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How to Become a Bookkeeper
Bookkeeping is a popular profession here in Australia. It has the advantages of being a semi-professional ‘white-collar’ career, but at the same time, it offers you opportunities to start your own business, work from home, and enjoy a rewarding career in the bookkeeping and accounting industry.
Barriers when entering the workforce as a bookkeeper are fewer compared to entering it as an accountant. For one, many professional accounting roles require degrees.
Doesn’t starting your career in financial services as a bookkeeper seem less daunting than studying a university course for more than 3 years?
In this industry, as you build on your experience and skills and gain more qualifications, your opportunities for work continue to grow:
1. After one year of relevant experience and by gaining a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping through a qualification course, you can become a registered BAS Agent and provide valuable BAS (business activity statement) services as a Contract Bookkeeper.
3. If you decide to get a degree in accounting later in your career, then you will be able to take on more challenging roles in the financial services industry and ultimately get certified by a professional accounting association!
How to Become a Bookkeeper?
There may be no formal qualifications needed to be a bookkeeper, but the two most common ways people become one are experience and training.
Many people learn fundamental bookkeeping skills as part of their work or by doing bookkeeping functions while running their own businesses. In fact, many roles in the workplace include basic bookkeeping tasks already, so learning by experience is common.
Pretty much anyone with general administration jobs—like a receptionist, an office administrator, or people working in small businesses with “all-rounder” duties—will have done some basic bookkeeping already. Seemingly menial tasks such as recording payments, processing receipts, and entering data into a computerised accounting system are all bookkeeping tasks.
Many careers in financial services might have been kicked off this way: people started with an entry-level role, then they gained exposure to bookkeeping, and lastly they enrol in a bookkeeping course so they can learn new skills and get a formal qualification.
Undergoing training through a dedicated bookkeeping course is another way to start your career in financial services. During the course you will learn the skills and knowledge required to start out in the industry; and by successfully completing the course you will earn a formal qualification to show to potential employers.
With heaps of bookkeeping courses available, where do you start?
One option is vocational courses. These may be shorter compared to bookkeeping courses in unis, but they are also nationally recognised and accredited across Australia. These courses include:
- • FNS30317 Certificate III in Accounts Administration
- • FNS40217 Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping
- • FNS50217 Diploma of Accounting
The Cert IV bookkeeping course is a very popular starting qualification because aside from learning about bookkeeping and accounting, it also fulfills the training requirements for BAS registration (more on this later on). The Cert IV is also a prerequisite for the Diploma of Accounting.
Here are other courses that include bookkeeping training, but are not dedicated bookkeeping courses:
- • BSB30415 Certificate III in Business Administration
- • BSB40515 Certificate IV in Business Administration
Experience and ability are usually the essential factors employers consider when hiring a bookkeeper, so you will almost certainly need to earn a qualification at some point in your bookkeeping career, whether you’re self-employed or a part of a company!
So, what do you actually do as a bookkeeper?
Common Bookkeeping Duties
As a bookkeeper, you may be responsible for the following:
- • Recognising the work the business does and making sure customers are correctly billed
- • Issuing invoices to customers and keeping records thereof
- • Ensuring customers pay their invoice
- • Tracking how the business spends money
- • Monitoring cash payments through relevant documents, i.e., knowing what the payment was for and recording it
- • Determining whether an invoicing system is required and knowing how it should be set up
- • Receiving supplier invoices, checking their validity, and scheduling payments
- • Paying suppliers and keeping record of the transactions
- • Calculating payroll and ensuring employees are paid on time and in full
- • Establishing processes for how business money should be spent and recorded
The most common reason for hiring bookkeepers is for doing the BAS of an organisation. It is one of the most important functions of a bookkeeper.
For those wondering, BAS stands for Business Activity Statements; these are tax documents that businesses need to submit to the Australian Taxation Office throughout the year.
These reports are often too complicated or too time-consuming for business owners to prepare themselves, so they hire bookkeepers to do it for them. They let the financial professionals handle the BAS to avoid misreporting, which lead to penalties.
Bookkeepers need to be registered as BAS Agents to get paid to prepare these statements, and they don’t necessarily need to do a special bookkeeping course to get registered.
This is explained in more detail in this blog.
Contract bookkeeping became known as a career when finance professionals saw a gap that they needed to address.
Many small businesses had a dilemma about completing their BAS: they were too small to employ a full-time or part-time bookkeeper, but professional accountants were too expensive to hire for preparing BAS. To address this, they looked for bookkeepers that they can employ on short-term contracts and at reasonable rates.
Eventually the gap was filled, and over time, more people got drawn into the new practice. They enrolled in bookkeeping courses, got their qualifications, and registered as BAS agents, so they can get paid for providing BAS services. After all, contract bookkeeping comes with great benefits.
For one, contract bookkeepers typically run their own small businesses remotely from their workstations at home or at a shared office. This alone made it an ideal career option for stay-at-home parents, for young people who want flexibility in their work, and for those who find working for someone else too restrictive, among others.
Get more information about contract bookkeeping in this blog.
Bookkeeping is not a dead-end career. Once in the industry, you can still take bookkeeping courses like the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping; or if you already have the Cert IV, then you can build on it by taking a Diploma of Accounting course. From there you can even go to a university to complete an accounting degree!
Once you have the qualifications and experience, you can become certified by professional accounting associations like Certified Practising Accountants (CPA), which may open up many new career options for you. If that isn’t enough, then you may enrol in the Advanced Diploma of Accounting course or other post-graduate studies!
Bookkeeping is a solid career path with real options, and becoming a bookkeeper is just the start of your journey.
The more you work at it, the further you can go—either through developing your skills and becoming a big-shot Chief Finance Officer or CEO, or by building your bookkeeping business into a major company.
If you just want to enjoy a healthy work-life balance and be there for your family, then that’s fine too. With bookkeeping, it’s up to you!