What can you do with a bookkeeping qualification?

Bookkeeping is one of those careers that all businesses heavily rely upon, yet many don’t understand its purpose. This is due to the common confusion between accounting and bookkeeping, which are often mistaken for being the same thing. Now, while there are distinct similarities between the two – they aren’t the same.

For instance, bookkeeping makes up the first part of the accounting process – hence the regular confusion. As a bookkeeper, your job would be to focus on the recording and organising of financial data. Once organised, this financial data would then be passed onto an accountant who would then interpret and present this financial information back to the business.

To put it more simply, both bookkeepers and accountants handle financial data; however, bookkeepers gather and accountants interpret.

What is a bookkeeper?

Now, the description we gave above is only the basics. There is much more to acting as a bookkeeper to a business. Their presence is invaluable. This is because, bookkeepers will keep an accurate track record of all financial transactions i.e. all the comings and goings of money within a business, as well as will manage day-to-day cash flows; prepare year-end tax returns and will ensure that all financial transactions run smoothly.

Bookkeeper key responsibilities:

  • Recording income and expenses
  • Dealing with sales, invoices, income, receipts, statements, and payments
  • Balancing accounts
  • Completing VAT returns
  • Managing payroll and expense claims
  • Preparing annual accounts
  • Chasing supplier debts

Why choose to do an online bookkeeping course?

If you’re good with numbers, love maths and like the idea of managing money, then choosing to do a bookkeeping qualification – online or in college – could help you to get your foot in the bookkeeping door.

There is a lot of job security in this field, as businesses across all industries require the knowledge, skills, and input of a qualified bookkeeper. Sure, they could potentially handle it all themselves, but it is easier to hire a bookkeeper to work in-house/outsource to one as this then frees them up to focus on their business.

Even better, it is a skill you can easily become qualified in, in a relatively short space of time. For instance, you could either complete a bookkeeping qualification in college, or you could continue working and do any of the following online bookkeeping courses in your spare time.

Common bookkeeping qualifications:

  • Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping – with this qualification you could work as a cashier, clerical assistant, accounts administrator, accounts clerk, finance assistant, and trainee bookkeeper.
  • Foundation Award in Accounting Software – with this qualification you could likewise work as a cashier, clerical assistant, accounts administrator, accounts clerk, finance assistant, or as trainee bookkeeper.
  • Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping – with this qualification you could apply to work as an accounts manager, ledger manager, or as professional bookkeeper.

Once you’ve completed any of these qualifications, you can then either choose to work for yourself – giving you the flexibility to manage your own time and workload, or you could choose to work in-house for a business.

And you don’t have to stop just there. There are numerous progression opportunities within the field, so if you enjoy working in finance, you could do further qualifications to become an accountant or you could venture into chartered studies. In fact, by the time you’re fully qualified and have built up your experience portfolio, you could earn £35,000 a year.

How to become a bookkeeper

If you’re serious about becoming a bookkeeper, there are four routes open to you:

  • A college/online course – whether you learn best within the structured timetable of a classroom environment, or flourish better under your time management – where you can study when, where, and how you like from the comfort of your own home – as long as you’ve got 2 or more GCSEs (grades 9 to 3, or A* to D), you can choose to complete a Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping, a Level 2 Certificate in Accounting or a Level 2 Certificate in Manual and Computerised bookkeeping, and use them to apply for entry-level jobs.
  • An apprenticeship – usually 12 months long, you could apply for an accounts and finance assistant intermediate apprenticeship and receive pay while you train on the job. All you need to apply for are some GCSEs – in particular English and Maths.
  • Working towards the role – if you learn better through experience, then applying to be an admin assistant within an accounts department can help you to work towards the role. Some places will even pay for you to complete relevant qualifications to become a bookkeeper. Alternatively, you could choose to volunteer for a charity and help them to organise their finances. This experience will add to your portfolio and prove that you can do the job successfully.
  • Applying directly – some employers will ask you to have up to 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), with maths and English being amongst them. In addition, A-Levels in Business Studies, maths, and economics would prove beneficial to your application.

What skills do you need to be a good bookkeeper?

Aside from a natural passion for numbers, if you want to succeed as a bookkeeper, you need to:

  • Have a keen eye for detail
  • Be thorough
  • Work well with others
  • Have strong administration and customer service skills
  • Be able to use your initiative and think outside of the box
  • Be flexible, adaptable, and open to change (policies, technology, and procedures are constantly changing, and you need to be able to handle that)
  • Have strong maths skills/knowledge
  • Have great communication skills
  • Be confident on a computer and be able to navigate main software packages

What is it like to be an accountant?

As we’ve mentioned before, you don’t have to limit yourself to bookkeeping work. Instead, you can use your bookkeeping qualification as a stepping stone toward applying for an accounting degree and eventually becoming an accountant.

Similar to bookkeepers, accountants play a vital role in businesses, as it is their job to supply financial reports and analysis each year to ensure the business stays afloat. Because of this, they must stay on top of all technology changes, and alterations to industry rules and procedures, to ensure the advice they give is correct, accurate, and up-to-date.

They also need to be aware of particular changes to the industry they are supporting. For example, accountants can be found working not just in businesses, but also in government, education, healthcare, media, sport, and in the public and private sectors.

What do accountants do?

To help paint a clearer distinction between bookkeepers and accountants, accountants are responsible for recording, analysing, and reporting financial information (often based on the data supplied by bookkeepers), as well as carrying out audits, generating financial statements, and forecasting future business needs. However, further responsibilities/tasks will fall on your lap as you progress from foundation-level qualifications through to advanced and professional levels. You can even go on to specialise in a particular area e.g. tax or auditing.

Accounting qualifications include:

  • Foundation Certificate in Accounting – with this qualification you will be able to apply for entry-level roles such as being an accounts administrator, accounts assistant, payroll officer, sales ledger clerk, and tax trainee, and earn of average £21,000 a year.
  • Advanced Diploma in Accounting – with this qualification you will be able to apply for higher positions within an accountancy firm.
  • Professional Diploma in Accounting – you will be able to work as an accountant.

Why choose to be an accountant?

To say accountants are in demand would be an understatement. Globally, every business needs their support, and thanks to the way their qualifications are structured, you can become an accountant and take these transferable skills around the globe.

There is also the advantage that you don’t need to go to university to get qualified. From either working as an apprentice within an accountancy firm straight out of college or by completing an array of college/online accountancy courses; you can start as a trainee accountant and work your way up without acquiring the debt of going to university. Instead, accountancy firms will pay you to train with them.

Conclusion

Bookkeeper, accountant, clerical clerk, or finance assistant… adding a bookkeeping qualification to your arsenal could broaden your career horizon and create long-term career opportunities. All you need is a passion for numbers and figures, and an ability to collect, interpret and analyse financial data, and beginning your journey into the financial sector can begin today.

To find out more about our online accounting and bookkeeping courses, check out our website. Designed for distance learning, you can get a taste of what working in finance will entail and still maintain a healthy work/study balance.

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