How to Become a

Bookkeeper

The complete career guide to be a Bookkeeper: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $38,990
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -8.5%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Dependable Daily Workload
    Career Attribute
  • Don't Take Work Home
    Career Attribute

Bookkeepers are responsible for maintaining financial records for a business. They use bookkeeping software programs and spreadsheets to document a variety of records and reports, including expenditure reports, accounts payable and receivable reports, and profit and loss statements.


What is a Bookkeeper?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in bookkeeping roles:

  • Maintain and update business financial records—such as expense reports, accounts payable and receivable reports, and balance sheets—to support day-to-day business transactions
  • Monitor statements and reports for accuracy and reconcile discrepancies
  • Manage company payroll, submit payments for invoices, and negotiate alternative payments with vendors when additional time is needed
  • Prepare bank deposits, monitor and validate employee expenses, and maintain records of incoming and outgoing account credits and debits

A Day in the Life

Bookkeepers spend most of their days working with numbers, spreadsheets, and accounting software. They record all company financial transactions and prepare reports for management showing profits, expenses, and losses. They manage incoming invoices, ensure invoice accuracy, and pay vendors, and they may also create invoices when collections need to be made on behalf of the business.

Beyond record keeping and managing finances, bookkeepers may also have to deal with individual clients and vendors when financial matters need to be discussed. They collect payments and sometimes need to work with debtors to negotiate repayment plans when company finances do not support payments in full. They also work with accountants and company managers to report on, advise on, and explain company financial health.

In some smaller companies, bookkeepers may perform duties that are more traditionally assigned to an accountant or a human resources representative. For example, bookkeepers may be responsible for ensuring appropriate documentation is maintained for tax purposes and may work with auditors if needed. Additionally, many bookkeepers manage payroll and may organize company benefit programs like 401Ks and health insurance plans as part of payroll responsibilities.

Typical Work Schedule

In general, bookkeepers work day shift, weekday schedules. Overtime may occasionally be required during certain times of the year when closing out a quarter, creating budgets, or preparing to file taxes.

Bookkeeping Specializations

  • Bookkeeping clerks manage day-to-day finances, make payments, and collect on invoices.
  • Accounting clerks assist company accountants with basic tasks like entering data into spreadsheets, ensuring report accuracy, and organizing financial files and data.
  • Auditing clerks review work produced by accountants and bookkeepers to ensure work is error-free and to offer guidance on inefficiencies in methods or inappropriate handling of data.
  • Payroll clerks manage company payroll, enter hours into payroll systems, process checks, handle direct deposit set up, and ensure that deductions reflected on checks are accurate.

Career Progression

  • Early Career: Payroll Clerk, Accounts Payable or Receivable Clerk, Bookkeeper
  • Mid-Career: Accountant, Auditor, Controller
  • Late Career: Accounting Manager, Finance Director, Chief Financial Officer

Typical Employers

Companies of all sizes depend on bookkeepers to manage company financial records and provide financial guidance. In smaller companies, bookkeepers may be hired in place of accountants, and in larger companies, bookkeepers may be employed to reduce workloads of accountants so that individuals in higher-level roles can focus on strategy and overall goals rather than day-to-day tasks.


How To Become a Bookkeeper

If you’re good with numbers and can prove your skills, it’s possible to be hired as a payroll clerk or bookkeeper with only a high school diploma. However, this path generally requires many years of working your way up in a company—few bookkeepers are hired without either a certification or prior experience. To become a bookkeeper without any postsecondary education, you’ll likely need to start off working as an administrative assistant or other office support role and work into bookkeeping.

A faster way to pursue a position as a bookkeeper is to earn a bookkeeping certificate. Bookkeeping certification programs generally require either experience or education hours as prerequisites and require passing of an exam before certification is awarded. With a bookkeeping certification, individuals may be able to qualify for positions as bookkeepers without prior experience in the field.

Many bookkeepers use their experience as a catalyst for career growth and move on to become accountants or auditors. These positions require bachelor’s degrees in finance, business, or accounting, and you must also pass the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Individuals with relevant bachelor’s degrees, CPA certifications, and experience as bookkeepers may qualify for higher-paying and more coveted roles with the big four accounting agencies or with other large companies and organizations.


Bookkeeper Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$29,570

Average

$38,990

High Range

$57,920

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$14/hr

Average

$19/hr

High Range

$28/hr

How do Bookkeeper salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Bookkeeper's can make an average annual salary of $38,990, or $19 per hour. This makes it an Above Average Salary. On the lower end, they can make $29,570 or $14 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #545 Nationally for All Careers


Highest Education Among Bookkeepers

  • 0.4%   Doctorate
  • 3.1%   Masters
  • 16.3%   Bachelors
  • 10.3%   Associates
  • 38.5%   College
  • 28.6%   High School
  • 2.8%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

1,760,300

2024 Est. Jobs

1,611,500

Job Growth Rate

-8.5%

Est. New Jobs

-148,800

How does Bookkeeper job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -148,800 jobs for a total of 1,611,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -8.5% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Below Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #737 Nationally for All Careers


What Companies Employ The Most Bookkeepers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services 96,700 -13,900 -14%
Self-employed workers 88,400 3,200 3%
Management of companies and enterprises 76,200 -8,200 -8%

Want To Be a Bookkeeper? Get Started!

Generate your free SmartPlan™ to identify colleges you like, and potential ways to save on a degree or certification program toward your career with courses, offers, and much more!

Enroll Now and Get Started

or Learn More →