How to Become a Bookkeeper


Are you interested in a career that allows you to primarily work with a computer, rather than having a lot of face time with the general public? Do you enjoy balancing finances and financial reports?


If so, a career as a bookkeeper is worth considering. Here are some quick highlights of working in this field:


• Typically only a diploma or certificate in accounting is needed to qualify for jobs

• Plenty of room for advancement, including the opportunity to be self-employed

• Opportunity to work in relative peace and quiet


If you want to know more about the ins and outs of this career, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details, including an overview of what these bean counters do, how much they can earn, and what you’ll need to qualify!



Education Needed to Become a Bookkeeper

There are no standardized educational requirements for becoming a bookkeeper; they can vary widely from one job posting to the next, depending on the scope and responsibility of the position. Below is an overview of how widely it can vary.


No Post-Secondary Education: Some employers may not require formal post-secondary education at all, or even a high school diploma (although the latter is a requirement much more often than not), provided you have a few months or a few years worth of closely related work experience. It's a little more rare, but not entirely uncommon for people to get bookkeeping jobs without related formal education. 


Accounting Diploma/Certificate: Most employers will require that you have completed, or are working towards, a post-secondary diploma, certificate, associate's degree in a field related to accounting or business administration. Some may even require a bachelor's degree, but that is quite rare. 


Working Toward Professional Designation: Some employers might only hire you if you are working toward a professional accounting designation. This is typically reserved for employers that have the intention of “grooming” you into a full accountant position within their organization upon completion of your designation.





General Job Description

A bookkeeper is responsible for maintaining all records pertaining to the financial transactions of a small organization. Their typical functions are to reconcile bank statements, enter bills, invoices, receipts and pay stubs, and process payments.



Typical Job Duties

• Use various forms of accounting software

• Prepare customer invoices and receive payments

• Enter vendor bills and prepare cheques

• Maintain a general ledger for all transactions

• Prepare financial statements

• Perform bank deposits and reconcile bank accounts

• Liaise with company accountant for taxation preparation purposes



Skills Needed to Be Successful

In order to effectively perform the duties of a bookkeeper, you will need the following skills:


• An understanding of industry terminology

• Working knowledge of popular bookkeeping software (such as Quickbooks)

• Working knowledge of office software (such as Microsoft Excel, Word, etc.)

• Able to work with numbers quickly and accurately

• Able to concentrate for long periods of time and maintain accuracy in work

• Able to troubleshoot errors in account reconciliation

• Working knowledge of bookkeeping procedures, such as invoicing and financial report preparation 





Helpful Personal Characteristics to Have

To be successful and fulfilled in a career as a bookkeeper, you need to have certain personal characteristics. These traits will ensure you have a positive attitude towards your work, and that you are able to enjoy the highs and endure the lows of your career:


• Enjoy having clear rules and methods for your work

• Enjoy balancing financial records and business transactions

• Willingness to accept responsibility for the accuracy of financial records

• Willingness to work in relative social isolation

• Enjoy detail-oriented work



Who Employs Bookkeepers?

Any organization that has money coming in and money going out needs to properly keep track of it. For that reason, bookkeepers can be employed on a part-time or full-time basis by organizations in almost any conceivable sector of industry. They may be hired either as in-house employees, or as contractors.


The following is an overview of the types of employers you could have as a bookkeeper.


• Temp agencies (as an employee of the temp agency, contracted to an organization)

• Self-employment

• Accounting firms

• Bookkeeping contracting firms

• Small, medium or large organizations (as an in-house employee)


Success Tip: If you’re having trouble finding a bookkeeping job, sign up with a temp agency. They can get you in the door with an employer quickly (provided you meet their basic qualifications), and if the employer likes working with you, they may hire you on for a permanent role.  



Average Salary of Bookkeepers

The salary (or wage) you could earn as a bookkeeper can vary widely, and typically depends on the following factors:


• Your level of related education

• Your level of relevant work experience

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work

• Many other factors


Bookkeeper Salary Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Accounting Technicians & Bookkeepers occupational group earn an average salary of $47,696 per year, or $26.74 per hour. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 19, 2019).


Bookkeeper Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working as part of the Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks occupational group is $35,170 per year. 



Bookkeeping Jobs

Our job board below has bookkeeper postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




Working Conditions in This Profession

Hours: Typically (but not always) bookkeepers work regular, weekday business hours, either part-time or full-time. They may have to work evenings and weekends to meet deadlines, such as for month-end reporting. Bookkeepers who are self-employed may choose to set their own hours, but may have to open up their availability in order to accommodate meetings with clients.


Setting: Bookkeepers work in an officer-based setting, and may have the opportunity to work from home. They spend much the majority of their day using accounting and office software on a computer. Some of their day is spent attending meetings, which may involve local travel.



Career Advancement Possibilities

Bookkeeping is a career field that offers a lot of room for advancement. If you display competence and motivation in your work, you could move into supervisory or management positions. With additional education, you could earn an accounting designation and work as an accountant.


With enough experience or education, a lot of motivation, and some good business acumen, you could also become self-employed as a bookkeeper, and contract your services out to a client base. Once you gain a solid reputation, and put some effort into marketing, you could have the opportunity to expand your business.  



Similar Occupations in Our Database

Listed below are professions in our database that are similar in nature to bookkeeper, as they may be in the same industry, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:



Accounting Clerk

Bank Teller

Collections Manager

Payroll Administrator





Please consult the following resources to learn more about the various aspects of a career as a bookkeeper.


Wages & Salaries in Alberta:Accounting Technicians & Bookkeepers.” (n.d.). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 29, 2019.

Occupational Outlook Handbook:Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks.” (September 4, 2019). Office and Administrative Support - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 29, 2019.

Blog: What Does a Bookkeeper Do (in Canada).” (n.d.). Avalon Accounting website. Retrieved October 29, 2019.



Relevant Scholarships

The 'Relevant University Majors' section below shows fields of study that pertain to this occupation. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on the following pages:


Accounting Scholarships

Business Administration Scholarships

Finance Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for eventually working as a bookkeeper. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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