A high school degree is the minimum education required of bookkeepers, although many employers prefer to hire bookkeepers with some formal education. Certificates and associate degrees are common educational foundations for many bookkeepers. Many of these programs take between one and two years to complete, and online programs are available. General office and bookkeeping experience is typically required for this career, especially if the applicant has no college training. While some bookkeepers learn on-the-job, most employers require applicants to have knowledge of common data and accounting programs, such as Microsoft Excel.
Most employers prefer to hire a bookkeeper with some college schooling. Some employers may require applicants to possess a 2-year degree in accounting. Very few hiring companies require bookkeepers to possess a bachelor's degree.
Bookkeeping certificate programs typically take one year to complete. During this time, bookkeeping students study accounting principles, computerized bookkeeping, business math, and 10-key usage techniques. They also learn about sales, property and payroll tax accounting. Some common course topics include:
- Business tax accounting
- Excel for business
- Introduction to accounting
- Using computers in business
- Not-for-profit financial management
Associate of Applied Science in Accounting
Students enrolled in an associate degree program in bookkeeping gain more advanced accounting skills, studying auditing, non-profit sector accounting, managerial accounting, cost accounting and financial accounting. They also take classes in statistics and economics. The program prepares individuals to analyze different financial reports. Some course topics might include:
- Introduction to accounting
- Business English
- Personal finance
- Principles of accounting
- Business law
- Income tax fundamentals
Popular Career Options
Those who get a degree or certificate in bookkeeping can go on to many different careers. Some job titles might include full-charge bookkeeper, accountant, payroll clerk, freelance bookkeeper, bookkeeping clerk and contract accountant.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, bookkeepers make a mean annual wage of $38,990 as of May 2015. The job outlook for this career is expected to decrease 8% from 2014-2024.
Bookkeepers are not required to have a license; however, voluntary certification is available through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. In order to become a Certified Bookkeeper, applicants must have at least two years of bookkeeping experience and pass an exam. Continuing educational requirements must be met every three years in order to maintain certification.
Bookkeepers can participate in industry conferences, such as those sponsored by the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers, which typically last two days. Additionally, various colleges sponsor workshops to train bookkeepers on common accounting programs. Workshops can be divided into several sessions, each lasting for 3-4 hours. Others may be day-long training sessions.
Some colleges also offer training programs to prepare bookkeepers for professional certification. Bookkeepers can gain professional tips through online chat rooms or industry newsletters. Organizational websites offer helpful resources, such as news articles, bookkeeping checklists and reference guides. Professional development books are also available and often include mini-tests, which the reader completes and self-scores.
In summary, while bookkeepers technically only need a high school diploma to find employment, earning a certificate or associate's degree and gaining certification can help to secure a job in this field.