Most bookkeepers need a high school diploma, and they usually learn some of their skills on the job. They must have basic math and computer skills, including knowledge of spreadsheets and bookkeeping software. However, some employers prefer candidates who have some postsecondary education, particularly coursework in accounting. In 2009, 25% of these workers had an associate’s or higher degree.
Bookkeepers usually get on-the-job training. Under the guidance of a supervisor or another experienced employee, new clerks learn how to do their tasks, including double-entry bookkeeping. (Double-entry bookkeeping means that each transaction is entered twice, once as a debit (cost) and once as a credit (income) to ensure that all accounts are balanced.) Some formal classroom training also may be necessary, such as training in specialized computer software. This on-the-job training typically takes around six months.
Some bookkeepers become certified, which shows that people have the skills and knowledge needed to carry out all bookkeeping tasks, including overseeing payroll and balancing accounts, according to accepted accounting procedures. For certification, candidates must have at least two years of bookkeeping experience, pass a four-part exam, and adhere to a code of ethics. Several colleges and universities offer a preparatory course for certification. Some offer courses online. In addition, certified bookkeepers are required to meet a continuing education requirement every three years to keep their certification.
With appropriate experience and education, some bookkeepers may become accountants or auditors. These clerks are responsible for producing accurate financial records. They must pay attention to detail to avoid making errors and to recognize errors that others have made. Bookkeepers should be comfortable with basic arithmetic because they deal with numbers daily. Bookkeepers need basic computer skills. They should be comfortable using spreadsheets and bookkeeping software. Also, these workers have control of an organization’s financial documentation, which they must use properly and keep confidential. It is vital that they keep records transparent and guard against misappropriating an organization’s funds.