Pros and Cons of Becoming a Bookkeeper
Bookkeepers need to be highly organized, meticulous individuals who are able to maintain all of the financial records and accounts of businesses and organizations. Read below for more information on the pros and cons of bookkeeping to figure out if it is the right career for you.
|Pros of Bookkeeper Careers|
|Job growth expected (11% from 2012-2022)*|
|Minimal job preparation (high school diploma and on-the-job training)*|
|Jobs available in multiple industries (retail trade, healthcare, finance and technical services)*|
|Advancement to accountant available with experience and education*|
|Cons of Bookkeeper Careers|
|Long hours during peak seasons (tax season and holidays)*|
|Stress to meet fiscal deadlines*|
|Competition for full-time positions (1 in 4 clerks work part-time)*|
|Eye and muscle strain may result from long periods of sitting at a computer*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Job Description and Duties
A bookkeeper upkeeps and maintains the accounting records for an organization or business. Some bookkeepers maintain the books for entire companies, which includes tabulating expenditures and accounts payable and receivable. Often, the bookkeeper reports the company's profits and losses to business owners or other managers. In addition to keeping accurate, up-to-date financial records, bookkeepers prepare statements and reports, manage cash deposits and balance bank statements. They use bookkeeping software, operate calculators and produce reports.
Salary and Career Information
Nearly all organizations require professionals who can properly manage financial records. With current economic growth and the vast size of the bookkeeping field, many new jobs will become available in years to come. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), bookkeepers, auditing clerks and accounting clerks are predicted to see an employment growth of 11% from 2012-2022. Additionally, bookkeepers saw a mean annual wage of $38,070 in 2014. Most bookkeepers earned between $22,000 and $56,000, and the industries with the highest levels of employment were accounting and tax preparation services, management companies and local government.
While jobs are available with a high school diploma, increasingly employers are looking for prospective bookkeepers with vocational training or an associate's degree in bookkeeping, business or an accounting-related field. Whether you have a degree or not, you will need some on-the-job training by a supervisor or experienced worker to understand bookkeeping tasks and specialized computer software. According to the BLS, you can expect to train for about 6 months.
As a bookkeeper, you will need to be extremely organized and proficient in accounting software, as well as have good communication skills. Because a company's bookkeeper is also often responsible for office management tasks, you may need to keep track of inventory or other supplies.
What Do Employers Look for?
Generally, bookkeepers need to have general computer proficiency, as well as spreadsheet and accounting software knowledge. Most employers look for applicants with experience in the field. While this is not a complete panorama of the job market, below are a few things that real employers may be looking for as of March 2012:
- A legal services industry in Oakmont, PA, requires a bookkeeper that is familiar with QuickBooks accounting software and able to maintain historical records. Ideal candidates must have 3 years of experience and strong organizational skills.
- An employer in South Carolina is looking for a candidate capable of establishing and maintaining a chart of accounts. Bookkeepers must be able to develop accounts, balance ledgers and prepare financial reports.
- A company in Georgia requires someone who is capable of reconciling credit cards and bank accounts and managing employees. The ideal candidate must have 3-5 years of experience in property management and 10 years of experience in bookkeeping.
How to Get Ahead in the Field
If you want to stand out in the field, you might want to consider becoming a certified bookkeeper (C.B.) in order to increase job prospects. This certification is available through the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (A.I.P.B.). Passing an exam, obtaining professional experience and complying with the code of ethics are requirements for the certified bookkeeper certification. You may also gain certification through the National Bookkeepers Association.
Although no specific education beyond a high school degree is required for many positions, bookkeeper candidates may gain an advantage in the field by completing a formal education in a 2-year associate degree program. Bookkeepers with additional education may also increase job prospects for employers by handling more complex accounting tasks.
Develop Additional Career Skills
Increasingly, bookkeepers must be familiar with financial accounting software and other computer data applications, so having expertise in these applications can advance you in the field. Additionally, bookkeepers may be responsible for office management tasks as well as their regular bookkeeping duties. Other skills that are beneficial in the field include:
- Ability to manage documents and files
- General ledger management
- Ability to think analytically and with good business sense
- Work under a code of ethics
- Attention to detail
Alternative Career Options
If you like the thought of working with numbers, but would like something with a bit more pay, you can become an accountant. Accounting careers require you to hold a bachelor's degree, and many accountants even pursue a C.P.A. (Certified Public Accountant) designation. However, the advanced education may be worth it in the end with accountants and auditors averaging $70,000 as of May 2011, according to the BLS.
If you like the thought of office management, but numbers really aren't you're forte, you might also consider becoming a general office clerk. A general office clerk performs many administrative tasks, and some of these responsibilities may overlap with that of a bookkeeper. Among other duties, a general office clerk might perform tasks such as office supply management, data entry and records maintenance. The pay of general clerk is slightly less than bookkeepers at $29,000 as of May 2011; however, the projected growth in the field is a bit more at 17% from 2010-2020, stated the BLS.