How to Become a Bookkeeper

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If you like to work with numbers, and you’re detail-oriented, you may be well-suited for a career as a bookkeeper. This is a field with a great deal of opportunity. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 1,707,800 bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerk jobs in 2021.

While some companies may use the terms accountant and bookkeeper interchangeably, there are significant differences between the two positions. One of the most prominent distinctions is that there is often less schooling and training required to begin your bookkeeping career.

This blog will cover the basics of a bookkeeper role, outline the steps you may need to take to become a bookkeeper, and explain the average salary and job outlook for this career.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

A bookkeeper is responsible for producing financial records for clients or an employer. Some bookkeepers work as freelancers or independent contractors, usually taking on multiple clients. Others are employed directly by a single organization.

Regardless of how a bookkeeper works, they generally have the same tasks and responsibilities. Bookkeepers handle duties like recording financial transactions, checking financial records for accuracy, and updating financial statements.

In short, a bookkeeper handles their employer’s or their clients’ financial activities, helping manage the company’s financial stability and health, and ensuring the company complies with applicable state and federal laws.

Bookkeeper Job Responsibilities

Common job responsibilities of a bookkeeper can include:

  • Utilizing bookkeeping software, databases, and spreadsheets
  • Inputting and posting financial transactions and entries into bookkeeping software
  • Receiving, processing, and recording financial deposits (e.g., checks, cash, and vouchers)
  • Entering debits and credits (i.e., expenses and income) into the bookkeeping software and assigning it to the specific accounts
  • Running and producing reports and statements (e.g., balance sheets, income statements, and account totals)
  • Reviewing reports, postings, and figures for accuracy
  • Identifying, reconciling, and reporting differences or discrepancies uncovered in reports
  • Editing and writing budgets

It’s important to note that job responsibilities and duties may vary by type of bookkeeping job. For example, a freelance bookkeeper may be hired to perform one specific task, while an in-house bookkeeper for a private firm may handle all of the above-listed duties. Be sure to carefully read the job description to better understand what may be asked of you.

Steps to Become a Bookkeeper

While every employer may be different, bookkeepers generally need to obtain a high school diploma or pass the General Educational Development (GED) test to be able to work as a bookkeeper. In most cases, you also need to undergo some postsecondary education to be able to begin working as a bookkeeper. Learn more about the specific steps you may need to take to begin a bookkeeping career.

Earn a High School Degree

Most clients and employers prefer hiring candidates with a high school diploma or GED. Having this accolade helps demonstrate to employers and clients that you have the basic math, communication, and writing skills that are necessary to succeed in this type of role. Unlike accounting jobs, you may be able to apply and accept a bookkeeping role without pursuing a postsecondary degree.

Obtain a College Degree

Though it’s not often required, aspiring bookkeepers who do earn a postsecondary degree may be able to apply for and be qualified to work in higher-paying bookkeeping roles. Pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in business, finance, accounting, or other related fields can help set you up for success in your role as a bookkeeper without needing a lot of on-the-job training.

Also, postsecondary education in these areas will teach you more about financial mathematics, computer software, economics, and ethics—all of which can help prepare you for a career in the field.

Explore Training Options

While many employers will provide some element of on-the-job training for bookkeepers, especially in entry-level roles, exploring training options on your own can help you learn the skills you’ll need to excel at your job. By completing training on your own, you become a more competitive job applicant.

When it comes to getting bookkeeping training, you have a wide variety of options. You can enroll in online bookkeeping classes, or you can look for continuing education courses at a local school. You may also want to familiarize yourself with various types of accounting software, like QuickBooks. For free resources, look for tutorials and trainings on YouTube.

Finally, firms and businesses near you may offer bookkeeping internships. Working as a paid or unpaid intern will give you valuable insight into the day-to-day responsibilities of a bookkeeper, teaching you skills you’d only glean from real-life work experience.

Find a Position

Most bookkeepers begin their career working in entry-level positions to gain relevant work experience and knowledge. Bookkeepers are in constant demand, so depending on where you live, you might have the flexibility to pursue your choice of full-time or part-time jobs, on-site or remote jobs.

Consider Earning Certifications

Even though bookkeepers aren’t generally required to earn certifications or licenses like accountants are, you may benefit from doing so.

Two professional organizations offer bookkeeping certifications. To qualify for either, you must first have minimum experience, generally either two years full-time or comparable hours part-time.

  • The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers can offer you the designation of Certified Bookkeeper (CB). In addition to working the required amount of hours, you must take and pass a four-part exam and adhere to an ethical code to earn this designation.
  • The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers can offer you the certification of Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB). You will need to work the required amount of hours and pass the four-part Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Examination.

Earning either or both of these can help demonstrate to employers that you’re serious about your career and you’ve gained expertise in the field. If you plan to freelance as a bookkeeper, certifications can help communicate trust and dedication to potential clients.

Bookkeeper Compensation

The median national average compensation for a bookkeeper, accounting, and auditing clerk was $45,610 in May 2021, just $200 less than the national average salary for all occupations. However, there is a wide range of pay. The lowest 10 percent of earners reported making $29,120, and the highest 10 percent of earners reported making $61,980 as a bookkeeper. Your pay as a bookkeeper may vary depending on where you live, your role, and years of experience.

How to Find a Job as a Bookkeeper

Are you looking for your next job as a bookkeeper? Insight Global can help. Search our job board for open bookkeeping positions.

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