In this article we will explore how to become a bookkeeper.
Do you have excellent numeracy skills? Are you organised and efficient? If so, bookkeeping could be the career you’ve been looking for. In this role, you would record and maintain the financial transactions of businesses. The demand for bookkeepers is high in the United Kingdom, so if you decide this is the job for you, it should be easy to find a bookkeeping position.
Read on to find out how you can become a bookkeeper.
What is a bookkeeper?
Bookkeepers are hired by organisations to keep an accurate record of their financial transactions. All businesses are legally required to keep financial records, so every company needs a bookkeeper. The main task of a bookkeeper in any business is to gather and record financial transactions like sales and purchases. Essentially, in this role you keep on top of how much the company is spending and how much it is making.
You would normally work in an office environment. The hours involved with this position differ from firm to firm. Typically, full-time bookkeepers work between thirty-seven and thirty-nine hours a week. Due to the high demand for bookkeepers, it should be easy to shop around for a position that suits the schedule you want to work. You will find plenty of full-time nine-to-five jobs that include holidays and benefits. There are lots of part-time opportunities too. Many bookkeepers prefer to become self-employed though. By working for yourself, you can work the number of hours that suit your circumstances; offering you much more flexibility than an employed position.
What do bookkeepers actually do?
To be successful in this role, you’ll need to be knowledgeable about various areas of finance, such as: accounts payable, accounts receivable, credits, debits and bank reconciliations. You will be dealing with sales ledgers, purchase ledgers, journals, invoices, statements and remittances, so it’s essential you have expertise in handling a variety of bookkeeping documents. You’ll need to work efficiently and accurately in all aspects of this job.
Bookkeeper Job Description
Your daily tasks will differ depending on whether you work for yourself or for a single company. Duties and responsibilities can also vary depending on companies’ specific sectors of business and their size. Typically, the job description of a bookkeeper involves the following:
- Calculating profit and loss.
- Estimating revenue and expenditures.
- Managing ledgers.
- Ensuring books balance.
- Receiving and processing invoices.
- Processing payroll.
- Preparing statements.
- Managing claims for expenses.
- Completing VAT returns.
- Using computerised accounting systems.
Key Skills for a Bookkeeper
You’ll need to be highly organised and have an excellent aptitude for numbers to succeed in the role of bookkeeper.
It’s also essential that you meet strict deadlines and you have strong concentration skills. You need to be a great communicator too, as you’ll need to speak to members of staff, suppliers and customers on the telephone and liaise with other departments in person.
The job can be challenging at times, so you need to be able to work well under pressure. You also need to be up-to-date with the latest bookkeeping software packages.
Other key skills and attributes of a bookkeeper include:
- IT literacy skills.
- Excellent maths knowledge.
- A methodical and organised approach to your work.
- A strong attention to detail.
- Administration skills.
- Customer service skills.
- The ability to use your initiative.
- The ability to work well with others.
- Honesty and discretion.
A great starting point for bookkeeping is by taking an online bookkeeping course as this will give you an insight into the processes of how bookkeeping works.
Useful Work Experience
Although it’s not necessary to do any work experience before you decide on your route into this profession, it always helps to have extra experience. You could get a part-time or temporary job in an office as an administration assistant in order to get a good idea of the environment you would be working in. Also, you may be able to shadow a bookkeeper to see exactly what’s involved with the job on a daily basis. If you get some experience under your belt, you can know whether you’re suited to the role of bookkeeper. You can then select your preferred route into this career.
Average Salaries for a Bookkeeper
The salary you can earn as a bookkeeper can vary depending on a number of factors. If you’re self-employed, you can set your own rates to have more control over what you earn. Generally, self-employed bookkeepers earn a better hourly rate than those employed directly by organisations. If you’re employed by a single company, your salary can depend on the size of the business, the location of the business and the specific job sector of the company. On average, bookkeeper salaries in the United Kingdom range from £17,000 to £26,000 per year.
Qualifications for a Bookkeeper
There are three main routes you can choose from to become a bookkeeper. Entry-level positions usually don’t require you to have qualifications, so you can apply to those directly without needing to train in advance. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a recognised qualification when applying for entry-level jobs. Your second option is to get a qualification before you search for jobs. This will allow you to gain the skills required to become a successful bookkeeper. Your third option is to enrol with an apprenticeship.
Bookkeeping Courses That Allow You to Learn the Basics
Although formal qualifications aren’t mandatory for entry-level bookkeeping positions, you’ll usually need to have some knowledge of standard bookkeeping practices and software. There are several bookkeeping courses available that don’t have any entry level requirements in which you can learn the basics. These courses may not give you a formal qualification, but they will give you the opportunity to learn the skills required for this job. See the popular online courses today.
Industry-recognised Bookkeeping Courses
There are two professional bookkeeping bodies in the United Kingdom that offer industry-recognised qualifications in bookkeeping and related skills. These are:
- The International Association of Bookkeepers. To study an IAB course, you must complete a registration process. You will then have a student membership for a one-year period. You can renew your membership after that time to enrol with further courses or examinations.
- The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers. To register with an ICB course, you must pay a one-off fee of around £26 and an annual subscription fee of around £52.
You can also enrol with bookkeeping courses with other organisations. You will earn a diploma for completing the course, but you will not have an industry-accredited qualification as you would have with an IAB or ICB course. Available courses include:
- Association of Accounting Technicians: Certificate in Bookkeeping.
- The Open University: Introduction to Bookkeeping and Accounting Module.
- Pitman Training: Bookkeeping Diploma.
College Bookkeeping Courses
There are also level two college courses you can enrol with to get a qualification and learn the skills you need to begin working as a bookkeeper. These include:
- Level Two Certificate in Bookkeeping.
- Level Two Certificate in Accounting.
- Level Two Certificate in Manual and Computerised Bookkeeping.
To gain entry to a level two course, you’ll usually need to have two or more GCSEs, including maths and English, at grades A* to D or nine to three, or equivalent qualifications.
Another option is to enrol with an apprenticeship. This allows you to work in a bookkeeping role under supervision in a company to get hands-on experience, while studying for a qualification. Apprenticeships also provide you with a basic wage. Apprenticeships available in England include:
- Accounts Assistant Intermediate Apprenticeship.
- Finance Assistant Intermediate Apprenticeship.
- Finance and Purchasing Apprenticeship.
To be accepted as an apprentice, you’ll usually need to have some GCSEs, including maths and English, or equivalent qualifications.
Once you have experience as a bookkeeper, you have several career progression opportunities available to you. You could undergo extra training to become an accounting technician or you could complete a degree course to become an accountant. With extra experience, you could then rise even further into a position like management accountant. Also, if you’re currently employed at a company, you have the option of leaving and going it alone by setting up your own business.
You need to have a good head for numbers if you want to become a bookkeeper. You must also be highly organised and efficient. You’ll need to be up-to-date with bookkeeping software packages and industry standards, and you’ll need to have excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
Your daily duties and responsibilities will include calculating profit and loss, estimating revenue and expenditure and ensuring books balance. You’ll have to be highly efficient and be able to thoroughly pay attention to details, as a company’s finances are in your hands.
You could work directly for a company in any number of sectors. Every business needs a bookkeeper, so finding work shouldn’t be difficult. To earn a better salary and to work on your own terms, you have the option of setting yourself up as a self-employed bookkeeper.
Before you take the plunge, consider the various routes you could take into this profession. You could study for an industry-approved qualification or you could take a level two college course. Alternatively, you could enrol with an apprenticeship. You also have the option of applying to job positions after you’ve completed an informal course in which you’ve learnt the basics of bookkeeping.