Bookkeeping remains one of the steadiest and in-demand occupations, as businesses the world over search for talented bookkeepers to maintain and organise their finances.
There are many ways to become a bookkeeper, notably studying through a recognised bookkeeping institution and obtaining an official bookkeeping license, or perhaps taking a less conventional route: such as an apprenticeship, trainee position or beginning with work experience. No matter what your preferred method of study, the following guide to studying bookkeeping will be of use.
1. What is Bookkeeping?
Bookkeeping is one of the oldest jobs in the world: it involves the tracking and organising of financial records – either for a company, an organisation or an individual. Bookkeepers function as somewhat of a personal watchdog over an organisation’s finances and balance-books; organising payroll, expenses, economic input and output and looking out for any inconsistencies or hints of financial trouble. Almost every company or organisation is required to use bookkeeping in their economic management, and many outsource this role either to a bookkeeping firm or to an individual bookkeeping sole-trader.
2. Where Do I Study Bookkeeping?
There are plenty of options and pathways into bookkeeping, most primarily in the form of a direct course either online, offline or a mix of the two. However, it is important to be prudent when browsing and choosing a course: some bookkeeping “courses” – for example, those provided by universities, colleges or private companies – are not always pathways to obtaining an officially recognised certification in bookkeeping.
If you are serious about the subject and want to become fully licensed, a course such as one offered by the IAB (International Association of Bookkeepers), the ICB (Institute of Certified Bookkeepers) or the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) is the best option. After completing a course administrated by the IAB, ICB or AAT, you will receive an officially recognised bookkeeping license, either at an Advanced or Foundation level. Other courses, especially for those with no financial experience, might be able to serve as a starting point before investing in an official pathway to obtaining a bookkeeping license.
3. Do I Need Certain Qualifications to Study Bookkeeping?
The short answer to this question is no. There are courses in bookkeeping for those of all academic levels and for those with no qualifications whatsoever. With an official organisation such as the IAB, ICB or AAT, there are various levels depending on your skillset, with the options to advance to the next level after completing the preceding course. For more unofficial courses – courses that finish without granting an official ‘license’ – there are levels for those at entry-level and those already with a base in finance.
However, it is important to note that studying bookkeeping will involve a lot of numeracy work; you will have to be at ease with numbers and have an interest in the world of business and finance to truly make the most of your course, and to, of course, ensure that you obtain your diploma or license at the end. A course in bookkeeping might not demand A-levels or advanced qualifications, but that does not mean the course is simple or easy. Like anything else, it will require work, commitment and consistency.
4. What Can I Expect From My Course?
An official course in bookkeeping will train you in all aspects of financial management; payroll, VAT, invoices, preparing wages, monitoring and managing finances, error correction and also train you in how to look for any inconsistencies or signs of trouble in an organisation’s balance-books. You will learn how to use various administrative and computing systems, as well as both double-entry and single-entry bookkeeping.
The duration of your time studying will depend on whether you study full-time or part-time, which course you choose and, of course, at what stage in your career you begin your studies. Courses can vary from 80 hours to 160 hours with some extra contact hours – either with a tutor or work experience – meaning that it is possible to become licensed and ready to work – along with enough experience of the job itself – in less than one year.
Certain more foundational courses are shorter in length, some even only taking 6-12 weeks to complete online, but the duration of your studies fundamentally depends on what you wish to do once you have completed your course, whether you wish to obtain an official license or simply build on an already-established skillset. When it comes to course fees, everything depends on what course you take, your own financial situation and whether you are eligible for government funding.
5. What Can I Do With My Bookkeeping Diploma?
One advantage of a certificate in bookkeeping is that you can begin to work right away. A license in bookkeeping from a reputable organisation such as the IAB, ICB or AAT will grant you the opportunity to join a bookkeeping firm, which is the recommended option for those at entry-level. It is important to remember that working as a bookkeeper is a serious job, as you will be handling important and sensitive information. For this reason, working firstly in a firm – where you will gain direct experience with clients and advice and coaching from superiors – is advised.
Once you have enough experience of the job you will be able to branch out, potentially becoming a sole trader, starting your own business and working independently, part-time or even from home. Bookkeeping is one of the more flexible occupations in the world of finance, and there exist plenty ways to modify your workload to suit your lifestyle or family commitments.
6. Non-Academic Routes to Bookkeeping
Whilst a course in bookkeeping and obtaining an official license is one of the fastest and most efficient methods to begin your bookkeeping career, financial and other restraints can often mean that it is not always possible for everyone to follow this path. There exist other options to study bookkeeping: for example the ICB offers apprenticeships, which mix the theoretical practice of bookkeeping with hands-on experience in the job.
For those unable to study but who have already either a background in finance, an interest and aptitude in numeracy or a degree in an equivalent subject, some firms take on trainee bookkeepers and apprentices, enabling you to learn on the job with the option of taking an academic course later on to enhance your skillset.
Does a career in bookkeeping sound like something you may be interested in? Why not check out our courses and get started on your bookkeeping journey today?