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What Degree Do You Need To Be A Bookkeeper

By David Krug 4 minute read

Those who enjoy working with numbers might find success as bookkeepers or accounting clerks. With a median salary slightly higher than the national average for all occupations, and the convenience of a desk job without a college degree, this role provides office and administrative support. If you want to improve your chances of landing a job or moving up the corporate ladder, an associate’s degree is a good place to start.

Accountant’s Job Description

Accounting clerks and bookkeepers are in charge of preparing basic financial statements. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that general ledger accountants keep track of a company’s income and expenses, or credits and debits. Accountant and bookkeeper are closely related professions, but there are a few key differences.

For the most part, bookkeepers are responsible for managing the day-to-day finances of a company and generating standard financial reports. For accountants with advanced training in both technical and theoretical aspects of financial reporting, their roles are elevated. In addition to an in-house bookkeeper, a company may also use the services of a public accounting firm’s accountant to help with tax forms and periodic reports (quarterly and annual). As a rule, an accountant’s role can be thought of as either professional or paraprofessional. It is not necessary to obtain a professional license in order for bookkeepers and other paraprofessionals to perform their duties.

There are many industries that employ bookkeepers because their work is so crucial to the business operations of all companies. Twelve percent of the occupation’s workers are employed in professional services, ten percent in retail trade, and seven percent each in wholesale trade, health care and social assistance, and finance and insurance are employed by this occupation’s bookkeeping and accounting clerks.

In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 1.7 million bookkeepers, accounting clerks, and auditors are currently employed.

Bookkeeping and Accounting Associate’s Degrees

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor’s degree is not necessary to work as a bookkeeper, but some college study is. Most aspiring bookkeepers earn an associate’s degree rather than an undergraduate certificate in accounting. Applied technical accounting knowledge often takes precedence over theoretical concepts in many accounting associate’s degree programs, but these programs can also be used as a stepping stone to a higher degree.

Accounting and bookkeeping courses at the associate’s degree level may include business and financial principles, financial document production, and more specialized accounting topics like managerial accounting and taxation. High-level math skills aren’t nearly as important as being able to work with numbers and using tools like Excel spreadsheets and accounting software.

As an alternative to a four-year college, an associate’s degree in accounting can serve as the foundation for a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Accounting has a bright future ahead of it.

In as little as two years after earning your associate’s degree in accounting, you can begin working full-time in your chosen field. On-the-job training will help you improve your abilities. As your career progresses, you may also want to consider obtaining a professional certification in accounting. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers or the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers require two years of experience before you can take the four-part professional exam to become a Certified Bookkeeper or Certified Public Bookkeeper. Additionally, certifications in specific skills and programs, such as QuickBooks and Excel, can be beneficial.

It’s likely that you’ll have a head start in the field of full-fledged accounting after working your way up through the ranks of bookkeeping. According to the BLS, even though a bachelor’s degree is typically required to work as an accountant or auditor, some employers will accept years of relevant work experience in lieu of a college degree for junior accounting roles.

While it is possible to enter the field of accounting without a four-year degree, your career advancement options will be limited unless you return to school for another degree. With an associate’s degree under your belt already, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can use your previous college credits and coursework toward a four-year degree. Some accelerated bachelor’s degree programs can shorten the time it takes to earn your degree even further by completing it in two years or less.

Because of your wealth of knowledge and experience in both life and bookkeeping, you might be a good candidate for a degree based on competencies. These programs allow students to receive college credit for courses in which they already have a strong background.

Earning a degree and becoming a certified public accountant can have a significant impact on your life. The BLS predicts that accountants will see a 10 percent increase in employment over the next decade. For accountants, wages are also higher, with a median salary of $69,350.

Bookkeeping jobs can lead to a lucrative accounting career if you have excellent computer and math skills and are willing to put in the time and effort.

David Krug