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Bookkeeper Job Duties and Career Options

Bookkeepers require little formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and optional certification to see if this is the right career for you.

To become a bookkeeper, little if any formal education is necessary, though it could improve job prospects. To determine if this is the right career for you, we'll look at job duties, salary and job outlook projections for bookkeepers.

Essential Information

Bookkeepers record financial transactions for businesses and organizations. They are tasked with writing daybooks, keeping track of credit lines and fixing accounting discrepancies. To prepare for this career, aspiring bookkeepers need a high school diploma and on-the-job training, although individuals can take college-level courses in accounting to improve their career prospects. Bookkeepers can seek voluntary certification from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) or the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB).

Required Education High school diploma with on-the-job training; some college coursework in accounting or business preferred
Certification Optional certification through the AIPB and NACPB
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% decline (for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks)
Median Salary (2015)* $37,250 annually (for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bookkeeper Job Duties

Bookkeepers record financial transactions, such as revenues, expenses and costs. A bookkeeper must make sure all transactions are included in the accurate general ledger, customer ledger, supplier ledger and a daybook. Bookkeepers also prepare bank deposits, keep track of overdue accounts, prepare invoices, make purchases and handle payroll issues. Accountants use information prepared by the bookkeeper to produce balance sheets and income statements.

More experienced bookkeepers may also be asked to prepare reports or produce financial statements. In fact, is not uncommon for some bookkeepers to take on the role of accountants for smaller organizations that do not keep an accountant on staff. Bookkeepers should be knowledgeable in preparing income statements and balance sheets, fraud prevention, basic payroll procedures such as wages and taxes, correcting accounting errors, merchandise inventory and adjusting entries.

Career Options

Employment settings for bookkeepers vary greatly, from government agencies and educational services to restaurants and hotels. Organizations commonly offer bookkeepers room for advancement toward finance, accounting, managerial or supervisory positions. Bookkeepers also have the option to become certified through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB). This certification requires bookkeepers have two years of experience and pass a 4-part examination.

A number of colleges and technical schools offer programs preparing bookkeepers for certification, covering topics such as financial accounting, introductory auditing, principles of management and human resources management. Bookkeepers must renew certification every three years through continuing education courses and programs.

The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers also offers a certification that requires passing a multiple-choice test.

Bookkeepers, along with accounting and auditing clerks, are expected to see a substantial employment decline of 8% between 2014 and 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). This change is due to computers taking over their roles, although bookkeepers may find more work in small businesses. The BLS also reports that these occupations had median annual earnings of $37,250 in May 2015.

As we've seen, bookkeepers can be employed in a vast number of industries. Certification is optional, though many choose to pursue it for employment reasons. There are also college courses bookkeepers can take that are pertinent to their job duties.

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