How to Get Your First Accounting Entry-Level Job

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Learn how to get into the finance industry with entry-level accounting jobs. Discover how to prepare and learn about jobs that may be right for you.

{Featured image] An accountant, wearing a blue sports jacket and blue shirt and glasses, and a female, wearing a dark jacket and glasses, standing in the hallway of their office.

For those with a natural liking for numbers, consider accounting entry-level jobs.  With the right experience, education, certifications, and connections, sometimes, these jobs don’t require a bachelor’s degree.

Entry-level accounting jobs vary in terms of responsibility, salary, and qualifications. Some only require a high school diploma and a strong willingness to learn. Employers could also be seeking candidates with associate degrees or previous professional experience. In general, professionals in entry-level accounting jobs are likely to report to more senior accountants or auditors. This underscores the opportunities for growth within this career.

To get your first professional financial position, let your resume demonstrate your ability to complete finance-related tasks. List any online courses you’ve taken, other applicable training or experience, and keywords that show you know what to expect in the position.

What is accounting?

Accounting involves preparing and examining financial documents for businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. This demands an understanding of finance-related laws and regulations. Accountants primarily work in an office environment and help business owners and executives analyze and assess risk to identify areas of concern.

Accounting work might also focus on ensuring taxes are paid fully and on time. This means keeping accurate financial records and computing tax burdens. Accountants are also responsible for preparing and submitting the necessary documents to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or other governmental agencies. 

Some accountants work directly with executives and top professionals as consultants who suggest solutions and methods to improve a company’s financial standing and efficiency. Understanding best practices and gaining experience within the finance industry can help an accountant become more respected—and earn a higher salary.

Read more: What Is an Accountancy Degree? A Guide

How do I prepare for an entry-level role in accounting?

To get hired in an entry-level job in accounting, you can enhance your resume and feel more confident by gaining experience, completing your education, earning a certification, making networking connections, or working as an intern.

New technology will certainly change the industry in the upcoming decade with developments like automated accounting software, but educated and experienced professionals will likely always be valuable team members. Improve your employability on your resume by including skills, training, and relevant experience. The more thorough your entry-level application, the more likely you’ll be granted an interview for an accounting position.  

Before applying for a job, research the company’s “About Us” section on their website, along with the expectations of the position and the company's value. If you agree with their values and mission, you're more likely to enjoy the work and be better prepared to assist them in a finance-related role.   

Read more: 11 Interviewing Skills to Benefit Your Career

Get experience.

One of the best ways to gain experience in accounting is to get an entry-level job. Many employers are willing to offer on-the-job training. Still, there are ways to gain experience even if you haven’t landed a position yet.

If you have time, you can volunteer at a nonprofit agency or a church that may need assistance with their financial tasks and tax documents. This experience can give you insight into the daily duties of accountants and let you work directly with people who may be willing to help develop your skills. 

Finish your education.

While some entry-level financial positions require only a high school diploma, employers often prefer candidates with additional education. This may mean taking some college-level accounting or online courses demonstrating a willingness and interest in finance. 

The University of Pennsylvania offers an Introduction to Financial Accounting course on Coursera, which can help you build a foundation of core business skills. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers the Fundamentals of Accounting Specialization on Coursera, during which you can learn about financial statements and associated principles.

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Introduction to Financial Accounting

Master the technical skills needed to analyze financial statements and disclosures for use in financial analysis, and learn how accounting standards and ...

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Fundamentals of Accounting

Accounting Basics for Managers and Entrepreneurs. Apply principles that underlie financial statements and facilitate business decisions and goals.

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Income Statement, Cost, Financial Statement, Balance Sheet, Accounting, Accounting Terminology, Financial Ratio

You can also work toward an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting, business, or another finance-related field. If you wish to pursue a degree, you may be able to do it while also working in an entry-level position, especially a flexible online degree program, such as a Bachelor of Science in General Business offered by the University of North Texas.

Get a certificate.

Professional certificates are deliverables, like post-secondary educational degrees, that demonstrate to potential and current employers that you are serious about your profession and interested in becoming a more critical part of the team. A professional certificate can help you position yourself competitively for entry-level finance jobs. Certificates usually cost less and take less time to complete than a degree.

Intuit offers a Professional Bookkeeping Certificate on Coursera, which teaches skills including:

  • Foundational knowledge of bookkeeping concepts and accounting

  • Practice working through an accounting cycle to produce financial statements

  • Ability to analyze and interpret financial documents used in business decisions

  • Knowledge of general accounting skills and accounting measurements 

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Intuit Bookkeeping

Launch your career in bookkeeping. Gain the professional skills you need to succeed in the bookkeeping field. No degree or prior experience required.

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Average time: 4 month(s)

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Skills you'll build:

Double-Entry Bookkeeping System, Bookkeeping, Bank Reconciliations, Accounting Concepts and Measurement, Basis Of Accounting, accounting software, Accounting Cycle, Creating Financial Statements, Accounts receivable and cash receipts, Inventory costing methods, PP&E Accounting, Asset Accounting, Depreciation, Accounts Payable and Payroll, Owner’s Equity and Owner’s Draw, Accounting, Long-Term Liabilities and Note Payable, Accounting for Liabilities and Equity, Cash Flow, Bank Reconciliation, Financial reports analysis, financial statement analysis

Network. 

Start networking with professionals you have a relationship with to begin your entry-level accounting job search. Networking can mean attending in-person social events organized by your local chamber of commerce, or you could network online through sites like LinkedIn or Facebook. 

Read more: How to Use LinkedIn: A Guide to Online Networking

Consider an internship.

While many internships are unpaid, accounting internships are not always the case. The average salary of an accounting intern in the US is $39,217 a year, according to Glassdoor [2]. Still, even a temporary unpaid internship can sometimes lead to full-time work either with the same company or another business looking for a candidate with on-the-job experience.

These interns are responsible for assisting accountants with tasks, including computing taxes and preparing tax returns, organizing financial records, and maintaining all financial statements. 

Read more: How to Write an Internship Cover Letter: 9 Tips (+ Examples)

Entry-level accounting jobs 

When applying for entry-level positions, include workplace skills like attention to detail and high integrity, as well as technical skills like computer and math skills. 

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor as of July 2022

Accounting assistant

Average annual salary (US): $40,421 [3]

Also known as an accounting clerk, an accounting assistant may work directly under an accountant to help complete daily tasks. Some responsibilities may include:

  • Enter information about receipts or expenses into computer databases

  • Check financial records for accuracy

  • Assist with payments and outgoing checks

  • Prepare invoices

  • Maintain and file financial documents

Audit assistant 

Average annual salary (US): $58,922  [4]

Audit assistants usually work directly with auditors to ensure documents are mathematically correct and properly coded. You’ll have to check figures and postings to analyze and compare with real-world documents, searching for transcription errors and larger discrepancies that a company’s executives must address. You may also assist in preparing reports to ensure compliance with tax laws.

Trainee accountant

Average annual salary (US):$54,147 [5]

A trainee accountant works directly under a more experienced account professional; this position is also known as an accountant intern. Depending on the organization you’re working for, your responsibilities may include:

  • Managing invoices

  • Learning technical knowledge of accounts, bookkeeping, taxes, and auditing

  • Organizing data regarding income and expense 

  • Overseeing individual accounts

  • Performing administrative tasks, such as asset inventory and payroll

  • Verifying the accuracy of accounts and financial documents

While a trainee accountant is still considered entry-level, you’ll generally be more competitive during interviews if you have completed an associate degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree is a good idea if you want to become an accountant. 

You could also become a certified public accountant after gaining sufficient on-the-job training. Each state board has different requirements to become a CPA, although many demand a bachelor’s degree or other post-secondary education.

Finance assistant 

Average annual salary (US): $43,074 [6]

Finance assistants play an essential role in a company’s financial decision-making process. You’d help create budgets, analyze investments, and contribute to business strategies as part of a financial team. You would use data, metrics, historical trends, and current fiscal events that can influence predictions for future planning. You may also be responsible for basic accounting tasks.

Bookkeeping clerk 

Median annual salary (US): $49,910 [ 7]

A bookkeeping clerk is another common entry-level accounting job. You make entries in a company’s general ledger, which is the record for transactions, debits, and credits throughout the year. You'll produce financial statements and other reports as a bookkeeping clerk while handling bank deposits, payroll, and other critical business transactions.

Intuit offers a course on Bookkeeping Basics on Coursera, which you can use to help prepare for this role. 

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Bookkeeping Basics

This is the first course in a series of four that will give you the skills needed to start your career in bookkeeping. If you have a passion for helping ...

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Basis Of Accounting, accounting software, Accounting Cycle, Creating Financial Statements, Double-Entry Bookkeeping System

Read more: A Guide to Bookkeeping: Learning the Skills

Get started

The accounting field is one where you can start in an entry-level position and advance to better-paying jobs with more responsibility. To take the first step, you’ll want to learn the basics of accounting and finance. 

On Coursera, consider the University of Virginia’s Financial Accounting Fundamentals course.  It may help to learn what it takes to grow a business financially. If auditing interests you, you may like the University of Illinois’ Auditing I: Conceptual Foundations of Auditing. These online courses provide the flexibility to gain fundamental knowledge that you can apply to a long and rewarding accountancy career.

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Financial Accounting Fundamentals

This course, developed at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia and taught by top-ranked faculty, will teach you the tools you'll need ...

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Skills you'll build:

Financial Accounting, Accounting, Financial Statement, Balance Sheet

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Auditing I: Conceptual Foundations of Auditing

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, Job Outlook,  https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm#tab-6.” Accessed June 22, 2022.

2. Glassdoor.com. “Accounting Intern Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/accounting-intern-salary.” Accessed June 22, 2022.

3. Glassdoor.com. Salary: “Accounting Assistant, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-accounting-assistant-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,23.htm.” Accessed June 24, 2022.

4. Glassdoor.com. “Audit Assistant, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/audit-assistant-salary-SRCH_KO0,15.htm.” Accessed June 24, 2022.

5. Glassdoor.com. “Accountant Trainee, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/us-accountant-trainee-salary-SRCH_IL.0,2_IN1_KO3,21.htm.” Accessed June 24, 2022.

6. Glassdoor.com. “Finance Assistant Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/finance-assistant-salary-SRCH_KO0,17.htm.” Accessed June 24, 2022.

7. GlassdoorUS Bureau of Labor Statistics. "How much does a Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerk make?Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerk-salary-SRCH_KO0,41.htm#:~:text=%2486%2C781,-%2F%20yr&text=The%20estimated%20total%20pay%20for,salary%20of%20%2449%2C912%20per%20year.https://www.bls.gov/ooh/office-and-administrative-support/bookkeeping-accounting-and-auditing-clerks.htm#tab-5." Accessed June 22, 2022.

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