Bookkeeping Careers

Bookkeepers are the business professionals who help organizations keep track of some of their financial information.

Much of their work entails entering financial data, keeping track of payments, completing payroll and managing inventory. Additionally, bookkeepers produce financial reports that help executives make wise business decisions.

Bookkeepers use strong attention to detail, analytical and math skills to ensure the accuracy of all financial information. Entry into the field only requires a high school diploma or equivalent, although advanced education helps those entering the field to gain the valuable skills necessary to obtain their first job. Below is useful information on this exciting career and what it takes to succeed in this field.

What does a bookkeeper do?

Bookkeepers play an essential role in ensuring the financial health of varying organizations. As financial experts, they post income and expenses to accounting software. They receive cash from customers, pay bills and produce reports on the financial transactions of an organization.

Bookkeepers often meet with managers and department heads to discuss the budget and to review financial information to ensure the organization remains within the budget. In some organizations, particularly small private firms, bookkeepers take on the role of creating and managing the budget.

Many of these bookkeepers also manage payroll, make bank deposits and keep track of receivables and overdue accounts as a part of their daily duties. They sometimes even manage inventory levels for the organization and order new inventory and supplies as needed. Bookkeepers help organizations keep track of and maintain financial records so that the organization can operate effectively. With income statements created by bookkeepers, organization leaders gain a better understanding of the income and operating costs.

This information helps them make decisions about how to best utilize company funds. Much of the work recorded by bookkeepers serves as input to the company’s tax preparations. The primary tool of a bookkeeper is specialized accounting software.

Bookkeepers use this software to enter their transactions and produce financial reports. They also use this software to audit the financial records and to reconcile discrepancies in the transactions. Bookkeepers usually work regular business hours in an office. They spend much of their day at a desk working on a computer. Additionally, they may spend time in meetings presenting information on the organization’s finances.

Career Paths for Bookkeepers

While many bookkeepers are generalists, some choose to specialize in some area of financial reporting for the organization. Accounts receivables clerks manage transactions related to income and receipts for the organization. Their work involves recording receivables data into accounting software and working with lead bookkeepers and accountants to verify their input.

On the other hand, accounts payable clerks handle all transactions related to money spent by the organization on payroll, inventory, business supplies and more. Auditing clerks spend their time verifying the accuracy of information entered into the accounting software. They use data analysis and mathematical skills to check each transaction to ensure all items were recorded correctly and that the ledger items from each account reconcile.

Salary and Job Outlook for Bookkeepers

As with other vocational careers, bookkeepers make wages that vary widely by industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bookkeepers working in the professional, scientific and technical services industry earned a median wage of $41,260. Those working in retail saw the lowest median income of $34,580. In some sectors, individual salaries exceeded $60,000 per year.

Organizations will always need to manage financial data, so the demand for bookkeepers remains high. Advancements in technology have automated some bookkeeping tasks. However, bookkeepers with in-depth knowledge of these more sophisticated tools will see the highest demand for their skills.

Training and Education Requirements

The minimum requirement to become a bookkeeper is a high school diploma or equivalent. Beyond that, the specific training depends mostly on the company or industry. Due to the complexity involved in maintaining accurate financial records, some companies prefer candidates who have a degree in finance or accounting.

Degree programs provide aspiring bookkeepers with knowledge of bookkeeping practices, as well as coursework on accounting software. Some college programs also include an internship as a graduation requirement. Internships give students the chance to gain real-world experience as bookkeepers. Not all companies require a college degree, and many take candidates with a bookkeeping certificate from a vocational program. Ultimately, the bookkeeper’s immediate market will determine how much education is necessary for professional development.

While college degrees may take two to four years to obtain, a certificate program only lasts from several weeks to a few months. Certificate programs provide aspiring bookkeepers with the fundamentals to gain their first job in the field. Many companies do not require any specialized training and sometimes hire entry-level candidates to train in their accounting procedures.

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