Become a Bookkeeper: Education and Career Roadmap

Jan 22, 2022

Research the requirements to become a bookkeeper. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in bookkeeping.

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Should I Become a Bookkeeper?

A bookkeeper maintains the efficiency and accuracy of a business' financial books. They record financial transactions, including payroll, accounts payable and receivable, billing, purchasing, and overdue bills. Bookkeepers must have proficiency with computers in order to use accounting software needed for updating and calculating data.

While nothing more than a high school diploma or the equivalent is necessary for most bookkeeping jobs, some employers may require additional education. Optional certification is also available and may provide for opportunities to advance in this career field.

Career Requirements

Education Level High school diploma or GED (minimum); postsecondary education may be required
Degree Field Accounting or a related field
Training On-the-job training
Certification Voluntary certification is available from the National Bookkeepers Association, American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, and Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Exam
Key Skills Basic mathematical skills, detail-oriented, computer skills, organizational skills
Salary $42,410 per year (2020 median salary for all bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Degree

Many bookkeeping jobs only require a high school diploma or GED. However, establishing a working knowledge of accounting through formal coursework can serve a bookkeeper well in his or her job. Additionally, certain employers may require candidates to hold an associate or bachelor's degree. Programs in business administration and accounting are available at both levels. Students in associate degree programs may take courses in business mathematics, keyboarding, economics, payroll accounting, tax procedures, and business law. Bachelor's degree programs in accounting allow students to explore similar topics and build on their knowledge with more in-depth courses in accounting information systems, auditing, and managerial accounting.

Step 2: Get Training

While most employers prefer bookkeepers to have a degree, most will hire someone with a high school diploma and give them on-the-job training. Training consists of learning how to do double entry bookkeeping and use accounting and spreadsheet computer software. Typically, it takes a supervisor six months to teach a new employee the expected job responsibilities.

Step 3: Voluntary Certification

The title of certified bookkeeper can be obtained from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, which can provide greater opportunity for advancement in this field. To receive certification, you have to work for at least two years as a full-time bookkeeper or equivalent part-time hours, pass an exam, and follow a code of ethics. In addition, you can apply for certification with the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers or take the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Exam, which is offered online.

Along with becoming certified, those looking at working as a bookkeeper should become familiar with desktop computer applications, especially accounting software. An increasingly large percentage of business transactions and accounting tasks are computerized. Employers may favor candidates with experience using accounting and spreadsheet software. Students in accounting programs should consider taking courses that provide hands-on experience with these programs.

As a student, consider getting involved with a student group. Some accounting degree programs offer the opportunity to join student accounting organizations. This may be a great chance to interact with other students interested in careers in accounting and bookkeeping, and student associations may also provide professional networking opportunities.

So when considering a career as a bookkeeper, it is possible to be hired and receive on-the-job training with just a high school diploma and work using your basic math skills. However, in order to increase the possibilities of being hired, look into a postsecondary education that offers coursework in the field of accounting and keep in mind that becoming a certified bookkeeper will require additional experience and an exam.

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