions of a bookkeeper. The National Bookkeepers Association also offers certification. Applicants have to take and pass the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Examination to be awarded Bookkeeper Certification.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Accounting clerks who enjoy the field and want to advance have the option of getting a bachelor's degree in the field. Having a bachelor's degree allows individuals to work as an accountant or auditor, which often comes with increased salary and more career options.

To sum up, aspiring accounts payable specialists may want to look into completing a degree or certificate program in the accounting field before gaining some first-hand experience and earning voluntary certification as a bookkeeper.

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