How to Get Your First Accounting Entry-Level Job

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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 co-worker, wearing a dark jacket and glasses, stand in the hallway of their office.

An accounting career might appeal to you if you have an interest in finance and business processes, as well as analytical and organizational skills. With the right experience, education, certifications, you may qualify for an entry-level job in this field.

Entry-level accounting jobs vary in terms of responsibility, salary, and qualifications. Some only require completion of secondary school and a strong willingness to learn. While employers may prefer candidates with college degrees and certifications, some entry-level positions require one or more years of postsecondary 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.

Continue reading to review the accounting field, discover entry-level accounting jobs, and start your accounting career path.

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 Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) 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.

5 entry-level accounting jobs 

As you research the field of accounting, be sure to explore different entry-level roles you might qualify for. Doing so can help you clarify your career goals and prioritize which skills you need to build.

Here, we explore five entry-level accounting jobs you might come across in a job search.

*All salary data is sourced from Glassdoor in Canada as of June 2024

1. Accounting assistant

Average annual salary (CA): $46,334 [2]

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

2. Audit assistant 

Average annual salary (CA): $55,345  [3]

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.

3. Accountant trainee 

Average annual salary (CA): $59,213 [4]

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 chartered public accountant after gaining sufficient on-the-job training. Each territory or province has different requirements to become a CPA, although many demand a postsecondary education and completion of a training program.

4. Finance assistant 

Average annual salary (CA): $51,657 [5]

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.

5. Bookkeeping clerk 

Average annual salary (CA): $43,980 [6]

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. 


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

If you're ready to launch a career in accounting, follow the steps below to lay a solid foundation.

1. Finish your education.

While some entry-level financial positions require secondary school, employers often prefer candidates with additional education or certification. This may mean taking some college-level accounting or online courses demonstrating a willingness and interest in finance at least, while many job opportunities for entry-level accountants may ask for applicants with a college degree.

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, also on Coursera, during which you can learn about financial statements and associated principles.

You can also work toward a 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.

2. 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 

3. Gain accounting experience.

To gain experience in accounting, consider volunteer opportunities, short-term contract work, entry-level jobs with on-the-job training opportunities, or an internship. According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an accounting intern in Canada is $42,257 a year [1]. An 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.

As an intern, you may be responsible for assisting accountants with tasks, including computing taxes and preparing tax returns, organizing financial records, and maintaining all financial statements. 

4. Build a professional 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. 

5. Build accounting skills.

Improve your employability by gaining skills that demonstrate your familiarity with the latest accounting practices, technology, strategies, principles, concepts, and industry trends. Review current job listings in accounting to find out which skills are required for entry-level jobs and which skills will help you advance your career.  

6. Update your job search materials.

To get your first professional accounting position, take some time to update your resume, list of professional references, and cover letter template. List any online courses you’ve taken, other applicable training or experience, and keywords that show you know what to expect in the position.

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. 

7. Apply for jobs.

Review current listings for jobs in accounting in your chosen field or industry and begin applying for jobs that align with your career goals. Be sure to research each employer's “About Us” section on their website, along with the expectations of the position. 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.   

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.

Article sources

1 “Accounting Intern Salaries in Canada,,17.htm?clickSource=searchBtn.” Accessed June 12, 2024.

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.