Should you consider a bookkeeping career?
Bookkeeping is a popular profession here in Australia. It has the advantages of being a semi-professional ‘white-collar’ career. Still, 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.
Bookkeeping, as a profession, is designed to generate and record data regarding the financial activities and transactions of an organisation. These include purchases, receipts, sales, and payroll.
All the nitty-gritty numerical work falls under the responsibilities of a bookkeeper. This is expected more from a bookkeeper as compared to an accountant. Attention to detail must be exceptional and almost flawless.
What does bookkeeping offer me?
To help you determine whether bookkeeping is your dream career, you need to understand what it offers. The work done by bookkeepers revolves around ensuring financial efficiency and profitability of firms. Sometimes, your analytical thinking and leadership skills may be required to complete some tasks – especially in cases where you have to interpret some financial information. Some of the specific tasks that a bookkeeper is required to do are balance accounts, complete GST returns, prepare invoices, check the company’s bank states and prepare cash flow statements, among other responsibilities. Do you think these responsibilities are what you want to do for a living? Do you have high accuracy and a keen eye for detail? If the answer to these two questions is yes, then bookkeeping is probably the career for you.
Bookkeeping: Accountant or Bookkeeper?
If you are eyeing a long-term career in the financial services industry, then it is best to pursue a career as an accountant.
A career in accounting offers better upward mobility and better income as compared to bookkeeping. Meanwhile, if you’re not yet set to commit to a long-term career and would want to test and see the financial services industry’s ins and outs, a career in bookkeeping should suit your needs.
Being a bookkeeper is an ideal starting point for those who want a decent salary and is still planning out the long-term scheme of their career path.
Another point to consider in choosing which career to pursue is the educational background required.
Landing a job in accounting requires a higher level of educational attainment such as advanced accounting courses, as compared to bookkeeping. A huge chunk of the study load comes from learning the ins and outs of taxation.
It is an accountant’s duty to keep every tax-related matter in check — and one of which is the monitoring the BAS of an organisation.
The Business Activity Statement or BAS is a form submitted to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) by registered business entities to report their tax obligations such as GST, PAYGW and a few more.
Pursuing a bookkeeping role, on the other hand, has lighter educational requirements. Again, this is mainly because bookkeepers do not need to extensively analyse data, offer any financial insight or advise, and to be involved in the business’s tax regulations. But just because it’s lighter than being an accountant, doesn’t mean that it’s the easier career choice.
It’s important to note that bookkeepers do serious number-crunching work in keeping tabs of the company’s financial records and transactions — and that’s no light work. Which means an aspiring bookkeeper needs to undergo serious training that would prepare them in the gritty world of bookkeeping.
How Can The Certificate IV In Accounting And Bookkeeping Help You Decide?
If you’re wishing to pursue a career in the financial services industry, and are still undecided if you want to specialise in accounting or bookkeeping, then it may be a relief for you to know that the Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping course is a mix of accounting and bookkeeping qualifications.
Study Accounting and Bookkeeping Certificate to help you decide
Holding this qualification will qualify you as a competent bookkeeper. And if in your time as a bookkeeper, you find yourself wanting to be an accountant, then you can shift your specialisation.
The same thing goes if you initially decided to be an accountant, and later wanted to shift into a bookkeeper.
This is the perfect qualification to undertake if you are still undecided on where you would specialise in the financial services industry.
Now, don’t get the notion that this course is only for those who are still undecided. If you are already certain that you want to become an accountant or a bookkeeper, this is also the course for you!
Imagine the competency and training you will be able to have once you complete this course, as you will be taking units specialised for bookkeeping and accounting.
How to manage a career as a bookkeeper?
Now, to the nitty-gritty of your work and life balance, a job in bookkeeping in most cases will need you to be at work from 9 am to 5 pm during business days. There may be instances when you will have a pile of work to go through, and you will need a few extra hours to finish the job. Most of the time will be spent at your desk answering enquiries or processing requests; especially if you are an internal employee in an organisation. If you do not find permanent work, temporary employment is usually available too. This also has opportunities for job sharing, part-time gigs or freelance accounting work.
How do I become a bookkeeper?
To become a qualified bookkeeper, you must go through four years of study in an accredited institution of higher learning in Australia or any other part of the world. The entry points for such a course are not very high, with the applicant only being required to have average grades in Mathematics, English and computer skills. However, there are online courses for bookkeeping, and this will be a great choice if you need to fit studies around a family or other jobs.
Bookkeeping is a versatile career, and virtually all businesses require the services of a bookkeeper. If you are looking forward to working for a large organisation, you will have to start as a junior accountant where you can learn from the more experienced staff. In this career, training is not much of an issue; rather, most firms will want to know whether you are accredited by the necessary bodies regulating the profession. If you have good concentration, the ability to work quickly and are discrete, honest and trustworthy, and then bookkeeping is the career choice for you.
How are bookkeepers different to accountants?
Bookkeeping is a vital service. But how does it differ from accounting? The two services are often compared, but they are complementary:
Bookkeepers do the day-to-day work and bring the accounts up to a high standard of detail and accuracy. They can also advise you on issues that might affect you in the near future, such as cash flow problems or late invoice payment.
Accountants will look at the accounts that have been created, often on a quarterly basis. They will make any minor adjustments required. They will use the information in the accounts to file tax returns and other official reports. They will also provide high-level business advisory services.
For your business to run smoothly, ideally you need both people. You’d hire a bookkeeper to look after the day-to-day work. And you’d hire an accountant to handle official reporting and high-level business advice.
Reasons to Consider a Career in Bookkeeping
If you have started to consider a career in bookkeeping, you may have a few questions. Read on to discover the many reasons to consider a career in bookkeeping.
Excellent Jobs Prospects
The demand for bookkeepers is high and on the rise. You have an excellent chance of gaining employment once you complete your qualification. Bookkeepers are wanted everywhere, so if it is your dream to work overseas, you should consider a career in bookkeeping.
There are also a large variety of industries you can work in as a bookkeeper. Some individuals choose to stick to the world of finance, but you can work in retail sectors, healthcare or insurance, the list is endless!
This is a great career pathway if you find you become tired of a role easily. You will have the opportunity to move around and work in different settings, so you never have to worry about your role becoming dull.
You Control Your Career
The roles and responsibilities of a bookkeeper differ from accountants. Although the two have common goals, they primarily operate in different stages of the financial cycle. Both career pathways are essential in the world of finance.
If you start your career in bookkeeping, you can choose where and how quickly you progress. A Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping can get your foot in the door. Still, if you decide you want to move into accounting or auditing, you can easily complete further qualifications such as a TAFE course to help you get there.
Bookkeepers can also choose to work part-time or full-time to suit their needs. Longer workdays are common around tax time and the end of the financial year. Usually, bookkeepers work regular Monday – Friday business hours.
High Earning Potential
Earning a steady salary can be a great source of comfort for individuals in today’s economy. Bookkeepers earn a solid income which grows with years of experience. The average salary of a bookkeeper in Australia is $56,000 a year. You can also easily transition into higher-paid roles within the sector. For those who are dreaming of earning a salary that offers you the chance to fulfil lifelong aspirations such as travelling and buying a house, you should consider a career in bookkeeping.
A TAFE course can help increase your earning potential. The Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping (FNS40217) is the quickest way to get your foot in the door and gain the on-the-job experience that will land you the best positions!
Technological Skills Are a Must
Many bookkeeping jobs involve a number of technical duties and often require knowledge of a variety of computer programs and systems. Strong computer skills are required as many bookkeeping functions have moved to cloud-based software like MYOB and Xero. Although the roles and responsibilities of a bookkeeper will still require you to be able to make calculations manually to ensure accuracy, having a grasp of IT related skills to the accounting field will put you ahead of the job competition.
Digital programs are used in bookkeeping to make the job easier. Once you have landed a role in bookkeeping, you can sharpen up your computer skills with a TAFE course if you need extra training. However, most programs will be intuitive and should not cause you too much trouble.
Anyone with a love of numbers will find bookkeeping to be the ideal career pathway. The roles and responsibilities of a bookkeeper require a great amount of attention to detail and patience. If you are not a strong multi-tasker, there is no need to worry! Bookkeeping generally requires you to focus on one financial situation at a time so that your work is accurate.
If you are a social person, you should consider a career in bookkeeping. Day-to-day interactions with clients ensure that you can be closely involved with a wide range of people. On the other hand, if you find that you are more of an introverted person, there are still plenty of opportunities for you in bookkeeping as well. The diversity of the role makes it a great choice for personalities of all types.
Experience in Bookkeeping
Many people learn fundamental bookkeeping skills as part of their work or by doing bookkeeping functions while running their businesses. 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.
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 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.
Is it worth it?
If you are looking for a well-paying career with excellent prospects for career advancement, then bookkeeping can be a real consideration. In the Australian job market, the average pay for bookkeeper’s ranges in the sum of AU$25.38 per hour. The best thing is that they pay for bookkeepers does not vary much from new bookkeepers and experienced ones. There is also a lot of flexibility in the profession; for this reason, it is possible to take up part-time jobs in areas of consultancy if your organisation’s policy is not against it. Job security in this sector is almost guaranteed because even with all the numerous accounting software, there is still a substantial need for human beings to monitor them.
Whoever you hire needs to be trusted with the everyday details of your business finances. So you should be very careful when you hire a bookkeeper.
There are many bookkeeping businesses, so you’ll have plenty of choices. You could contact one directly, or you could ask if your business partners or clients have any recommendations.
If you have an accountant, ask them too. It’s best if you can find someone who uses the same accounting software as your accountant. That way, they can share account information easily.
Ideally, the accounting software should be cloud-based, which means it’s accessed online. Then all of you will be able to share access to the financial data for your business. You can do it remotely and securely – from anywhere.
Once you’ve narrowed down a short-list of bookkeepers, you can:
- check their past work record
- contact their referees and talk to them
- ask your accountant to have a meeting with your proposed bookkeeper.
Trusting the financial details of your business with anyone is a big step. So do your research carefully before you hire a bookkeeper.
The concept of ‘low touch’ bookkeeping is a poor provision of very limited data entry services. It would be limited to using technology to read bank transactions that have already happened, and process them into accounting software. This is not cutting edge service provision. It is not true bookkeeping. It is not helping business.
Accounting firms can perform bookkeeping, but the provision of ‘true bookkeeping’ will require intense involvement with the business, and a set of integrated business management systems knowledge and skills.