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How Do I Become a Bookkeeper?

To become a bookkeeper, one would need to get a certificate from a college or university.
Bookkeepers may be able to do some of their work from home via telecommuting.
A bookkeeper reviewing a ledger.
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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
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To become a bookkeeper, you need to have a combination of education and experience in basic accounting. Bookkeepers are responsible for the creation and maintenance of accounting records for small to medium size enterprises. In a medium size company, a person in this position usually reports to a certified public accountant. In a smaller company, he may be the only accounting person on staff.

The bookkeeper is responsible for the daily business activities of the company. This role includes banking, reconciliation, accounts payable and receivable, as well as payroll. Although this person may be processing the transactions, the annual financial statements must be prepared by a certified public accountant or firm, as a bookkeeper is not certified to create these audited statements.

In order to become a bookkeeper, enroll in a certificate of bookkeeping from your local college or university. The courses included in the certificate should be payroll processing and reporting, journal entries, accounts payable and receivable, and at least one accounting software package. There is a minimum amount of accounting theory in these classes.

The most important aspect of becoming a bookkeeper is the ability to process the accounting transactions. It's a good idea to pursue certificates with a work experience component. These programs help you to learn the job with a combination of education and experience.

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Once you are trained, apply for jobs as a bookkeeper in small firms. You can also volunteer your bookkeeping skills to a local organization to practice your skills and improve your resume. Contact local accounting services firms and let them know that you are looking for a job as a bookkeeper. Many accounting firms have a list of clients who rely on them for audited financial statements. They often have bookkeepers on staff to assist small firms with their daily processing.

After working for two years as a bookkeeper, investigate getting certified. In the US, certification requires a minimum of two years of experience and the successful completion of a four-part national exam. Certified bookkeepers must sign a code of ethics and are encouraged to complete continuing education credits.

As a certified bookkeeper, you should be able to demand a higher salary and find more clients to support a freelance bookkeeping business. In order to have a sustainable business, you will probably need to work with several clients, depending on the size and volume of work required. Advertise your services in the local business directory. Talk to small business owners, doctors, dentists, entrepreneurs, and other start-up businesses. All these firms need to have a bookkeeper to perform basic accounting functions, and while they may not be able to afford a full-time bookkeeper, they likely would be happy with a freelance arrangement.

Continue to promote your services and expand your network to continually add to your client list. Create an professional online presence, listing your services, hourly rate, and information about your credentials and experience. You should also create business cards and a brochure of your services for distribution to potential clients.

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Discuss this Article

anon311113
Post 4

I personally know someone who has been a bookkeeper for the past five years and makes about $85-200 an hour, depending on if they are just keeping books or teaching other people. No degree. No college education. No formal certification. They volunteered a few months to get experience and then got people who needed a bookkeeper to pay them.

One way to bypass almost everything is to just pay Intuit their several hundred dollar fee every year to be listed as a Quickbooks Pro Advisor. You take their test and bam! You are now a bookkeeper. If you live somewhere there are a lot of people, you're found off the website and don't have to do much work getting clients.

bythewell
Post 3

@KoiwiGal - Well if you look at what the article says about how to become a certified bookkeeper, the certification scheme only requires experience and passing an exam, not formal qualifications. It seems like the kind of thing where you can figure it out as you go along to some extent. I mean, the main requirement (aside from an understanding of statistical analysis) would be attention to detail.

If you keep track of everything, even if you make a mistake you'll be able to correct it. It seems like it's a job that would suit a particular kind of person, and would be fairly easy for them, but would be difficult for people who don't match that personality type and skill set.

KoiwiGal
Post 2

@croydon - These days there is enough free information out there for anyone to be whatever they want, and to learn anything they want without having to pay for it. But, when it comes down to it you need to have the piece of paper to prove that you know what you know. If you want to become a certified bookkeeper, you need to do more than just keep the books of your own small business.

If it's small enough that you are able to do it yourself as well as all the other things you'd have to do, it's probably not that challenging as a bookkeeping job. In order to advance in a career as a bookkeeper, you'd really need to have formal training, even if it is on the job with another bookkeeper.

croydon
Post 1

Another way of becoming a bookkeeper might be a bit too obvious, but most of the time you'll have to become one if you open your own small business.

In an ideal world, anyone who has their own small business will be able to take in depth courses in bookkeeping, or will be able hire a trained bookkeeper but in reality most people don't have time or money for this. So, they have to figure it out as they go along.

My parents had their own small business for a while, selling products from our house and mum kept all the books without any formal training. She just worked out what needed to be done. When they closed the business, she was able to get another job based on that experience, so learning for yourself on the job can definitely work.

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