How To Pursue a Career as a Bookkeeper

Updated August 31, 2023

Bookkeeping is one of the highest-paying jobs you can do remotely. It is also an interesting career for anyone who is interested in finance but does not want to meet the requirements to become an accountant. If you are looking for a job that lets you use your knowledge of finance or your computer skills, working as a bookkeeper could be a profitable and rewarding option. In this article, we will discuss a bookkeeper's job description, average salary and the steps you can follow to pursue this career path.

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What does a bookkeeper do?

Bookkeepers are responsible for handling their clients' daily financial activities. They oversee, record and facilitate all incoming and outgoing payments associated with a certain account. Bookkeepers are primarily focused on maintaining their clients' financial health and stability. They also protect their clients by making sure that every financial transaction is compliant with federal laws and regulations. Bookkeepers can work for companies or individuals and can be either salaried or freelance employees.

Some other specific duties of a bookkeeper include:

  • Creating and filing financial reports

  • Updating and reviewing financial records

  • Editing and writing budgets

  • Managing employee payroll

  • Alerting their client to any financial discrepancies

  • Monitoring accounts payable and receivable

Image description

A man in a suit works on a calculator and writes on a piece of paper, underneath two lists entitled "Bookkeeper vs Accountant. The list under "Bookkeeper" contains these duties:
• Manage employee payroll
• Track transactions
• Estimate revenue and expenditures

The list under "Accountant" offers these duties:
• Business taxes and tax returns
• Do not pay bills or file receipts
• Must have a degree and certifications

Average salary

The average salary for a bookkeeper in the United States is $17.73 per hour. The national salary distribution ranges from $7.25 to $35.15. These numbers reflect the average paycheck for a bookkeeper who works on a company's payroll. Freelance bookkeepers set their own rates and often charge an hourly rate of $40-60. If a freelance bookkeeper has multiple clients and works full-time, they frequently earn more than the salaried bookkeeper's $35-40,000 per year.

How to become a bookkeeper

There are two routes you can take on your journey to becoming a bookkeeper. You can either pursue a salaried position with a company or you can start your own freelance bookkeeping service. In either case, you will need to follow several specific steps to begin this career path:

1. Pursue a high school degree

Unlike accountants, many bookkeepers have associate's or bachelor's degrees. In most cases, employers only require their bookkeepers to have a high school degree or GED. A high school degree will provide the basic math, writing and communication skills that are necessary for being a bookkeeper. Other relevant skills like time management, organization and teamwork can also be learned in high school.

While a college degree is not necessary, aspiring bookkeepers who pursue an Associate's or Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration or Accounting will be qualified to work for clients with higher educational requirements. These degrees will include coursework on financial mathematics, computer systems, economics and business law. Students may also choose to take in-depth classes on accounting software, managerial accounting or auditing.

2. Acquire training

Bookkeeping training can come from a variety of sources. Many bookkeepers start out by teaching themselves to use accounting software like QuickBooks. They might also use online courses, books or seminars to learn the basics of practical finance. Self-taught bookkeepers often acquire the skills they need without direct training and instead learn while on the job. Most employers can train an entry-level bookkeeper in six months or less. The length of a self-taught bookkeeper's training period will vary depending on their chosen method and their personal schedule.

Some bookkeepers might pursue an internship with a local company or accounting firm. Internships introduce an aspiring bookkeeper to the field of business finance and allow them to observe other financial professionals as they work. You can typically find internships through your college, your personal network or an online job board.

3. Apply for positions

If you are interested in being a salaried bookkeeper, your next step will be to look for local or remote job openings. In order to present yourself as a qualified candidate, you will need to create a well-written resume that highlights your bookkeeping skills and outlines any professional experience you might have. Familiarity with accounting software, a thorough understanding of personal and business finance and a willingness to learn are all excellent skills to include. If you are lacking practical experience, you may be able to compensate by presenting yourself as a hard worker with significant potential for growth.

Be sure to tailor your resume to suit the particular position you are applying for. Read the job description and include any applicable keywords on your resume or in your cover letter.

4. Become a freelancer

If you are more interested in being a freelance bookkeeper, your next step will be to establish your own bookkeeping service. Most of your potential clients will be looking to hire someone with some practical experience, so you may want to hold a traditional bookkeeping position with a local business or accounting office for a year or two before you go freelance.

When you are sure you have sufficient experience, skills and time, you can begin searching for either local, remote or virtual positions using online job boards and other job search resources. You can use your personal network by asking friends, family and coworkers if they know of anyone who needs a bookkeeper for their business. You can also post advertisements in the paper, online or in a local community center.

One tip for securing clients is to specialize in a certain type of bookkeeping. For example, if you have specific experience bookkeeping for schools, charities or restaurants, you will be able to market yourself effectively to similar businesses.

5. Consider certification

Both salaried and freelance may benefit from becoming certified. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers and the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers can both offer you the title of Certified Bookkeeper. To acquire these certifications, you need to work as a bookkeeper full-time for a total for a least two years or for a comparable number of part-time hours. You must then pass an exam and commit to following a code of ethics. Alternatively, you take the Uniform Bookkeeper Certification Exam online to earn a Certified Public Bookkeeper license.

Certification is not required to be a successful bookkeeper but it can increase your likelihood of securing high-end clients. Certified bookkeepers are guaranteed to be both skilled and experienced, so some employers may only hire certified individuals.

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Jobs similar to bookkeepers

If working in finance is something that interests you, there are several careers for you to pursue. Here are 10 jobs similar to a bookkeeper:

1. Accountant

2. Accounts receivable clerk

3. Auditor

4. Cost estimator

5. Accounting clerk

6. Budget analyst

7. Loan officer

8. Tax examiner

9. Payroll clerk

10. Brokerage clerk

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?

Accountants help their clients handle significant financial matters like taxes and tax returns. They are not concerned with their client's daily finances and do not typically pay bills or file receipts. Accountants audit financial statements and are well-educated in business law. Accountants must have degrees in accounting or business and are typically certified. Bookkeepers, however, handle their clients' day-to-day financial transactions and most are not required to meet the same standards for education or certification.

What skills do I need to be a bookkeeper?

Bookkeepers benefit from having computer skills, organizational skills and analytical skills. They use specialized computer software and systems daily and must be able to adapt to new technology. They also must be highly organized and detail-oriented in order to ensure that their clients' financial reports are accurate and thorough. A bookkeeper must also be able to analyze and interpret a range of different types of financial data. Successful bookkeepers are also good communicators, dependable employees and quick learners.

What is a bookkeeper's work environment like?

Bookkeepers work in a variety of environments. Some work as part of an accounting team while others work independently as a freelancer. Bookkeepers who work with a team typically spend their days in an office, sitting at a computer and using accounting software. Freelance bookkeepers can work from home or other locations as long as they have access to a laptop or other computer.

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