What Does a Bookkeeper Do? (Plus Salary and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 August 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.

If you enjoy mathematics and keeping records, you might like a career as a bookkeeper. Bookkeepers help companies ensure they perform all of their fiscal responsibilities with complete accuracy. Individuals considering a career as a bookkeeper should understand the various qualifications often required by companies looking to fill the role. In this article, we discuss what does a bookkeeper do, what skills they have, how much they earn and how to become a one in five steps.

Related: Career Development Plan: Definition, Guide and Example

What does a bookkeeper do?

To answer what does a bookkeeper do, it's important to know that their responsibilities revolve around maintaining the company's financial records. A bookkeeper records both expenditures and income, including organising and recording all receipts, bills, invoices and other financial transactions. It's standard for the bookkeeper to use computing software to create digital financial records in modern workforces. Other duties for a bookkeeper may include:

  • Receiving, recording and properly handling cash, checks and vouchers from clientele

  • Creating reports on the company's financial transactions for executives and members of other departments to use

  • Auditing financial records to ensure they're balanced and free of errors

  • Noting any inconsistencies to allow for investigations to reconcile inaccuracies

  • Processing payroll and ensuring that all staff receive the correct compensation amounts and through their preferred methods

  • Receiving invoices from outside vendors and authorising payments via the correct methods and at the correct time

Types of bookkeepers

There are several primary types of bookkeepers:

  • In-house: An in-house bookkeeper works full time for a specific company. Their primary goal is to ensure financial transparency, accuracy and compliance for that organisation.

  • Contract: Some bookkeepers work for multiple companies on a contract basis. This means that they often perform bookkeeping tasks simultaneously for several companies at once, but they may only work for each company for a short amount of time.

  • Remote: A remote bookkeeper conducts their job responsibilities virtually. Remote bookkeepers may find full-time employment at one company or work on a contract basis for multiple businesses.

Related: Breaking Into Full-Time Work With a Contract Background

Average salary of bookkeepers

According to the Economic Research Institute, bookkeepers earn an average salary of HKD 253,293 per year. Individual salaries for bookkeepers can vary based on many factors, including location, years of experience and education. For example, some bookkeepers report earning over HKD 300,000 per year.

Skills of bookkeepers

Success as a bookkeeper takes mastering a diverse set of skills, including:

Data entry

A significant task for any bookkeeper is entering data into digital accounting books. Some of a company's fiscal tasks, such as invoices, may happen on paper, so it's the bookkeeper's responsibility to ensure that the information on the paper documents gets successfully transferred into digital records. Organisations highly value bookkeepers who can enter data quickly and accurately at the same time.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Hard Skills

Organisation

Bookkeepers must be able to keep highly organised financial records. A reliable organisational structure makes it easy to find any record when you need it to settle a payment dispute, correct an error in the record or produce a copy for a client or vendor. Bookkeepers may also benefit from being skilled at time management, as they often need to perform a range of financial tasks each day.

Communication

A bookkeeper regularly interacts with others at the company or outside vendors. The ability to clearly and concisely deliver a message enables a bookkeeper to effectively report their progress and issues to management and others. In addition, a bookkeeper needs excellent active listening and comprehension skills to ensure that they conduct their responsibilities according to their supervisor's directions.

Interpersonal skills

Interpersonal skills include the ability to be professional, friendly and relatable when interacting with coworkers and clients. A bookkeeper should also understand how to personalise their interaction style for various situations. For example, they may need to behave differently when working with an upset customer than during a departmental meeting.

Mathematics

Bookkeepers must know how to perform basic calculations. While many bookkeepers use software to perform mathematics, understanding the underlying principles of calculations allows a bookkeeper to ensure the accuracy of both the calculations and the answers. If a bookkeeper can perform these mathematical equations, they might also potentially identify and measure new metrics that accounting software omits.

Computer literacy

Because computers handle much of the math and database management of modern bookkeeping, a bookkeeper needs to be familiar with financial software. While not all companies use the same software, having a strong knowledge base and adaptability can allow a bookkeeper to adjust to new software quickly. A bookkeeper should also understand how to perform other essential workplace tasks on a computer, such as sending emails, using the internet and troubleshooting basic computing issues.

Related: Computer Skills: Definitions and Examples

Integrity

Since bookkeepers regularly handle a company's financial information, it's important for bookkeepers to be trustworthy. A bookkeeper must understand which types of financial information might be confidential and need to be kept within the business or among a select group of employees, such as company management. Bookkeepers must also know how to manage confidential sets of financial data, such as secure computing systems or encrypted communication channels.

How to become a bookkeeper

Here are five steps to help you learn how to become a bookkeeper:

1. Earn your high school diploma

A high school diploma is a minimum requirement for bookkeeping positions. A high school or equivalent education can help you perform some skills required for bookkeeping positions, such as mathematics, record-keeping and organisation.

2. Consider higher education

Think about going to university. Some employers may request an associate or bachelor's degree from bookkeeping candidates, commonly in a related field, such as accounting or business. A degree may also help distinguish your application during the recruitment process.

3. Gain additional certification

Think about getting certification as a bookkeeper. While not required for this profession, certification can help show employers that you have the necessary skill set and knowledge to perform your bookkeeping responsibilities successfully. Consider receiving certification from the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers, as their certificates have international recognition.

4. Apply for entry-level positions

If you aren't interested in earning certification or if you'd like to earn your certificate while working, search for entry-level roles. Look for positions that list no required experience or low experience levels that list skills and responsibilities you can perform. An entry-level position allows you to work as a bookkeeper and earn the experience you need to progress.

5. Undergo training

It's common for newly hired bookkeepers to receive on-the-job training in their first months with a company. This training can encompass everything from getting familiar with the specific software used for handling financial records at a firm to learning preferred methods of handling basic daily tasks around the office. The bookkeeper often works closely with a supervisor during this period, with the supervisor serving as a teacher and mentor to the new hire.

Work environment for bookkeepers

A bookkeeper does most of their work during regular business hours while at a desk. They likely use a computer to enter records and update the company's finances. A bookkeeper may spend a portion of their day making telephone calls to clients or vendors to settle balances owed. Also, these professionals can work in nearly any industry and are likely to have similar responsibilities across a variety of employers.

FAQs about bookkeepers

Here are some frequently asked questions about becoming and working as a bookkeeper:

What's the difference between a bookkeeper and an accountant?

Both accountants and bookkeepers assist organisations with their fiscal responsibilities, such as by preparing financial reports. However, a bookkeeper processes and records basic financial transactions within a company. An accountant, meanwhile, conducts more complex tasks that often involve interpreting or analysing financial data.

Related: How To Become a Financial Manager: Qualifications and Skills

What are a bookkeeper's daily responsibilities?

Depending on their company's or client's needs, a bookkeeper's daily responsibilities may include keeping accurate books, such as payroll and accounts receivable. They might also work on creating monthly financial reports for accountants or company leaders to review. A bookkeeper might also help HR with documentation, like insurance policies or compensation filings.

Is being a bookkeeper challenging?

Bookkeeping requires you to have some complex abilities, such as solving math problems. However, since there aren't formal education or certification requirements, a bookkeeper job is relatively easy to receive and perform. Most bookkeepers receive on-the-job training that can help them excel in their roles.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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