Want a Career Outside of Administrative Work? Become an Accounts Payable Specialist

accounts payable

If you have data entry or other administrative work experience but aren’t so sure about your career path, consider becoming an accounts payable (AP) specialist. Reliable accounting is vital to the success of every business, and as an AP specialist, you get a chance to make an impact and move up the ranks.

We asked Aerotek recruiting managers Marve Howe and Lauren Edsel how people can move into AP clerk roles. Since Howe and Edsel frequently place accounts payable candidates with diverse backgrounds, they offer an inside look at the required skills and career potential.

What does an accounts payable specialist do?

An AP specialist pays the bills for an organization. They cut checks and process invoices and expense reports — ensuring the numbers match. If things don’t add up, they’re responsible for resolving discrepancies.

For example, a company may use a coffee delivery vendor that sends a monthly invoice billing for their services. The AP specialist processes that payment.

Depending on education and experience, AP specialists typically make between $15 and $25 per hour.

What’s more, “a role like this helps you grow your accounting and analytical skills to then move up in a company,” says Howe.

Market your skills and experience

If you have any experience with data entry or handling invoices, you have an advantage when applying for AP specialist jobs.

Successful AP specialist candidates have these skills:

  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Experience with Excel
  • Experience with ERP software such as Oracle, Solomon, PeopleSoft, SAP and Lawson is preferred
  • People skills, especially client skills
  • Ability to learn quickly
  • Ability to function in a fast-paced office

Some companies require at least an associate’s degree, while others don’t require one at all. Look for this requirement in the job description. Having related work experience may make up for any education requirements.

On your resume, weave all relevant technical and soft skills< into your work history bullet points, and include a skills section that lists them out. During interviews, offer examples of how you demonstrated these skills at previous jobs.

“If you don’t have previous accounting experience, find a company willing to teach you how to handle the numbers, paperwork and processes,” says Edsel. Also, emphasize that you’re a quick learner.

Climbing the ranks: What comes after AP specialist

An AP clerk role can be a key stepping stone for moving up in accounting. Look for openings at medium and large companies as they typically process a higher volume of payments. While that means more work for you, it also means more experience and opportunities to grow into other roles at the company.

Though not always required, earning a college degree could maximize your chance of getting promoted faster. Certifications such as the National Bookkeepers Association Certification or Certified Accounts Payable Associate can also give you a leg up.

Working as an AP specialist can eventually position you for a team lead role, where you oversee a small group of AP specialists. After that, you can advance to an AP manager job where you run an entire department, overseeing everything from hiring employees to executing vendor contracts.

“AP managers make a lot of money. Once you have 10 years of accounting experience and move up in the company with a full-cycle accounts payable gig, you can make close to six figures,” says Edsel.

Take advantage of an opportunity to grow

An AP specialist position may be entry-level, but it’s packed with opportunity for a long, rewarding career. If you want to develop your accounting skills and work your way to a higher-paying career path, take a look at accounts payable jobs in your area.