How to Become a Bookkeeper:
The Definitive Guide

Are you good at math and want to take your skills to the next level?

If this sounds like you, consider working as a Bookkeeper, someone who records and updates all financial transactions for a company.

Whether it’s purchasing products, selling services, completing invoices, recording ledgers, and everything in between, a Bookkeeper is responsible for the upkeep of all money throughout a business.

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Job Description

The main purpose of a Bookkeeper is to ensure that all company finances are up-to-date and accurate.

This means you will use a lot of math skills as well as attention to detail to keep everything and everyone on the same page.


Some of the duties that you should expect when you work as a Bookkeeper include:

  • Preparing taxes
  • Recording financial transactions
  • Payroll
  • Banking
  • Managing and completing invoices
  • Data entry
  • Tracking expenses
  • Filing documents
  • Maintaining a balanced ledger


As a Bookkeeper in the United States, you should expect the average yearly salary to be close to $45,968.

On average, the hourly pay that a Bookkeeper will receive is $22.10.

However, if you are just beginning your career in bookkeeping, you will likely start with a lower salary.

This can be closer to $15.85 to start, which adds up to $32,968 per year.

Those who are at the top of their career can make a larger salary, nearly $30.82 an hour.

A Bookkeeper with experience and time in the career can make a yearly salary of $64,105 in some instances.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $45,140


Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$60,130
New Hampshire$44,190
New Jersey$49,290
New Mexico$40,600
New York$50,720
North Carolina$41,130
North Dakota$42,840
Rhode Island$48,010
South Carolina$40,360
South Dakota$37,640
West Virginia$37,880
Puerto Rico$24,790
Virgin Islands$44,250

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is District of Columbia, where the average salary is $60,130.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

District of Columbia - $60,130
Massachusetts - $53,340
Washington - $51,460
California - $51,080
Connecticut - $51,050
*Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

How to Become: Step-by-Step

Step 1Earn a Diploma

When looking to work as a Bookkeeper, you’ll need to have at least a high school diploma in most cases.

It will take about four years to finish high school if you are a teenager.

Those who are over the age of eighteen and don’t have a high school diploma can look into earning a GED.

A GED is a diploma equivalent for those who did not finish traditional high school and can take anywhere from three to six months to complete, depending on how much effort you put into it.

While in high school or studying for your GED, it may be wise to brush up on some important aspects of bookkeeping, such as math, computer skills, and accounting.

Step 2Become Certified

Certification is only necessary if your employer requires it, so you may be able to skip this step or become certified at a later date.

Those who seek certification can find accredited bookkeeping programs from associations such as the National Association for Certified Public Bookkeepers or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.

Through the National Association for Certified Public Bookkeepers, you will need to complete Accounting Fundamentals as well as pass an exam to become certified.

With the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, you will need to have at least one year of experience working as a Bookkeeper before you can sit for the exam.

There are even free or low-cost options for people who want specific credentials.

Step 3Find a Career

Now that you have bookkeeping knowledge and are ready to expand your horizons, head online or to any local businesses to see if there are openings near you.

Plenty of online job websites list current openings, which will aid you in finding the perfect fit for your future career.

Submit your resume and include any credentials, specializations, and personal skills to showcase all that you know.

When the employer is ready, they will call to set up an interview, then if everything goes well, you will be hired.

Typically, as a new Bookkeeper,  you will make a lower wage, but once you gain experience and time in the career, you could make quite a bit of money working in this field.

Step 4On the Job Training

Beginning your career means that you will need some on-the-job training.

Most employers offer on-the-job training, which can be done through the computer or even with senior Bookkeepers.

Those who do training through computer work will sit through videos and examples, plus typically take quizzes throughout the day to ensure understanding.

A senior Bookkeeper or another senior employee may also help out with training, showing you how the company works with its computer system and finances.

It can take anywhere from three to six months to complete training, depending on how much prior knowledge you have of bookkeeping.

There are even websites and courses that you can take at home to teach you more about the ins and outs of bookkeeping so you are up to date when you begin your career.

Step 5Earn an Associates Degree

Some people may be looking for more when it comes to their career as a Bookkeeper.

This can be done through earning an associate’s degree, which can take about two years.

You can work and go to school at the same time, which will provide excellent experience in the field.

If you plan to gain higher education, expect to complete programs like accounting, business administration, or management.

As long as you take courses that are relevant to bookkeeping, any of these programs will help you along your path.

Consider completing courses such as:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Ethics
  • Business Law
  • Auditing

After finishing your Associate’s degree, you’ll be able to seek promotion and raises with your newfound education.


One of the great things about considering employment as a Bookkeeper is that you don’t need formal education outside of high school.

It is necessary in most cases to have at least a high school diploma or GED before you consider working as a Bookkeeper.

While in school, make sure that you brush up on math, accounting, law, and computers to ensure that you have basic knowledge when stepping into this field.

On-the-job training and online courses are another way that you can achieve your goal of working as a Bookkeeper.

This will allow you to see how things work for a Bookkeeper by exploring what is done on a day-to-day basis.

Hands-on experience is key in this career, especially when it comes to the finances of a company.

For those who want to complete a degree, take a look at your local community college or university to consider an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

An associate’s degree will take about two years to complete, while a bachelor’s degree is closer to four.

Within this time, you’ll want to consider a program like accounting, business administration, or something similar.

This way, you will learn the most you can of what it takes to work as a Bookkeeper.

It is necessary to have a basic understanding of certain topics of bookkeeping like:

  • Taxation
  • Statistics
  • Accounting
  • Data Entry
  • Management

You will also want to have basic knowledge of customer service, speaking with employers and other employees, and organization skills.

With a degree, you will be eligible for promotions, raises, and much more in your company.

Plus, these specializations can allow you to have certain responsibilities that someone without a degree may not have.

There are also online courses that you can take that are often free and provide education on specific areas that you may need to consider to increase your pay as a Bookkeeper.

Video About The Career

Licensing & Certification

Not every employer requires certification, but if yours does, then consider finding one that is accredited through organizations like the National Association for Certified Public Bookkeepers or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers.

The National Association for Certified Public Bookkeepers offers the Certified Public Bookkeeper credential, which is a great place to start.

This credential will allow you to distinguish yourself in a group as well as build credibility in your career by advancing your knowledge.

To obtain this certificate, complete the Accounting Fundamentals course and pass the exam.

There are practice tests you can take online for free when you are ready, and once you pass the exam you will be a Certified Public Bookkeeper.

Everything can be found right on the association’s website.

When it comes to the certification from the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, consider the Certified Bookkeeper program, provided on the website.

This program is a self-taught program that is for people who are current Bookkeepers or have at least one year of education.

Within this program, you will learn how to do payroll, adjust entries, and fix errors with ease.

Finish the courses and pass the exam to become a Certified Bookkeeper.

It should take about three to six months to complete each of these credentials.

Other certifications can be found online or even through your employer, just ensure that they are accredited.

These programs could include Intuit Academy Bookkeeping, which teaches basics in bookkeeping, and also Coursera, U.S. Career Institute, and Udemy, which can all provide free and easy-to-access courses on the subject.

Even if you don’t earn certification, you’ll still gain valuable knowledge when considering taking any of these courses.

Many Bookkeepers who have certification will have access to higher salaries, promotions, and opportunities over those with no credentials.

Average Training Program Duration: 0-6 Months

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Job Outlook

It looks as though there will be fewer jobs for Bookkeepers in the coming future.

With over 100,000 jobs lost in the next ten years, the job outlook for Bookkeepers is -6.2%.

The reason for this is that a Bookkeeper needs certification and many people seeking this career do not have the ability or time to become certified.

Those who do have experience in the career are reaching retirement age, which can boost new employment for those in search of a Bookkeeper career.

Low upward mobility and the use of computer programs in this career is another reason that Bookkeepers are becoming less needed in the job field.

Employment Growth Projection: -6%


That's a higher than average projected growth of -108,300 jobs.

Bookkeeper: Interest Over Time

Should You Become a Bookkeeper?

Overall Satisfaction: Medium

Overall Satisfaction

It is hard to earn promotions as a Bookkeeper, which gives lower job satisfaction than many other careers in the same field.

However, those who work as a Bookkeeper do find it enjoyable, especially if they have an affinity for math and are organized.

There is minimal stress in this career.

Flexible schedules and work/life balance also give this career the edge needed to keep people coming back.

Average Salary: Medium

Average Salary

The average Bookkeeper will make about $22.10 an hour, which adds up to $45,968 per year.

If you are just beginning your time as a Bookkeeper, expect to make less than that at $15.85 to begin.

This adds up to nearly $33,000 a year, but there are chances for raises leading toward the top salary for this career at $30.82 per hour.

Bookkeepers who have the maximum experience can make over $64,000 per year.

Job Growth Outlook: Low

Job Growth Outlook

Due to the recent use of computer programs and the necessity for certification, the job outlook for Bookkeepers is likely to shrink over the next decade.

Expect this career to decrease at a rate of -6.2% in the next ten years.

However, with senior Bookkeepers retiring or moving on to other careers, you will likely still find a substantial career in this area.

Honing in on skills needed for this career and earning credentials will help you when searching for a job.

Education Duration: 0-6 Months

Education Duration

There are no specific education requirements beyond a high school diploma to work as a Bookkeeper.

However, it is necessary to have some training to complete the job correctly.

Training can take about six months to complete and a basic understanding of bookkeeping competencies is required.

However, if you would like to complete higher education, several associate and bachelor degrees take anywhere from two to four years to complete which you could do to boost your success in your career.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

To be a successful Bookkeeper, you will need to possess certain attributes to make the job easier.

These skills will not only make you a great Bookkeeper but also keep your company in the positive when it comes to finances.

Ensure that you have these skills to maintain a wonderful career in this field:

  • Critical thinking
  • Finance knowledge
  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management
  • Math skills
  • Integrity
  • Data entry knowledge
  • Computer skills
  • Spreadsheet knowledge
  • Analytical skills

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long do you have to go to school to become a Bookkeeper?

There are no standard education requirements to work as a Bookkeeper as long as you have a high school diploma.

Those who want to attend college can earn a two-year associate’s degree or even move on to a four-year bachelor’s degree.

Either of these degrees will give you the skills needed to practice bookkeeping and potentially make more money in your career.

Q. How much money does a Bookkeeper make a year?

As a Bookkeeper in the United States, you’ll likely make about $22.10 per hour.

Each year, your salary will be about $45,968.

To begin, you should expect a smaller salary, closer to $15.85 per hour and $32,968 each year.

When you are at the top of your career, you will likely make about $30.82 per hour.

On average, a highly-paid Bookkeeper can make over $64,000 each year.

Q. What kind of education do you need to be a Bookkeeper?

The only education necessary to work as a Bookkeeper is a high school diploma and basic bookkeeping knowledge.

This means you can become a Bookkeeper right after high school, as long as you have at least six months of training.

Those who choose to earn a degree can find associate or Bachelors degrees in accounting, business administration, or management.

Certification is important in this career, which is another form of education that may take anywhere from six months to a year to complete.

Q. Are Bookkeepers in high demand?

With more companies using software to keep track of their finances, the use of Bookkeepers has gone down over the last couple of years.

This rate will continue to decrease as more people rely on computer software to keep track of their finances.

However, that does not mean that there aren’t necessities for Bookkeepers out there, since retirement and finding new careers will provide job openings in some areas.

Q. What skills do you need to have to be a Bookkeeper?

Bookkeepers rely heavily on their math and organization skills, but you will also need to be an honest and responsible person to do well in this career.

Along with that, you’ll want to brush up on skills such as:

  • Computer knowledge
  • Accounts receivable
  • Data entry
  • Spreadsheets
  • Analytical skills
  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Budgeting and tracking
  • Online banking
  • Customer service knowledge

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