How to Become a Bookkeeper
While becoming certified as a bookkeeper isn’t an absolute necessity (Canadian law doesn’t require it), it certainly makes keeping your books much easier and adds a professional credential to your list of accomplishments. As a bookkeeper, you’re responsible for maintaining accurate accounting records. A full-charge bookkeeper handles all the accounting processes for a business, while other bookkeepers are required to handle specific tasks given by the employer, such as payroll or receivables.
For an entry-level bookkeeping position, some employers only require you to have a high school diploma, but most employers also expect some type of work experience. Learning how to use accounting software, taking some online bookkeeping courses, and even getting certified as a bookkeeper can help your career.
To become a bookkeeper, you may need to:
- Look for internships at reputable companies
- Learn how to use accounting software, either online or in a classroom
- Consider classes for accounting and bookkeeping, either online or in a classroom
- Get certified, which you can do after you’ve been employed in a bookkeeping position for at least 2 years
Is Bookkeeping Right for You?
If you wonder if this is actually the career for you, answer the following questions:
- Do you like numbers?
- Do you enjoy research?
- Can you ask the right questions?
- Do you like learning?
- Are you a good communicator?
If you answered yes, then bookkeeping could be the perfect job for you. Check out the various online and in-person bookkeeping programs and certifications in your area.
What’s a Typical Day for a Bookkeeper?
Your job as a bookkeeper is to manage each financial transaction that affects a business. Some of the main transactions that occur are:
- Cash in or cash out
- Credit lines
- Payables and receivables
To stay on top of these financial records, it’s important that a bookkeeper asks questions, and gets to the bottom of any discrepancies as fast as possible. Your input on business decisions as a bookkeeping professional is important to your employer or your clients. Speaking up and giving your take on a situation provides valuable perspective.
Bookkeeping Certificates and Organizations
Today’s business world means you might face a new challenge daily, as the business environment is ever-changing. These bookkeeping organizations offer various programs to help you attain the bookkeeping level of mastery you choose.
The Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping
The Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping (CIB) is a nonprofit organization that offers professional development programs in a variety of bookkeeping disciplines. The CIB’s course offerings in bookkeeping provide solid knowledge regarding common bookkeeping practices and provide you with the skills to use basic computer software programs for an overall well-rounded experience.
CIB classes are offered at community colleges all over Canada and many of them are available online. There are various prerequisites depending on the exact program you enrol in, but you may be able to test out of many of these prerequisites based on prior experience. After you complete your course(s), you receive a Certificate of Achievement that acknowledges your academic accomplishments. Before you can obtain your designation as a Certified Bookkeeper, you must also complete a 3-year practical experience work requirement. You can use experience you gained before, during, or after your courses to put toward this requirement.
The CIB’s overall objectives are to ensure that you leave their program with the proper education and that you possess high moral and ethical standards as you step into your role as bookkeeper.
The Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada
The Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada (IPBC) offers the Tiers Pathway to a Certified Professional Bookkeeper designation. The IPBC has a few different ways for you to obtain certification, and may even accept credits from another company or organization to put towards meeting your requirements. In fact, the IPBC even offers QuickBooks Online Accountant certification in a four-part training module. The topics you will study include:
- How to get started
- Contractors and suppliers
- Online banking and automation
- How to set up client files
After you’ve completed all training sessions, you can then take the QuickBooks Online Accountant exam over the internet.
Free and Low-Cost Online Bookkeeping Courses
The e-learning site, Coursera, has a wealth of materials from colleges and universities around the globe. Their collection of accounting and bookkeeping courses is impressive. While many of their courses have a cost, you can opt for the free versions of whatever courses you decide to take. If you’re only attending for your own knowledge, this is perfect. If you want to take advantage of their accreditation, you can start with a free online bookkeeping course for seven days, then pay just $79 each month for the course or any other course you choose. If you’re a quick study, you can keep your out-of-pocket expenses down. Some of their financial courses include:
- Business Analytics
- Financial Reporting
- Fundamentals of Accounting I and II
Corporate Finance Institute
The Corporate Finance Institute (CFI) has free courses for those studying bookkeeping fundamentals, such as:
- Fundamentals of Accounting
- How to Read Financial Statements
- Crash Course in Excel Accounting
- Introduction to Corporate Finance
- Fixed Income Financials
CFI is based in Canada, and while it’s not as large an institution as some of the provincial campuses, these free classes offer a wealth of information. And if you’re looking for bookkeeping certification, they offer that too, with low tuition charges.
In-Person Bookkeeping Courses
If you have a flexible schedule, being able to attend a physical class has many benefits. When you have a question about anything, you can raise your hand or speak to the instructor afterwards and get instant answers, as opposed to waiting for an email or messenger response.
Usually you can find small business bookkeeping classes at a local library or courthouse. Small business workshops are a great way to not only learn hands-on valuable tips and tricks, but you also get to meet other like-minded individuals learning the ropes.
Provincial-Specific Bookkeeping Courses
Finance laws differ from province to province. British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario, for example, have unique bookkeeping guidelines, and as such, have class offerings that reflect these differences.
Okanagan College in British Columbia offers a 100-hour certification course that will set you up to be a bookkeeper upon graduation. You’ll learn:
- The entire bookkeeping cycle
- How to set up a company’s books
- The impact of your work through a fiscal cycle
- How to use a computerized accounting system
- How to use spreadsheets
- How to administer payroll
Red Deer College in Alberta provides graduates with a foundation of skills that will allow you to keep the books for a company of any size or even start your own bookkeeping firm. Their programs are offered in the evenings so you don’t have to quit your current job while you pursue your certification. If you opt for their Fast Track program, you can have your certification in as little as three months.
With Red Deer’s programs, you’ll learn:
- How the accounting cycle works
- To use QuickBooks software programs
- To understand a financial statement
- To present a financial statement
- Morals and ethics that apply to your practice
Conestoga College offers a one-year certificate program that prepares students to perform bookkeeping and managerial accounting tasks in a traditional manner and through the use of accounting software. Students become competent in a variety of bookkeeping and accounting software programs.
At Conestoga, you’ll learn:
- How to apply bookkeeping practices to financial analysis, reporting, and control
- How to maintain payroll and keep financial records for large or small corporations
- How to form a human resource management system
- Using bookkeeping and accounting as a financial administrator
- How to apply computer practices and techniques to cash transactions, accounts receivable, capital assets and inventories
- How the Canadian income tax system works and how to accurately prepare a T4
Whether you’re venturing into bookkeeping for your own interests, or you’re starting a new position with a company to track and manage their finances, having a solid understanding of bookkeeping is fundamental. Some online bookkeeping courses are free, while some require payment. Your employer may opt to pay for your course.
If you own the business you’re going to be keeping the books for, learning all you can about how to keep your own finances straight saves time and money come tax season. When you use Quickbooks Online Accountant, you can join the Quickbooks Pro Advisor program, which offers courses leading to the core or advanced Quickbooks Online Certification.
QuickBooks Online Accountant helps you manage your work, your clients and your practice, all with one login. Sign up for free.