How to Become a Bookkeeper Without a College Degree

cartoon image of bookkeeper

Every business – or at least every successful business – keeps careful track of its money. Bookkeepers are the ones doing a lot of this work behind the scenes, recording and calculating transactions so that the financial side of the business runs smoothly. 

If you’re looking for an interesting, lucrative career that doesn’t require a college degree, then bookkeeping is worth considering. With a bit of hard work and the right skill set, you can land your first bookkeeping job and launch a successful career. 

What do bookkeepers do?

Bookkeepers help businesses maintain records of their transactions while managing their day-to-day finances. Common tasks include creating financial statements, organizing client receipts, auditing financial records, and preparing financial data. Together, these activities will help the business keep track of the money that’s coming in and going out.

How much do bookkeepers make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the median annual pay for bookkeepers in May 2021 was $45,560. While this general statistic provides a useful barometer, it’s worth remembering that an individual bookkeeper’s pay will depend on their level of experience. When you’re first starting out, your annual income could fall well short of this median figure. With hard work and dedication, however, you could soon be earning more than $50,000 per year. 

Bookkeeper skills requirements

Bookkeeping might not require a formal education or a college degree, but clients will expect you to possess certain hard and soft skills

The best bookkeepers embody the following traits:

  • They’re thorough and always pay attention to details
  • They’re good teammates and work well with others
  • They have strong administration skills
  • They have strong customer services skills
  • They know how to take the initiative and act on their own
  • They’re flexible, adaptable, and open to change
  • They’re good at math
  • They have excellent verbal communication skills

While you don’t need to have all of these skills to excel as a bookkeeper, it’s worth trying to improve in areas where you’re currently lacking. The more well-rounded you are, the more positions you’ll be suited to – and the more money you’ll make throughout your bookkeeping career.   

Accountant vs bookkeeper: What’s the difference?

Accountants and bookkeepers might both help businesses with their finances – but they’re not one and the same. Accountants focus on preparing taxes and conducting audits. They’re the heavy hitters who come in and make sure everything is running smoothly, and they don’t have time for the business’s day-to-day affairs.

Bookkeepers, meanwhile, are the ones who get down and dirty with the daily work of maintaining the business’s finances. They’re the ones who are actually paying the bills, filing receipts, and compiling the business’s financial records. This makes the job perfect for finance-minded individuals who like to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

Is it possible to become a bookkeeper without a degree?

Bookkeepers can find employment without a college degree, relying instead on their existing skills and their willingness to undergo on-the-job training. While there are various certifications available that will bolster your resume, you can likely find a position even if you’re starting from scratch. This accessibility is a big part of what makes bookkeeping such an attractive profession. 

How to become a bookkeeper

While you don’t need a college education to become a bookkeeper, you do need to develop a winning strategy – and stick to it. Here are some simple steps you can take to kick-start your bookkeeping career. 

Complete your job training

For aspiring bookkeepers without a degree, the first step is usually to find an entry-level position from a company that offers on-the-job training. You might be entering at the bottom rung of the ladder, but the training and experience you gain will set you up for a positive career trajectory. The training period often lasts around six months, and you can expect to get paid as you go. Once you’re done, you’ll have the practical knowledge necessary to be a competent, reliable bookkeeper – which businesses will always value. 

Get certifications

A college degree might not be necessary in the world of bookkeeping, but many employers do prefer candidates with bookkeeping certifications from credible sources. These licenses and rewards show businesses that you’re serious about your profession and have learned the basics. They also help you fill out your resume.

Places to get certifications

Two certifications are especially useful for aspiring bookkeepers without a college degree. One is the Certified Bookkeeper designation, awarded by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB). The other is the Certified Public Bookkeeper designation, offered by the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB). Either of these certifications will give you legitimacy in the field and help you land your first job as a bookkeeper.

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About the Author: Ben Clabault is a freelance writer from Sandwich, Massachusetts. He has spent much of his adult life traveling through Latin America. He currently lives with his fiance in Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. His areas of expertise include travel, marketing, SaaS, and global cultures. You can find his work on Copyfolio and reach out to him on LinkedIn.

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