Accounting Clerk vs. Accountant: What’s the Difference?

Image of an accounting clerk, who supports accountants in their day-to-day duties

Accurately and efficiently managing a business’s finances is vital to short- and long-term success. As a business owner or hiring manager, you’ve likely seen the terms “accounting clerk” and “accountant,” but do you know the difference between these roles?

Both accounting clerks and accountants support the financial health of an organization, but their skill levels, financial expertise, and roles are notably different. This blog highlights the difference between an accounting clerk vs. an accountant, the skills required for each position, and how to choose the right role for your financial team.

What is an Accounting Clerk?

An accounting clerk is a valuable support member. You will often find an accounting clerk within a larger financial team because they record and track financial information that accountants use.

Depending on their experience, some of their duties can be similar to a bookkeeper’s. However, while bookkeepers may be the sole financial support for a small business, accounting clerks are often found in larger organizations that require an accounting department.

Accounting clerks can get started with a high school diploma. They are responsible for entering financial data into spreadsheets and accounting software programs and for filing financial documents. They’re usually seen as a more entry-level accounting position with opportunity to move up.

Top Skills for an Accounting Clerk

Accounting clerks need to accurately and consistently record financial data. However, they need more than data entry and math skills. They may communicate with clients about invoices and payments, requiring customer service skills. The top skills—both hard and soft—for an accounting clerk include the following.

Soft skills for an accounting clerk:

  • Attention to detail
  • Accuracy
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Communication
  • Integrity

Hard skills for an accounting clerk:

  • Data entry
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Computer skills
  • Customer service
  • Multi-tasking

Some accounting clerks may be responsible for accounts receivable, accounts payable, or reconciling accounts.

Text: Looking to Hire Entry Level Job Candidates? Here's how to find the right entry-level job seeker for your specific needs. Read more

What Makes an Accountant Different?

An accountant requires a college degree, and they often need a certification to complete work for an accounting team. and accountants have a comprehensive understanding of financial operations. They hold a strategic position within the financial team.

While accounting clerks handle the data entry and daily financial records, accountants analyze financial data to aid management in financial planning and decision-making. Their understanding of tax laws and requirements helps companies stay in compliance, pay taxes, and minimize tax liabilities.

An accountant will work closely with management or business owners to assist in areas like budgeting, risk management, cost analysis, forecasting, and tax planning. They can help managers and business owners map the financial road to achieving specific business goals.

Top Skills for an Accountant

Accountants can have different specialties and areas of focus. A CPA, for example, has completed rigorous training for additional tax planning and preparation expertise. A financial accountant has expertise in financial tracking and reports that help large organizations meet industry timelines. A management accountant is focused on using data to make more granular decisions, such as which customer segments are most profitable.

In a large organization, an accountant may manage several accounting clerks and other support staff. They may be responsible for translating financial data into presentations that managers, board members, and owners can use to make decisions.

The top skills for an accountant often include the following.

Soft skills for an accountant:

  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Project management
  • Collaboration
  • Communication, both written and verbal
  • Leadership
  • Time management
  • Customer service

Hard skills for an accountant:

  • Financial accounting
  • Financial strategy
  • Financial budgeting and planning
  • Tax knowledge
  • Data analysis
  • Auditing
  • Accounting software and technology skills

A small business accountant will require many of the same skills but may wear more hats in the organization. Here are the top skills to look for in a small business accountant.

Accounting Clerk vs. Accountant: Who Do You Need For Your Team?

Any sizable accounting department will need both accountants and accounting clerks. The decision of who to hire depends on the size of your business, the current composition of the team, and the duties that need to be fulfilled.

Accounting clerks are well suited to maintaining account records. Experienced accounting clerks can manage account receivables, payables, and account reconciliation. If you need straightforward financial support, including help tracking the income and expenses of the business, an accounting clerk can fulfill the role.

An accountant will better fill the need if you’re looking for someone who can help interpret the numbers in meaningful ways. Duties that require an accountant include tax planning, financial analysis, budgeting, and forecasting.

Whatever level of accounting support you need, from an experienced accounting clerk to a top-notch accountant, our team is dedicated to connecting businesses with great people.

Looking to Grow Your Accounting Teams?

Let us know what your business requires, and we'll find candidates for your specific needs. Questions? Call us toll-free: 855-485-8853