A look at the bookkeeper career path
While many financially minded individuals enjoy long careers as bookkeepers, others gain experience in bookkeeping before pursuing other roles in finance.
Working as a Bookkeeper
Bookkeepers are responsible for processing and recording financial transactions. They typically work for small or medium-sized businesses in a variety of industries, including construction, real estate, and retail.
During a typical workday, a bookkeeper can expect to spend time:
- Processing business expenses and money received and recording details in bookkeeping software.
- Preparing and distributing invoices and receipts to debtors and suppliers.
- Generating balance sheets, income statements, and other financial reports.
You'll need to have at minimum a high school diploma or GED to work as a bookkeeper. However, many employers require postsecondary education, such as an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in accounting or business administration.
Bookkeepers must depend on a number of skills to succeed in their roles, including:
- Math skills for dealing with financial documents/
- Computer literacy, especially proficiency with spreadsheets and bookkeeping programs
- Strong touch-typing skills for more efficient data entry
- Attention to detail for accurate work
- Oral and written communication skills for working with accountants and other colleagues and preparing financial reports
- Organizational skills for maintaining financial records and handling invoices
- Discipline for meeting deadlines
Next Steps: Bookkeeping Supervisor
While you can work as a bookkeeper without certification, if you want to advance in your career, you should become a Certified Bookkeeper. Certified Bookkeepers have the greatest opportunity to transition from a support role, where they only physically document transactions, to a role as a bookkeeping supervisor.
Certification from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) or the National Bookkeepers Association (NBA) can help separate you from the competition and prepare you for new opportunities. To gain this certification, you must:
- Work for at least two years as a full-time bookkeeper (or equivalent part-time hours).
- Pass the AIPB's Certification Exam or NBA's Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Exam.
While qualifications are important, it takes certain skills to succeed as a bookkeeping supervisor, including the following:
- Good people skills to work with other bookkeepers and members of the finance team and department supervisors
- Strong management skills to coordinate the work of bookkeepers and get the best results from team members
- Excellent technical skills and an attention to detail to efficiently and accurately complete own work and identify problems with the work of others
- Strong communication skills for working with a team and explaining financial concepts to company employees unfamiliar with finance
- Calmness under pressure to handle deadlines and make sure all members of a team meet deadlines
Next Steps: Accountant or Certified Public Accountant
Employers may hire bookkeepers who are working toward attaining a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline. Once they receive their degrees, these professionals may be able to secure positions in accounting.
Bookkeeping is a discipline which focuses on the details, including every transaction amount, date, and source of revenue for a business. An accounting degree will help you learn to broaden your focus and get a broader understanding of a business's finances. An accounting degree will also help you hone skills in new areas such as payroll and taxes.
Accountants also need the following skills to succeed:
- Leadership to motivate and oversee the work of accounting clerks and accounting assistants
- Strong problem solving and analytical skills to resolve discrepancies in documents such as financial statements
- Public speaking abilities for presenting financial information to others
- Organizational skills for working with and maintaining a number of financial records
- Time management skills to meet deadlines
- Flexibility to meet demands when priorities change
- Honesty and discretion for appropriately dealing with sensitive financial records
- Commitment to learning to maintain current knowledge of accounting and tax practices
Learn as much as you can so that you can advance your knowledge of this field while working as a bookkeeper. Only then will you know whether you have a lifelong passion for bookkeeping or want to use the role to pursue other career opportunities in the financial services industry.