According to the National Association of Certified Bookkeepers, there are three general levels of bookkeeper training. Entry level bookkeeping jobs often require little more than on-the-job training. People with this level of experience can expect to be able to source documents, create summaries of financial journals and be able to subsidize ledgers. The next level of bookkeeper training qualifies a person as a “full charge bookkeeper.”
Full charge bookkeepers have at least two years of experience, on the job training and a bookkeeping certificate from an accredited body. In addition to the duties performed by entry level bookkeepers, full charge bookkeepers can create financial statements and reports, perform bookkeeping adjustments and keep track of most ledger activities. Full charge bookkeepers may not operate unsupervised without the aid of a certified public accountant or certified public bookkeeper, but may work with them in the field of financial planning and analysis.
Further bookkeeping training earns a person the title of certified public bookkeeper (CPB). To qualify for a CPB, students must obtain a minimum two-year bookkeeping degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. In addition, a CPB must complete a specified number of hours of continuing education and pass a certifying exam, depending on their individual geographic location. One year of experience as a full charge bookkeeper is recommended for students seeking to become a CPB. Certified public bookkeepers can go into business for themselves, and perform services for the general public without supervision.
Bookkeeper training differs from the training needed to become a certified public accountant (CPA). Accountants perform a greater range of financial services and are further able to advise members of the general public on all aspects of financial planning, whereas bookkeepers deal almost entirely with the numerical and paperwork aspects. An accounting degree, licensure and continuing education are required for all certified public accountants.
The style of training and rate of pay is variable depending upon the type of bookkeeper training obtained and the geographic location. Community colleges, technical schools and four-year institutions offer various forms of training. Online programs are also an option for those who are currently holding a job or otherwise unable to attend classes in a traditional on-campus setting.
To ensure that a person is getting a quality education, it is recommended that prospective students thoroughly research the bookkeeping school or institution that is offering courses. The National Association of Certified Bookkeepers keeps track of legitimate programs within the United States. Outside the United States, persons interested in learning more can consult the England-based International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB), or the Canadian Bookkeepers Association (CBA). Speaking with current and former students of the program is also a viable way of finding out just what to expect from a bookkeeper training course.