What Does a Bookkeeper Do?
A bookkeeper is an essential team member of a well-run business, no matter the size of the business.
A bookkeeper — also called a bookkeeping clerk, accounting assistant, accounting specialist or accounting associate — organizes financial information and records transactions such as payments and invoices. A bookkeeper also collects and stores all financial records, including cash flow statements and reconciliation and loss statements.
Keeping track of all records clearly, accurately and confidentially is essential. That detailed work is what allows a bookkeeper to provide an up-to-date financial picture of a business.
The information and reports a bookkeeper provides help business owners make decisions and plan for the future. Experienced bookkeepers don’t just provide the numbers; they are also involved in the decision-making process.
In fact, that’s a great way for an entry-level clerk to think about this career. By improving their accounting skills, a new bookkeeper becomes more valuable to the company. Time and experience may also create opportunities to become more involved in discussions about the company’s future.
Sound interesting? Keep reading to learn more about training and demand for this job.
- Data entry
- Keep track of all transaction details using bookkeeping software
- Bank reconciliation, or cross-referencing, for accuracy
- Pay and issue invoices (accounts receivable and accounts payable)
- Generate payroll
- Create accurate financial reports, typically monthly
- May file tax returns and end-of-year reporting
How To Become a Bookkeeper: FAQs
Bookkeeper requirements: What steps do I take to get this job?
First, you’ll need to earn your high school diploma or equivalent. If you’re still in high school, take accounting or business math courses to set yourself up for success.
Next, you’ll need some postsecondary education or hands-on training to get into this career. That can take the form of a certificate, an associate degree or on-the-job training.
Bookkeeping training will cover accounting basics and techniques, such as double-entry bookkeeping. (This term means transactions are entered twice, once as a debit or cost and once as a credit or income. This method ensures the books are balanced.)
Finally, bookkeeping certification is a smart step. It isn’t typically required, but it’s proof to employers that you have the skills they need, especially if you trained in the job but don’t have any postsecondary education.
Some certification options include the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the Certified Public Bookkeeper designation from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. Both certifications require experience and passing an exam.
With experience and/or continuing education, you can grow to become an office manager, auditor or accountant.
Are there any other qualifications to consider?
If you want to be a freelance bookkeeper who helps several clients, a driver’s license will make it easy to get to and from appointments. This is less necessary if you work for a single entity or if you do the work remotely.
How long does it take to become a bookkeeper?
A certificate program may take from six months to a year. An associate degree will take two years. Many certification designations such as the ones mentioned above have an experience requirement of about two years.
Continuing education is ongoing.
Bookkeeper vs accountant: What’s the difference?
These titles are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing.
An accountant may also be a bookkeeper, but the opposite is not true. An accountant may have earned a bachelor’s degree and have more advanced skills, such as assessing finances and creating budgets.
An accountant often oversees a bookkeeper’s work, especially when the bookkeeper is new to the profession. And as described earlier, a bookkeeper may learn enough of these advanced skills to take on some of the duties of an accountant, such as influencing business decisions.
Is there a demand for bookkeepers?
Yes, even though growth of employment is slowing, there is still a great need. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts about 197,600 openings for bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks each year from 2021 to 2031.
Technology is also changing the job, says the BLS. There is less need for routine tasks because those can be automated, but it creates more time for analysis, a more valuable skill.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful bookkeepers tend to share these traits:
- Good attention to detail
- Great with numbers
- Able to learn new computer programs easily