A bookkeeper is someone who produces financial records for businesses or organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy. Bookkeepers are employed in many industries, including firms that provide accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services. They are also employed in various levels of government and schools.
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A bookkeeper will typically do the following:
The records that a bookkeeper works with include expenditures (money spent), receipts (money that comes in), accounts payable (bills to be paid), accounts receivable (invoices, or what other people owe the organization), and profit and loss (a report that shows the organization's financial health).
Some bookkeepers are full-charge bookkeeping clerks who maintain an entire organization’s books. Others are accounting clerks who handle specific tasks. These clerks use basic mathematics (adding, subtracting) throughout the day. As organizations continue to computerize their financial records, many bookkeepers use specialized accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases. Most clerks now enter information from receipts or bills into computers, and the information is then stored electronically. They must be comfortable using computers to record and calculate data. The widespread use of computers also has enabled bookkeepers to take on additional responsibilities, such as payroll, billing, purchasing (buying), and keeping track of overdue bills. Many of these functions require bookkeepers to communicate with clients.
A bookkeeper is often responsible for some or all of an organization’s accounts, known as the general ledger. They record all transactions and post debits and credits. They also produce financial statements and other reports for supervisors and managers. Bookkeepers prepare bank deposits by compiling data from cashiers, verifying receipts, and sending cash, checks, or other forms of payment to the bank. In addition, they may handle payroll, make purchases, prepare invoices, and keep track of overdue accounts.
Accounting clerks typically work for larger companies and have more specialized tasks. Their titles, such as accounts payable clerk or accounts receivable clerk, often reflect the type of accounting they do. Often, their responsibilities vary by level of experience. Entry-level accounting clerks may enter (post) details of transactions (including date, type, and amount), add up accounts, and determine interest charges. They also may monitor loans and accounts to ensure that payments are up to date. More advanced accounting clerks may add up and balance billing vouchers, ensure that account data is complete and accurate, and code documents according to an organization’s procedures. Auditing clerks check figures, postings, and documents to ensure that they are mathematically accurate and properly coded. They also correct or note errors for accountants or other workers to fix.
A bookkeeper will generally work in an office, but some who are self-employed can work from home.
While the exact duties of bookkeepers vary by employer, many tasks related to recording and balancing financial transactions are common to most bookkeeping positions.
For most bookkeepers, there are several procedures and accounting tasks that are typically performed on a daily base.
Fledgling small-business owners are often told that they should hire a professional to help with the accounting side of their companies. Because both bookkeepers and accountants offer services, understanding which one you need can be puzzling.
Bookkeepers perform general accounting duties. They maintain complete sets of financial records, keep track of accounts, and verify the accuracy of procedures used for recording financial transactions. They are employed by private businesses, governments, and virtually every other type of institution.
Bookkeeping is one of the most versatile career paths--nearly every industry and every business relies on a skilled bookkeeper to update and manage accounting records.