Clerk, Accountant, or CPA: What's the Difference in Accounting Help?

BY Eddy Hood In Outsourced Accounting Services On Sep 18, 2015 With 9 Comments

Accounting HelpCustomer invoices, profit and loss statements, and tax forms are just some of the financial records your business has to deal with. You're great with providing goods and services, satisfying customer needs, or even marketing. You don't have a head for numbers and want to turn figures over to some accounting help. But do you go for a clerk, an accountant, or a CPA? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) offers statistics on each type of position and the cost.


Accounting clerks perform specialized financial tasks such as entering transactions into accounting software, sending out invoices, or handling payroll. If they take care of the company books, also known as the general ledger, they may be called bookkeeping clerks or bookkeepers. Most clerks only need a high school diploma to enter their positions and on-the-job training. However, some clerks may have taken courses from post-secondary institutions, such as community colleges or trade schools.

Clerks are typically the lowest level of accounting help that you can find and require supervision. Their average pay is $35,200 annually or $16.92 hourly. Entry-level clerks can earn less than $21,890 per year, or $10.53 per hour. Those with plenty of experience and skill can make over $49,530 yearly, or $23.81 hourly.


Accountants take charge of financial records and ensure that all transactions meet business and legal standards. They can compute taxes and file tax returns, prepare and explain financial reports, and recommend ways to reduce costs, increase profits, and streamline money procedures. In large companies, they manage other accountants or accounting clerks.

A bachelor's degree is the typical minimum requirement to enter the profession and some accountants may have master's degrees. Certification from national organization, such as the Institute of Management Accountants, documents required expertise, such as in financial statement analysis or capital structure.

Accountants earn an average of $68,780 a year, or $33.07 an hour. However, their pay can go below $39,780 yearly, or 19.13 an hour, or ascend to over $103,620 per year, or $49.82 an hour.


CPAs, or Certified Public Accountants, are licensed by the State Board of Accountancy to perform the highest level of financial recording and disclosure. These professionals often act as department heads in corporations and take responsibility for all of an organization's financial dealings, no matter who performs them.

CPAs must have a license, which, in most states requires a Masters Degree. In addition, prospects must pass a national exam. In Utah, they must also have at least one year of accounting experience, complete the Ethics Exam administered by the American Institute of CPAs, and pass the Utah Laws and Rules Exam.

Not surprisingly, CPAs earn the highest salaries in accounting. According to Becker Professional Education, CPAs average 10 percent more than their peers who do not have the credential. Salary differentials may range from 5 to 15 percent.

Calculating from the BLS accountant salary as a start, CPAs in Utah can average $75,658 annually, or $36.37 hourly, with top salaries reaching over $113,982 a year, or $54.80 an hour.

If you want a CPA to head the financial division of your corporation, expect to dish out even more. The BLS shows averages of $108,610 annually, or $52.22, for financial managers. Top earners receive over $183,630 per year, or $88.28 an hour.

An Easier Option

You could wrack your brain for hours trying to figure out what type of accounting help is best for your company and whether you can afford that expertise. Or you can hire a full-service accounting company who can take care of all your needs from basic financial recording to complex CPA reporting. Please contact us to see how we can help you.


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My name is Eddy Hood. I've coached over 500 businesses on how to become more profitable. I'm the Founder & CEO of Ignite Spot, and I have mad parallel parking skills.

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