Advice for Pursuing a Career in Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is a career suited to people who are organized and have strong math skills. Computer literacy is a must, and the ability to work well and communicate effectively with others are both important qualities. This is a career path that can apply to many different businesses and industries, including real estate, construction, retail and banking. Even though bookkeeping deals with numbers, it’s also important for a bookkeeper to be proficient in critical thinking, reading comprehension and social skills.

Bookkeeper usually handles financial transactions, and is part of the accounting process in business. The records include purchases, sales, receipts, funding and payments by an individual person or a corporation.

Is a specific degree required to be a bookkeeper?

A business degree is a good foundation if you’re interested in being a bookkeeper, but any degree can be the basis of a bookkeeping career. Almost 15 percent of bookkeepers in the U.S. have either a Social Science or Education degree, and it’s recommended that you receive training specifically for the job of bookkeeper in addition to a liberal arts degree. Basic and advanced bookkeeping courses online are available if you’re currently working full-time or don’t live close enough to a school to commute to class.

Bookkeeping is one job that doesn’t have specific educational requirements. Some bookkeepers have only a high school diploma, while others have business or math degrees. To advance in your career, you’ll have to pass a bookkeeping exam, and having a bachelor’s degree will give you an advantage when competing for a supervisory role.

What kinds of tasks do bookkeepers perform?

At the most basic level, a bookkeeper’s central job is keeping a record of all financial transactions for a business. That includes purchases, refunds, sales and payments, and a record of receipts from suppliers. A bookkeeper is also responsible for preparing invoices for services or materials sold by the company. Some bookkeeping tasks rely on automated computer programs, but you still need to be skilled at math to meet the requirements of the job.

The end result of all the record keeping is a database of information about the business, including whether or not it’s making a profit, keeping expenses within bounds, allocating resources properly, etc. An accountant will analyze the data compiled by a bookkeeper to answer these questions and create reports about cash flow, provide audits and prepare tax returns.

How do the career prospects look for bookkeeping?

Although bookkeeping will be affected by the trend toward automation, job opportunities are expected to be stable through 2026. Bookkeepers will shift away from manually entering data to performing more analytical tasks with data prepared by software programs. A job as a bookkeeper can be your ultimate career path or you can use it as a springboard for a higher-level job in finance. For example, some bookkeepers go on to become accountants.

As long as you have a bookkeeping certificate, you can advance to a bookkeeping supervisor position once you’ve been on the job for a few years. In order to progress in your career in the U.S., you’ll need a certificate from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) or the National Bookkeepers Association (NBA). You’ll have to achieve a passing grade on a bookkeeping exam from one of them to get your certificate. Both also require two years of full-time work as a bookkeeper or the equivalent in part-time hours to get a certificate.

Top Skills for a Bookkeeper

One of the most basic skills for a bookkeeper is proficiency in math, but there are other characteristics that are helpful for a successful career as a bookkeeper. Ask yourself if the following descriptions apply to you. If they do, then a bookkeeping job could be the start of a long and happy career.

  • People Skills: The ability to network with other bookkeepers and work well with members of your company’s finance team.
  • Computer Literacy: Experience with operating computer programs, including using spreadsheets and bookkeeping software.
  • Discipline: Attention to even the smallest details of your work and the ability to complete tasks on a deadline.
  • Organization: The ability to sort, organize and file data for easy retrieval and maintain clear, concise records.
  • Communication Skills: The ability to communicate clearly with supervisors and prepare reports for accountants.