Bookkeeping Education Requirements and Employment Outlook

Bookkeepers are responsible for maintaining the financial records of an organization or business. Many bookkeepers hold only a high school diploma and have taken some additional community college accounting courses; however, an associate's degree in accounting or some other closely related field is increasingly desired by prospective employers.

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Education Requirements

An associate's degree in accounting provides the best preparation for pursuing a career as a bookkeeper. Two years of full-time study are required to complete the degree. Trustworthiness, an attention to detail and strong communication skills are important attributes of a successful bookkeeper. Certification is beneficial and signals to employers a high level of bookkeeping competence and trustworthiness.

Associate of Applied Science

An associate's degree program in accounting combines general education courses with classes in business and accounting. Some associate's degree programs may offer students the option of completing an occupational accounting program or a transfer accounting program. The transfer option should only be pursued by students who wish to complete a bachelor's degree in accounting at a 4-year university. An associate's degree program in occupational accounting is intended for students who want to secure employment as a bookkeeper, accounting clerk or tax preparer.

Coursework emphasizes the practical and theoretical aspects of accounting. Students are required to complete six or seven major area courses in addition to a number of electives. Some of the major area courses include topics such as financial accounting, cost accounting, managerial accounting, introduction to business and federal taxation. Elective classes provide students with an opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the accounting field. Some possible electives include advanced accounting, microcomputer accounting, auditing and spreadsheets.

Certification Requirements

The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) awards the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation to candidates who meet their requirements. At least two years of bookkeeping experience is required for a person to be eligible for the CB designation. The CB credential is awarded after an applicant successfully completes a 4-part examination. The certification is valid for a period of three years. Recertification involves the completion of continuing education hours.

Employment Outlook

A ten percent increase in the hiring of auditing, bookkeeping and accounting professionals is projected for the 2008-2018 period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Financial transactions and records are becoming increasingly scrutinized, and bookkeepers and other accounting professionals will be needed to ensure transparency. Bookkeepers who are certified and can perform many additional accounting tasks have the best employment prospects. Salary.com reports that the median annual salary of a bookkeeper, as of April 2009, was $37,235.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics