How to Become a Bookkeeper in California

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How to Become a Bookkeeper in California

No business can operate smoothly without the presence of either a bookkeeper or an accountant.

Though often mistaken for one another, these two professionals fulfill distinct functions.

To become a bookkeeper in California, a background in either business, accountancy, or bookkeeping is essential.

If you aspire to be a bookkeeper, ensure your math skills are strong and your organizational abilities are impeccable.

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If you’re intrigued, delve deeper into this guide to learn more!

How to Become a Bookkeeper – Step by Step

One crucial aspect to note is that certification is necessary.

You can achieve certification by completing one of two paths:

  • Education
  • Practice

Both paths consist of three steps, along with some shared elements.

Let’s delve into these steps to gain a better understanding!

Step 1 – Earn Your High School Diploma

The high school diploma or its equivalent is essential when getting hired.

These diplomas are even more important when trying to enroll in post-secondary classes.

This step is common for both paths available to bookkeepers.

Step 2 Education – Earn a Degree

While not compulsory, earning a degree demonstrates dedication to the profession.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a degree is required for the education path.

Degrees available include:

  • Associate’s Degree
  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Master’s Degree

While fewer bookkeepers pursue a master’s, it’s beneficial to be aware of it.

Later, we’ll explore institutions where you can pursue these degrees.

Step 3 Education – Train on-the-job

Some training before getting hired is also important.

Unlike the Practice path, this training on the job has a duration of only 6 months.

Bookkeepers who choose the education path, need to get used to how the bookkeeping software of the company functions.

At the same time, you’ll also have to learn how to work faster so you’ll be able to keep up with the transactions the firm makes.

Step 2 Practice – Gain Experience

In the practice path, the second step entails obtaining certification after accruing a certain amount of experience.

There are two credentials available, and you have the option to pursue both:

  • Licensure by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB), requiring 2 years of practice.
  • Certification from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB), requires 1 year of experience.

Step 3 Practice – Earn the Credentials

Both certifications are nationally recognized.

Each certification comprises four exams, totaling eight tests if pursuing both.

Two exams are administered at designated testing centers, whereas the other two are open-book workbooks.

The testing centers are those of Prometric.

Individuals following the educational path can also obtain these certifications under the same conditions.

Certified individuals must complete 24 hours of continuing education annually to maintain their certifications.

Bookkeeping Programs in California

Now it’s time we learn more about the educational programs offering bookkeeping courses in California as promised earlier.

California State University San Marcos

This university in San Marcos offers a certified bookkeeper program.

The tuition is around $2,195 and it includes the fee for the exam as well.

Once enrolled, you can’t receive your money back.

If you enroll, you’ll be prepared for the AIPB test.

The class is offered online and those interested can enroll at any time.

To enroll in this class, you need to be an experienced bookkeeper seeking certification at the national level.

UCLA Extension

This program has 4 courses that future bookkeepers must attend.

The courses are:

  • Bookkeeping and Accounting Essentials I
  • Bookkeeping and Accounting Essentials II
  • Cloud Based QuickBooks
  • Payroll Tax and Accounting

All these classes are offered throughout the 4 seasons of the year.

You can attend the classes online or in a classroom.

Everyone can attend this course, regardless of their experience.

Students have to pay individually for each of the 4 courses.

Here’s a breakdown of the fees you must pay:

  • $75 – application and candidacy
  • $3,260 – tuition
  • $563 – textbooks and materials
School Name Address
California State University San Marcos 333 S Twin Oaks Valley Rd, San Marcos, CA 92096
UCLA Extension 1145 Gayley Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024,
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Bookkeeper Salary in California

In this final section of the presentation, we’ll explore the salaries earned by bookkeepers in California.

According to data from, the average annual salary for bookkeepers in California is approximately $48,759.

This figure is subject to change annually, influenced by various factors.

The following table highlights the cities where bookkeepers tend to earn higher salaries.

Annual Salary Range:
Annual Salary by Location:
Location Avg. Annual Salary
San Jose $55,478
Santa Clara $55,478
Stanford $55,390
San Francisco $55,257
Burlingame $55,169
Fairfax $55,125
El Granada $55,081
San Mateo $54,506
Alameda $53,931
Lafayette $53,887

Regional Salary in California

Region Employed Avg. Annual Salary Avg. Hourly Pay Top 10% Annual Salary Bottom 10% Annual Salary
Bakersfield, CA2,670$49,780$23.93$69,050$34,440
Chico, CA800$49,350$23.73$66,500$33,050
El Centro, CA530$46,960$22.58$66,970$32,340
Fresno, CA4,110$49,590$23.84$65,850$34,180
Hanford-Corcoran, CA360$49,790$23.94$68,300$35,260
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA65,840$52,780$25.38$75,590$31,860
Madera, CA390$50,330$24.2$67,660$33,910
Merced, CA640$48,620$23.38$66,490$34,090
Modesto, CA1,750$50,690$24.37$68,710$35,820
Napa, CA790$56,960$27.38$76,530$37,760
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA3,520$52,910$25.44$70,640$36,200
Redding, CA730$48,000$23.08$66,670$33,050
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA15,590$50,660$24.36$71,230$33,160
Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA9,940$53,460$25.7$74,860$36,580
Salinas, CA1,690$56,470$27.15$78,000$36,040
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA14,100$53,050$25.51$74,330$36,120
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA22,340$63,030$30.3$86,220$42,870
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA8,690$62,280$29.94$86,510$39,920
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande, CA1,320$51,720$24.86$71,630$34,530
Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA1,130$57,960$27.87$80,920$38,390
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA2,110$53,490$25.72$75,530$31,840
Santa Rosa, CA2,380$57,050$27.43$79,750$38,280
Stockton-Lodi, CA2,440$51,450$24.73$69,060$35,460
Vallejo-Fairfield, CA1,420$54,990$26.44$77,240$36,790
Visalia-Porterville, CA1,500$48,770$23.45$63,990$33,800
Yuba City, CA500$49,750$23.92$65,820$33,690
* Salary information based on the May 2022 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks, OCC Code 43-3031, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What skills are needed by bookkeepers in California?

Successful bookkeepers in California must possess the following skills:

  • Attention to detail
  • Proficiency in invoicing procedures
  • Critical thinking abilities
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Effective communication skills
  • Efficient time management

What career options do I have with this type of training in California?

For those training as bookkeepers, here are the main career paths available:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Accounts Receivable Clerk
  • Accounts Payable Specialist
  • Payroll Clerk
  • Assistant to Accountants (both line and staff)
  • Paraprofessionals in CPA Firms

What's the role of a bookkeeper in a company, in California?

Talented bookkeepers set up, execute, and supervise systems for monitoring cash flow within a company.

They utilize reporting tools to keep individuals and managers updated, thereby improving the financial position of the company.

USA Bookkeeper Schools by State

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