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What Does a Bookkeeper Do, Exactly?

If you love numbers, maybe you’ve considered a career as an accountant or bookkeeper. These two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re actually two very different roles within the accounting and finance career path.

Here’s a look at a bookkeeper’s roles and responsibilities, and how they differ from those of an accountant.

What does a bookkeeper do?

Bookkeeper duties can vary widely depending on the company they work for and the size of the company’s accounting department. But some responsibilities are standard no matter where you work.

  • Record and pay invoices from suppliers
  • Prepare and send invoices to customers and follow up on accounts receivable
  • Record payments from customers
  • Process payroll
  • Monitor and record inventory changes
  • Reconcile bank accounts
  • Categorize credit card transactions and other related expenses
  • Record financial transactions in the company’s accounting system
  • Prepare and process adjusting entries

In a small company, the bookkeeper may report directly to the business owner. In larger companies, the bookkeeper’s work is usually reviewed by an accountant. Some bookkeepers also work independently, and small businesses outsource their bookkeeping functions to them.

Bookkeeping vs. accounting

Bookkeepers and accountants both deal with a company’s finances, but they support the business in different ways.

Bookkeeper Accountant
Focus Recording and classifying the company’s daily financial transactions Analyzing, reviewing, and interpreting financial information for the company
Level of complexity Low High
Average salary $41,624 $59,347
Degree required None Bachelor’s degree
Tools used Journals and ledgers Financial statements
Skills required Attention to detail, understanding of debits and credits Knowledge of accounting principles and analytical skills for interpretation

Accountants typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting and may have advanced degrees and other certifications. Some common certifications for accountants include Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). These designations can take years of study and thousands of dollars to attain.

Bookkeeping jobs usually don’t require a college degree or specific training, but there are many certification programs available.

Is a bookkeeping certificate worth it?

While not required, a bookkeeping certification can set you apart as someone with the knowledge, skills, and work experience to competently perform the duties required of a bookkeeper.

There are a number of options for bookkeeping certifications. You can get one through a national bookkeeper organization, through local or online college courses, or through a specific accounting software provider.

Here are some options:

Bookkeepers who get certified usually enjoy higher salaries, more job security, and better opportunities for advancement.

How to become a certified bookkeeper

The requirements for certification vary by program, but most require you to complete some coursework and pass an exam. Many of the courses required are self-paced, so you can begin at any time and work them into your schedule whenever works best.

Many of the tasks traditionally performed by bookkeepers are being automated by technology, so bookkeepers must be comfortable using computers and accounting software. However, the widespread use of technology has also enabled bookkeepers to elevate their roles and take on additional responsibilities, including payroll, billing, purchasing, and collections. Having the skills to effectively communicate with coworkers, customers, vendors, external auditors, and accountants will make the bookkeeper’s job a whole lot easier.

Author

Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.

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