What is an Accounts Payable Specialist?

A career as an accounts payable specialist is an ideal choice for a person who is detail-oriented, organized and good with numbers. Although many people will have this role in mind for their ultimate goal, others may see the position as an entryway into other accounting positions that have increased responsibility. Understanding more about the role of these professionals makes it possible for people to choose educational and career paths that make sense for them.

Job Description for Accounts Payable Specialist

A person in this position has to use their organizational skills and prioritization abilities every day. They are responsible for reviewing invoices, checking them for accuracy and appropriate documentation before providing approval. Accounts payable specialists also receive and process check requests. A large part of the job is matching invoices to checks and obtaining appropriate signatures on checks. Reconciling vendor statements, correcting discrepancies and fielding questions from vendors and customers may also fall under their responsibilities. Most specialists will help with month- and year-end closings, and some process incoming mail. The job description varies a bit based on the employer. In large organizations, the specialist may be responsible for just one or two of these tasks.

Start With the Right Education

Some employers require that new specialists only have a high school diploma. However, these opportunities are relatively rare. Most prefer at least an associate degree in a related field like accounting. It may also be helpful to obtain certification through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or to join the American Accounts Payable Association, as this indicates dedication to the role and an understanding of the standard ethics and practices that are common to the industry.

Associate Degree Programs

Most associate degree accounting programs require two years of full-time study. Many options are available for students who are working and can only attend school part time. The coursework gives students a broad foundation of the theories and practices of accounting. Students become adept with various spreadsheet programs and other software that is frequently used in the profession. Analytical skills are developed, and students may also have the opportunity to gain real-world experience with a cooperative education experience with a local employer. This valuable, hands-on experience may help the student to find a prospective employer even before graduation.

Entry-Level Jobs

Many people who want to become an accounts payable specialist must take a related, entry-level position before moving into the job of their choice. Frequently, they work as a financial clerk for a year or two before taking on a more responsible role, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Because clerk positions do not generally require a college degree, some candidates will find employment as a clerk while they complete their education. This can enhance the student’s ability to quickly move into the accounts payable specialist role soon after graduation.

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With job opportunities available through municipal, state and federal governments along with banks, doctor’s offices, law firms and many other businesses, there is a multitude of opportunities for people who want to enter the accounting field. A high school diploma may be all that’s required to get started, but an associate degree will open many more doors. Earning a four-year degree is another excellent way to improve employment prospects for people who choose to work as an accounts payable specialist.