What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

Are you interested in becoming a bookkeeper but not sure what they do? A bookkeeper helps to assure that a company’s activities are accurately captured and reported in its financial records. For a small company, there may be one person responsible for this. In a larger company, there may be dozens of bookkeepers, each responsible for a small part of the financial records. A bookkeeper can have different names including accounting clerk, accounting assistant, and junior accountant.

What are the Characteristics of a Bookkeeper?

A person who is looking for a bookkeeper position enjoys working with numbers. Many take both math and business classes in school. A successful bookkeeper also understands the importance of collaborating and working with other people in the accounting department. In addition to working with other bookkeepers in their department, someone in accounting, accounts receivables, or payments may need to interface with staff at many different levels and in many different departments throughout an organization. Higher-level accountants may call on the bookkeeper to provide support requested by independent auditors. Also, managers in the company may turn to a bookkeeper to get additional information about what is in a financial statement or management report.

Bookkeepers also interact with people outside their own company. These include vendors and customers, to name a few. As you can see, not only are numbers important to every bookkeeping job, but successful communication with other people is also a key for success.

How Do You Become a Bookkeeper?

A certification or associate degree from a vocational school can help you land your first job and contribute to your successful career as a bookkeeper. By achieving credentials, you have demonstrated the skills and character that positively support an organization in a bookkeeping capacity. By successfully completing an accounting training program, you have shown your ability to work with numbers, the attention to detail that is so important in all financial jobs, and the disposition to interact well with other people.

Why Become a Bookkeeper?

One of the positive aspects of being a bookkeeper is that they work across all industries and geographic locations. Whether an organization is large or small, for profit or not, it has a need to capture, consolidate, and report financial information accurately and in a timely manner.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

There are many different types of jobs available to a bookkeeper. A vocational school with an accounting department will train you with the technical knowledge you need to do any of these jobs. It will also give you an understanding of the different activities, so you will know which job role is most interest to you.

Job #1: Accounts Payable

An accounts payable bookkeeper is responsible for paying the bills within a company. Typically, before a vendor gets a payment, several control steps are taken. The bookkeeper plays a key role in assuring the controls are met and that the company’s assets are protected. If there was a purchase order issued, the invoice from the vendor must match the purchase order.

To process a bill for payment, the accurate general ledger account coding must match the invoice so that the expenditure will be included accurately in the accounting records. Periodically, according to the company’s schedule, the bookkeeper will do a check run to produce the payments that will be mailed or deposited electronically to the vendors. If a vendor is expecting a payment that is late, an accounts payable clerk is usually the contact that will work with the vendor to get the issue resolved.

Job #2: Accounts Receivable

In addition to buying supplies from vendors, a company may invoice its clients for the goods or services that it has sold. When an accounts receivable clerk creates an invoice, a receivable is booked that shows that the company is due to receive money from the customer. Invoices must also be communicated to the customers so the customer will know how much to pay. An accounts receivable bookkeeper may issue invoices or apply payments. They will receive a payment from a customer that matches the open invoices that the customer is paying. If the customer is late making a payment, an accounts receivable bookkeeper may have to contact the customer and find out when the payment will be made.

Job #3: Payroll

Another attractive position for a bookkeeper is working in the payroll department. It is the responsibility of the payroll clerk, working with the Human Resources Department, to set up new employees in the payroll system. When an employee receives a pay raise, the payroll clerk must make the change to the payroll records. The payroll must be set up accurately for employees to get correct and on time payments. This will assure that payment to employees is at the appropriate rate, that all deductions for taxes and benefits are accurate, and that their periodic net paycheck is accurate.

Job #4: Fixed Assets

A business may put money into assets that benefit the company for more than one year. These are called fixed assets or property, plant, and equipment. A larger business will have a bookkeeper dedicated to these valuable investments to assure that they are tracked and expensed accurately.

Job #5: General Ledger

Regardless of which area of the business a bookkeeper supports, all their work is designed to feed the general ledger. This is a collection of all the activity that the business undertakes. The general ledger accounting group includes revenues, expenses, assets, liabilities, and owners’ equity. Almost all businesses across the country have accounting books structured according to these broad accounts. This facilitates comparison of one business across time, comparison of one business with others, and financial statements that can be understood by third parties, like banks and taxing authorities.

What Do You Learn During a Bookkeeping Program?

The accounting and professional business applications diploma program will prepare you for the many roles that are responsible for the accounting at a business. The following are some of the topics you will learn about during this vocational program:

Generally Accepted Accounting Principles

In addition to a standard account structure, businesses adhere to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). These are rules and guidelines that have been put into place by accounting regulatory boards or have just become generally accepted and understood over time. Everyone who works in an accounting role has the responsibility to assure that GAAP is followed when recording and reporting everything about the company.

Accounting Reconciliations

Monthly reconciliations are one of the most important financial controls for a company to put in place. One type of reconciliation is the identification and explanation of differences between each subledger balance and the account balance in the general ledger. Another type of reconciliation is comparing bank statements with the cash amounts in the general ledger. Bookkeepers may be assigned to do the reconciliations or play a support role by researching the items that are causing the differences and determining what actions should be taken. Reconciling accounts and bank statements are just two of the many month-, quarter-, and year-end close activities that an accounting assistant may be responsible for.

Accounting Software

Fortunately, every business doesn’t have to code and set up their own accounting software. Many large companies do develop their own proprietary accounting system that is specific for their industry. Other large companies choose to use a software system. However, small, and middle-sized companies have a selection of standardized accounting software that they can use. Two of the most popular brands are QuickBooks and Sage. Although most bookkeepers find the software easy to understand, the more training and experience a bookkeeper has with a particular software, the more value they can contribute to their position.

Data Entry vs. Automation

For some people, the idea of a bookkeeper may bring to mind the picture of a person with a green visor recording numbers into a large book. Thirty years ago, bookkeeping looked like a large number of employees each sitting at a screen keying in numbers and data from pieces of paper. Today, many accounting records are communicated from server to server and from file to file. A single point of entry can feed an accounting transaction to every subsystem, ledger, report, and financial statement where it needs to be. This one-time data capture has made bookkeeping more efficient and accurate. It has also created a requirement that bookkeepers be more technically savvy than in prior years.

Microsoft Office Certification

Microsoft Office is a suite of productivity applications and has become a standard business application. It helps to streamline document creation, handling, and storage for businesses of all sizes. The Microsoft Excel application is a very useful tool for many accountants and bookkeepers. A bookkeeper who has developed accounting skills and received Microsoft Office certification training will be able to demonstrate that they can get the bookkeeping work done accurately and efficiently.

Final Thoughts

A bookkeeping position is a good starting place for a financial career. There are several directions in which a bookkeeper can move to advance their career. An experienced, professional bookkeeper could be promoted to a supervisor or manager position as leader of their current work group. They could broaden their work experience and move laterally or with a promotion to another work group. They could move to a non-financial role within the company, such as legal, operations, or human resources. Geographically, the need for bookkeepers exists all across the country. This opportunity for growth and development keeps bookkeeping in a positive light for those that want a stable career.

Want to Learn More?

Ready to start working in an entry-level role as a bookkeeper? At ICT, our Accounting & Professional Business Applications program will teach you the fundamentals of accounts payable / receivable, payroll, general ledgers, reporting / data entry, and office automation. You will be prepared to support any size organization and make a difference in your accounting department.

Let’s take the first step together! Contact us now to learn more.

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