Learn About Being a Bookkeeper

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

What does a bookkeeper do?

A bookkeeper is a finance professional whose primary responsibilities in an organization revolve around maintaining the company’s financial records. A bookkeeper will commonly be in charge of recording both expenditures and income, including organizing and recording all receipts, bills invoices and other financial transactions. In modern workforces, it is standard for the bookkeeper to use computing software to create digital financial records. Other duties for a bookkeeper may include:

  • Receiving, recording and properly handling cash, checks and vouchers from clientele

  • Creating reports on the company’s financial transactions for executives and members of other departments to use

  • Auditing financial records to ensure that no errors have been made and that the books are balanced

  • Noting any inconsistencies to allow for investigations to reconcile inaccuracies

  • Processing payroll and ensuring that all staff are compensated the correct amounts and through their preferred methods

  • Receiving invoices from outside vendors and authorizing payments via the correct methods and at the correct time

Average salary

The average bookkeeper works a full-time job during regular business hours. Compensation varies based on the level of education and experience and the size and industry of an employer. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $18.26 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $35.00 per hour.

Bookkeeper requirements

To succeed in your bookkeeping career, it’s important to ensure that you meet all the requirements for the field, including: 

Education

A bookkeeper will be expected to have earned a minimum of a high school diploma or an equivalent diploma like a GED. Some employers may request an associate or bachelor’s degree from applicants, commonly in a related field such as accounting or business.

Training

It is common for a newly hired bookkeeper to receive on-the-job training in their first months with a company. This training can encompass everything from getting familiar with the specific software used for handling financial records at a firm to learning preferred methods of handling basic daily tasks around the office. The bookkeeper will often work closely with a supervisor during this period, with the supervisor serving as a teacher and mentor to the new hire.

Certifications

A bookkeeper may seek to supplement their education and work experience by attaining national certifications. Respected bookkeeping certifications that may be pursued include:

Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB)

Hosted by the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, A bookkeeper with at least 2,000 hours of professional experience may attempt to attain their certification. The CPB exam is an open-book exam taken online at the test taker’s leisure. It consists of 50 multiple-choice questions and simulations covering a broad range of bookkeeping topics. A test taker must answer 37 or more questions correctly to pass the exam and earn certification. To maintain certification, a bookkeeper must maintain at least 24 hours of continuing professional education annually.

Certified Bookkeeper (CB)

Hosted by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, CB certification requires an applicant to pass six tests taken in four parts with a 30-day waiting period when retaking the test. The first two parts are administered at approved testing centers and require scores of 75% or greater while the third and fourth are open-book tests which are included with the workbook given to bookkeepers seeking their certification and require a score of 70% or greater. The four parts cover Adjustments and Error Correction, Payroll and Depreciation, inventory and fraud prevention.

Skills

Success as a bookkeeper takes mastering a diverse set of skills to use in the workplace, including:

  • Data entry: A significant task for any bookkeeper at a business that takes in or issues written invoices is entering that information into the digital books. A bookkeeper who can enter data quickly and accurately at the same time is highly valued.

  • Organization: The key to maintaining accurate financial records is to remain organized. A reliable organizational structure makes it easy to find any record when you need it to settle a payment dispute, correct an error in the record or produce a copy for a client or vendor. Also, the skill of record-keeping pertains to an individual’s ability to accurately record and file data into a system.

  • Communication: A bookkeeper will regularly interact with others at the company or outside vendors. The ability to clearly and concisely deliver a message enables a bookkeeper to effectively report their progress and issues to management and others.

  • Interpersonal skills: When interacting with coworkers, clients and outside vendors it helps to be friendly and relatable. Interpersonal skills allow a bookkeeper to engage with others in a friendly manner and help to produce better results.

  • Mathematics: Alongside modern bookkeeping software, understanding the underlying principles of calculations allows a bookkeeper to perform better and to potentially identify and measure new metrics that accounting software omits.

  • Computer literacy: Because much of the math and database management of modern bookkeeping is handled by computers, a bookkeeper needs to be familiar with financial software. While not all companies use the same software, having a strong base and adaptability can allow a bookkeeper to adjust to new software quickly.

Bookkeeper work environment

A bookkeeper will do most of their work during regular business hours while working at a desk. They will likely use a computer to enter records and update the company’s finances. A bookkeeper may be asked to spend a portion of their day making telephone calls to clients or vendors to settle balances owed. Also, these professionals can work in nearly any industry and are likely to have similar responsibilities across a variety of employers.

How to become a bookkeeper

Follow these steps to become a bookkeeper:

  1. Get your diploma. The minimum level of education for a bookkeeper is a high school degree. If you have not received your high school diploma, consider pursuing a General Education Diploma (GED).

  2. Consider higher education. Some bookkeeping jobs may prefer prior college-level education. A bookkeeper may elect to pursue an entry-level position directly out of high school or to attend university and earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

  3. Write a resume. Your resume should highlight your relevant skills and prior work responsibilities. Use the job posting as a guide to tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. Pay attention to any responsibilities or desired skills mentioned in the posting and do your best to showcase your ability to meet those expectations on your resume.

  4. Apply for positions. An advanced certification is not needed to get started in bookkeeping. Look for positions that list no required experience or low experience levels which list skills and responsibilities which match your skillset well. An entry-level position allows you to work as a bookkeeper and earning the experience you need to progress.

  5. Pursue a CPB. After one year of employment as a bookkeeper, you are eligible to attempt the exam to become a Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB). This certification can help you when the time comes to seek a promotion or new employment or to negotiate a raise in your salary when remaining at your current position.

Bookkeeper job description example

Theravu Pharmaceuticals is seeking an entry-level bookkeeper to join our staff’s financial team. The ideal candidate will excel when working in close contact with others and be familiar with QuickBooks. The bookkeeper will be responsible for processing expenses and purchase orders from our sales team and will be tasked with creating reports on spending and income which offer detailed breakdowns. Prior experience is encouraged but not required. Theravu is a growing company with ample opportunity for professional advancement.

Related careers

Here are some other career options similar to bookkeeping:

  • Accountant

  • Accounting assistant

  • Assistant accountant

  • Junior accountant

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