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How to Become a Certified Bookkeeper: Education, Certifications, and More

Bookkeepers occupy one of the most valuable roles in a company serving as that company’s financial manager. If your numbers skills and financial thinking have interested you in a career in bookkeeping, how do you become a certified bookkeeper?

To become a certified bookkeeper, you’ll need:

  • A GED or high school diploma
  • Undergraduate degree
  • Credible bookkeeping certification
  • On-the-job experience or similar training

This guide to working your way to becoming a certified bookkeeper will cover areas such as earning your bookkeeping degree, which bookkeeping certificate to focus on, and bookkeeping programs. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a usable roadmap to propel your new career!

How to Become a Certified Bookkeeper: Follow These Steps

As a bookkeeper, your work can overlap greatly with that of an accountant, which is why the two terms are often used interchangeably. In some cases, the duties may differ. For example, a bookkeeper could provide a record of the financial transactions within your company each day, including bill payments, payroll, and sales. The data may then go to an accountant for reporting and consolidation.

With that explanation, let’s next expound on the requirements from the intro to become a bookkeeper.

  1. Have a High School Diploma Bookkeeping is one of those career paths where you typically need a high school diploma at a minimum. That said, many employers will be more willing to hire you if you have a college degree. The college degree also makes you more competitive as you search for jobs.
  2. Obtain Your Undergraduate Degree Next, you can move on to your undergraduate degree. Having an associate degree in accounting can give you the entry-level skills you need to land your first bookkeeping job. Should you want to continue your time in academia to make you an even more appealing prospective job candidate, you could always consider pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business. However, this is optional. During your time obtaining your undergraduate degree, you’ll learn the skills that make today’s bookkeepers efficient business people with valuable numbers skills.The curriculum will also introduce subjects including payroll and taxation, financial statements and accounting, business analytics, communications, law, and ethics. Your time pursuing your undergraduate bookkeeping degree will also allow you to glean related skills that will make you a stronger bookkeeper. For example, you can learn more about communications, soft skills, critical thinking, and even digital marketing if you’re thinking of running your own bookkeeping business. For an example of working as a freelance bookkeeper, read the story of recent Bryan U college graduate Adrienne Austell.
  3. Receive Your Certification Once you’ve earned your bookkeeping degree, the next step as an aspiring bookkeeper is to work on your bookkeeping certification. This is a third-party non-accredited proof of having passed a knowledge exam. For example, once you enroll in the Associate Degree in Accounting program at Bryan University, you’ll earn your undergraduate certificate in business administration, which focuses on areas such as accounting and Excel. Then, you’ll continue to earn your associate degree, which includes accounting and bookkeeping concepts necessary for preparing to take a third-party certification exam. Some bookkeeping programs, such as those offered by Bryan U, will give you the tools you need to obtain a certification recognized by the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers or NACPB. You can select from two certifications of four, including a Tax Certification, QuickBooks Certification, Bookkeeping Certification, or Accounting Certification. Bryan U even pays for the certification testing fees! Attending an online university that can help you earn your associate degree (or even your bachelor’s degree if you’re interested) while you work your way towards your certification makes the path to becoming a certified bookkeeper much simpler to navigate!
  4. Consider an Internship, On-the-Job Experience, or Similar Training If you’re of the mindset that you can never have too much experience, then you can seek avenues to gain more bookkeeping experience either during your time in academia or immediately after. Internships, which can be paid or unpaid, are one such option. As a bookkeeping intern, you’d work with professional bookkeepers and accountants at a financial, accounting, or tax firm to learn the ins and outs of the job.

Applying for Bookkeeping Jobs

With your certificate and associate’s or bachelor’s degree in tow, you’re officially ready to enter the working world as a bookkeeper.

Your new career can take you in many exciting directions. You could work as a certified bookkeeper, freelance bookkeeper, tax preparer, payroll clerk, billing clerk, accounting assistant, or even an accounts payable or accounts receivable clerk.

Your job is not limited solely to financial offices, either. Companies of all sorts need a dedicated bookkeeper to manage their financials, from retailers to service industries, non-profits, startups, SMBs, production and manufacturing facilities, government agencies, and business consulting firms.

Before you apply for a bookkeeping job, be sure to update your resume. Include your college education and the degree you earned, and don’t forget to detail your active certifications. If you underwent any specialized training or internships, detail the duties you fulfilled on your resume as well.

Connect with others in your social network, both personal and professional contacts. Attend networking events as well to look for leads.

Online accounting schools such as Bryan University allow you to tap into a rich career resources network as a post-grad where you could just land your next job!

Which Bookkeeper Certification Is Best?

With so many certifications through the NACPB to select from, how can you choose which ones to pursue?

Think of your future career aspirations. For example, if you’re interested in performing financial entries for a company, make sure you earn your Bookkeeping and/or Accounting Certification.

Should you already be knowledgeable in QuickBooks or you plan to use QuickBooks for your job, then you should try for the NACPB QuickBooks certification. This will also prove to job candidates and future clients alike that you’re a QuickBooks pro.

Or perhaps you want to also be able to help clients with their taxes. In this case, you’ll be interested in the NACPB’s Tax Certification.

Through Bryan U’s Associate Degree in Accounting program, the NACPB certification fees for two exams are paid for. However, if you decide to pursue more than two bookkeeper certifications through the NACPB, the organization offers cert bundles where you can save 26 percent.

How Hard Is the Certified Bookkeeper Exam?

You’re concerned that the NACPB certified bookkeeper exam is going to be difficult. Is it?

If you’re enrolled in a bookkeeper program such as through Bryan University, then no, you shouldn’t find the exam difficult. The coursework in the associate’s program will include concepts and skills that help you become more confident in taking the test. However, it is still suggested that you review the exam material to make sure your knowledge is current before you take the exam.

To help you walk into the exam with the full breadth of knowledge here is more information about the exam itself.

The NACPB certified bookkeeper exam includes 50 multiple-choice simulations and questions. You must answer 37 questions out of 50 correctly to earn a score of 75 percent if you want to pass.

You’re given two hours to take the exam, which is an open-book test.

The topics covered on the exam are as follows:

  • Financial statements and closing procedures
  • Deferrals and accruals
  • Payroll reports, deposits, and taxes
  • Payroll payments, records, and computations
  • Cash
  • Accounting for cash payments, accounts payable, and purchases
  • Accounting for cash receipts, accounts receivable, and sales
  • Closing entries and managing a post-closing trial balance
  • Adjusting your worksheets
  • T-account business transaction analyzation
  • Business transaction analyzation

Once you purchase the exam (or your online college such as Bryan U does so for you), you have a full year from the purchase date to take your exam. Should you fail the exam, you can buy a retake exam.

Is Being a Certified Bookkeeper Worth It?

Although certifications are not required to find and keep work as a bookkeeper, we’d recommend pursuing at least two certifications.

Having these certifications can benefit you in many ways, so let’s talk about those more now.

Makes You a More Credible Job Candidate

When applying for a job in any industry, you want to do everything you can to make yourself look like the most shining candidate. For aspiring bookkeepers, having a bookkeeping certification is certainly one way to achieve that goal.

Hiring managers will be impressed that you took the extra time, expense, and initiative to pursue your certification(s).

Although having certs alone will not get you hired, if you combine certification with a strong college background and a variety of accounting skills, you have a greater chance of finding a great bookkeeping job.

Proves Your Expertise

You can’t argue with a certification, as it proves your proficiency in an area. If you have bookkeeping certifications in targeted niches within your industry such as taxes or accounting, this might allow you to branch out and expand your work responsibilities.

Could Help You Earn More Money

Speaking of such, climbing the career ladder can be easier with a bookkeeping certification. The certification proves that you’re willing to go above and beyond what your job entails.

Plus, with your growing knowledge and expertise, you could get promoted, which means a bigger paycheck.

Ready to Start Your Education in Bookkeeping?

Bookkeepers are critical for companies across all industries, not only those in the financial sector. If you’re interested in kickstarting your bookkeeping education, Bryan University could be the college for you.

As a student of our Associate Degree in Accounting program, we’ll teach you the skills that hiring managers want to see in bookkeepers. We’ll also prepare you to pass your NACPB certification.

Bryan U students also have access to faculty mentoring sessions, interactive industry speaker events, and learning technology that enhances every class. All this is from the comfort of your home as you learn in a supportive online environment! 

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