How to Become a Bookkeeper (With Examples of Technical, Hard and Soft Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 3, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Careers in finance are popular, as they typically offer excellent job security and pay competitive salaries. There are several job titles in finance that can lead to fulfilling careers, one of which is a bookkeeper. A bookkeeper is an accounting professional who works with financial reports and records. If you have excellent math skills and strong attention to detail, a career as a bookkeeper might be ideal for you. In this article, we discuss what a bookkeeper does, explore their average salary, and explain how to become a bookkeeper, including examples of skills to help you succeed in this role.

What does a bookkeeper do?

Bookkeepers are responsible for handling their clients' daily financial activities. They oversee, record, and facilitate all incoming and outgoing payments associated with an account. Bookkeepers primarily focus on maintaining their clients' financial health and stability. They also protect their clients by making sure every financial transaction complies with federal laws and regulations. Bookkeepers can work for companies or individuals and can be salaried or freelance employees.

Other duties of a bookkeeper include:

  • Creating and filing financial reports

  • Updating and reviewing financial records

  • Editing and writing budgets

  • Managing employee payroll

  • Alerting clients of any financial discrepancies

  • Monitoring accounts payable and receivable


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Salary and job outlook for bookkeepers

The national average salary for a bookkeeper is currently $49,171 per year. Indeed's data also shows that a bookkeeper's salary depends on the city where they live and work. Edmonton, Surrey, and Ottawa have some of the highest average salaries across the country.

According to the Government of Canada, bookkeepers' rate of employment is expected to remain consistent with a small increase in job availability from 2019 to 2028. This is largely because the number of projected job openings for bookkeepers is close to the estimated number of new graduates and immigrants who are likely to follow this career path.


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How to become a bookkeeper

Here are some steps you can follow to become a bookkeeper:

1. Complete your education

Unlike accountants, many bookkeepers have associate's or bachelor's degrees. In most cases, employers only require their bookkeepers to have a high school degree or a general education development (GED) certificate. A high school degree can provide the basic math, writing, and communication skills that are foundational to becoming a successful bookkeeper. People also learn other relevant skills like time management, organization, and teamwork in high school.

A college degree is not necessary for this role. Aspiring bookkeepers who pursue an associate's or bachelor's degree in business administration or accounting typically have more job opportunities. They can work for clients that have higher academic requirements. These degrees typically include coursework on financial mathematics, computer systems, economics, and business law. Students may also choose to take in-depth classes on accounting software, managerial accounting, or auditing.

2. Acquire training

Bookkeeping training can come from a variety of sources. Many bookkeepers start out by teaching themselves to use accounting software that they can access from their own personal computers. They might also use online courses, books, or seminars to learn the basics of practical finance. Self-taught bookkeepers often develop the skills they need without direct training and instead learn on the job. Most employers can train an entry-level bookkeeper in six months or less. The length of a self-taught bookkeeper's training period can vary depending on their chosen method and their personal schedule.

Some bookkeepers might pursue an internship with a local company or accounting firm. Internships introduce aspiring bookkeepers to the field of business finance and allow them to observe other financial professionals as they work. You can typically find internships through your college, your personal network, or an online job board.

3. Apply for open positions as a salaried bookkeeper

If you're interested in being a salaried bookkeeper, your next step can be to look for local or remote job openings. In order to present yourself as a qualified candidate, it's essential to create a well-written résumé that highlights your bookkeeping skills and outlines your professional experience. Familiarity with accounting software, a thorough understanding of personal and business finance, and a willingness to learn are all excellent skills to include.

If you don't have a lot of practical experience, you can highlight your skills and present yourself as a hard worker with significant potential for growth. You can also tailor your résumé to suit the position. To do this, read the job description and include any applicable keywords on your résumé or in your cover letter.

4. Try freelancing

If you're more interested in being a freelance bookkeeper, your next step can be to establish your own bookkeeping service. Many potential clients look to hire someone with some practical experience. Therefore, it can be helpful to hold a traditional bookkeeping position with a local business or accounting office for a year or two before starting freelance work. When you have sufficient experience, skills, and time, you can begin searching for either local, remote, or virtual positions using online job boards and other job search resources.

One way to find clients is to use your personal network by asking friends, family, and coworkers if they know of anyone who needs a bookkeeper for their business. You can also post advertisements in the newspaper, online, or in a local community centre. One tip for securing clients is to specialize in a certain type of bookkeeping. For example, if you have specific experience bookkeeping for schools, charities, or restaurants, you might be able to market yourself effectively to similar businesses.

5. Pursue certification

While certification is typically voluntary for bookkeepers, earning a certification can always enhance a job application by highlighting your expertise and providing you with a credential you can show to employers. To earn certification as a bookkeeper, candidates usually need to meet the requirements set by the certifying organization and receive a passing grade on a comprehensive exam. After you obtain your certification, you may have to maintain it by meeting continuing education requirements. One of the most popular certifications for bookkeepers is the certified public bookkeeper (CPB) credential.

Related: The 10 Most Valuable Certifications Today

Skills for bookkeepers

Here are some examples of technical and soft skills that a bookkeeper might need:

Soft skills

Soft skills are general skills that can apply to any professional role. These soft skills are essential for bookkeepers:

  • Problem-solving: Problem-solving skills can be valuable to a bookkeeper. Bookkeepers frequently have to identify inconsistencies in financial reports and develop strategies for responding to them.

  • Attention to detail: Bookkeepers can also benefit from having excellent attention to detail, as they often work with financial documents, and accuracy is important when recording financial data.

  • Organization: Organization is another skill that can be useful to bookkeepers because they typically perform several tasks each day. Knowing how to keep everything organized can help a bookkeeper build their schedule, remain on task, and finish their duties in a timely manner.

  • Integrity: Integrity is an especially important skill for bookkeepers, as accuracy and completion are integral to the process of managing financial information. Making sure all financial documents are accurate can protect a business by confirming it is being transparent about its genuine financial standing.

  • Numeracy: Numeracy refers to being comfortable with numbers and being able to interpret large quantities of data in order to identify potential inconsistencies that might occur in financial reports.

Related: What is Integrity? Definition and Examples

Hard skills

Hard skills refer to skills that directly relate to a specific job or industry. Here are a few technical and hard skills for bookkeepers:

  • Mathematical skills: Strong mathematical abilities are typically essential for bookkeepers, as they can help them with daily tasks like organizing financial reports and entering financial transactions.

  • Debits and credits management: Knowing how to work with debits and credits refers to tracking the money a business spends and the money it earns.

  • Invoicing: An invoice is a document that a business sends to a customer to inform them about how much money they owe for a purchase. Knowing how to track and process invoices can help a bookkeeper make sure each invoice is paid and reach out to customers with outstanding invoices.

  • Using computer software: Many bookkeeping activities take place on computer software and programs that allow bookkeepers to perform complex calculations quickly. Bookkeepers can also use computer software to store and manage large sets of financial data.

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