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How to Become a Bookkeeper: 5 Key Steps to Success

November 18, 2019

Bookkeeping has quickly become one of the most profitable and in-demand freelance professions on the market. But how do you get started? And is it right for you?

Bookkeeping involves keeping your finger on the pulse of a business's financial arteries, making sure any transactions are appropriately handled. A bookkeeping role is vital for the overall health and effectiveness of any organization’s finances.

As a bookkeeper, you would be responsible for a myriad of tasks, such as creating and updating financial records, managing entries into financial software, and assigning debts and credits to appropriate accounts.

Now that you know how bookkeeping works, let’s learn more about the path you need to take to get there.

How to become a bookkeeper

If you’ve decided that bookkeeping is the right profession for you, great! Let’s get started.

While most bookkeeping jobs have few listed requirements, there are several things you should know to get yourself started on the right foot. Below are 5 steps to help make you the best bookkeeper you can be:

become a bookkeeper

Step 1: Education

The beauty of bookkeeping is that it doesn’t require a 4-year college degree. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a surprising amount of knowledge required to do this job, however. While a lot of this comes with hands-on work experience, some employers might want to see that you’ve at least earned an associate’s degree before starting your career in earnest.

Step 2: Professional training

Hand-in-hand with the imperative for education, most employers won’t hire a new bookkeeper fresh out of high school or college. Most of them want to know you’ve acquired some of the valuable skills that will help you pick up a full-time position with little trouble. Generally, this will take the form of an internship, co-op, or part-time work that will give you an in-depth look into how a company upholds new regulations and manages their records.

Step 3: Acquire a certification

This one doesn’t come until a little later down the road, but it’s still part of the journey to becoming a fully-fledged bookkeeper.

After about two years of working as a full-time bookkeeper, you can apply to the American Association of Professional Bookkeepers in order to get officially certified. This usually entails taking a few courses and passing a four-part exam.

While this isn’t strictly necessary for your career as a bookkeeper, it can open up a high-tier of better paying work that you might otherwise be unable to access.

Step 4: Acquire a license

After getting an official certification, you can also choose to get a license in order to become a Certified Public Bookkeeper. This distinction opens up the highest tier of bookkeeping jobs and allows for the best career prospects.

However, becoming a licensed Certified Public Bookkeeper does require that you undertake further education and training, pass an additional test, and undertake 24 hours of continuing professional education classes each year in order to maintain your position.

Step 5: Get familiar with accounting software

And of course, the backbone of every successful bookkeeper in our digital age comes with an intimate knowledge of various accounting software tools.

Whether you’re just getting started or are an experienced bookkeeper looking to find the best accounting and finance options on the market, G2 has hundreds of verified, real user reviews to help you find the hot new thing, or just compare your options:

See the Highest-Rated Accounting Software →

Bookkeeping vs. accounting

While there is some overlap between bookkeeping and accounting, these are two distinct roles with separate and vital functions to the financial health of an organization.

Bookkeepers, as we discussed earlier, are responsible for the day-to-day financial happenings of a business. An accountant hardly ever works in the daily finances of a business. Instead, accountants work more directly in the stygian void of despair: the realm of taxes. They figure out how much a business owes and prepares tax returns while also providing a bevy of other services such as auditing financial statements or evaluating records in order to propose money-saving strategies.

Cleaning the books

Now that you know what it takes to enter the realm of bookkeeping, consider finding out the best associates program near you, or apply for a part-time internship for some hands-on experience. The profession is in demand and provides a good quality of life for those willing to put in the work. Happy keeping!

Looking to get started bookkeeping for your own business? Check out our guide on small business bookkeeping essentials for all the wisdom you need!

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