What Does an Accounts Payable Specialist Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

An accounts payable specialist is a key part of any financial team. Learn more about how to get started in accounts payable and a financial reporting career.

[Featured image] An accounts payable employee sits at a desktop computer.

Businesses and organisations often spend money on goods and services to help them achieve their goals. This money owed to vendors is known as accounts payable (AP) and is a key element in an organisation’s overall financial picture. In most organisations, the accounts payable specialist is the person in charge of paying the bills. This common entry-level position can lead to a long career in accounting. 

What is an accounts payable specialist?

An accounts payable specialist handles the AP—the bills or liability—for an organisation. This person ensures that bills are accurate and paid on time and that any invoices received are authorised. This is critical to the company's health as it impacts budget and cash flow. 

Tasks and responsibilities

While accounts payable specialists work in just about every industry, the day-to-day tasks tend to be similar and might include:

  • Reviewing invoices for accuracy and proper approvals

  • Matching invoices to purchase orders

  • Ensuring bills are paid or negotiated by their due dates

  • Entering transactions to maintain accurate revenue reports

  • Performing bank and credit card reconciliations

  • Assisting with the setup of new suppliers

  • Generating monthly, quarterly, or annual statements

  • Assisting the accounting team with other duties

At a small business, you may be asked to take on financial tasks beyond the scope of accounts payable. Many larger companies have a specific accounts payable department to manage this particular aspect of their financials.

Accounts payable specialists' skills

The skills and knowledge you’ll use as an accounts payable specialist will vary somewhat depending on your industry, but there’s plenty of overlap. Set yourself up for success by building a core set of essential skills:

  • Understanding of double-entry bookkeeping

  • Proficiency with accounting software, like Quickbook, MS Excel, SAP, or Oracle

  • Verbal and written communication skills

  • Attention to detail

  • Organisational skills

  • Mathematical aptitude

Accounts payable specialist salary

The average annual base salary for someone working in accounts payable is £25,304, rising to £28,000 for someone more senior [1]. Your pay can vary depending on what part of the country you live in and the company you work for.

How to become an accounts payable specialist

To become an accounts payable specialist, you need a high level of education and some specific certifications. A level 7 apprenticeship is a popular entry point, while others take a degree in accounting and then complete ACCA or CIMA certification. It is common for people to complete ACCA accreditation while on the job. 

Accounts payable specialist career path

A job as an accounts payable clerk can be the first step in a financial reporting career. As you gain experience, you might advance into a managerial role within the AP department. 

Since accounts payable skills are used in other financial and management positions, many people who start in this role move into more complex financial management positions in budgeting, expense management, or procurement. 

Among the jobs you may qualify for after a successful stint as an accounts payable specialist and with additional training are:

  • Office Manager

  • Accounts receivable specialist

  • Bookkeeper

  • Billing specialist

  • Staff accountant

  • Accounting clerk

  • General ledger accountant

  • Loan officer

  • Purchasing agent

Get started with Coursera.

Accounts payable specialist can be a rewarding way to contribute to an organisation’s success and lead to further steps in a financial reporting career. Take a course like Fundamentals of Accounting to experience for yourself whether a job in accounting is a good fit. If you’re ready to advance in your career, build upon your skill set with Microsoft 365 Fundamentals.

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor. "Accounts Payable Salaries, https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Salaries/accounts-payable-salary-SRCH_KO0,16.htm." Accessed May 20, 2024.

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