what is a bookkeeper?

As a bookkeeper, you manage financial records. Some businesses may still write each transaction down in an actual book, but in modern times, many of the "books" you keep will be digital files. You keep track of every time money is spent or received. Your job may also include receiving and storing financial documents, such as invoices and receipts. In addition to creating financial statements, some bookkeepers also audit accounts or manage the payroll.

Every business uses bookkeepers, from fashion designers to sports bars and aerospace manufacturers. Bookkeepers might work for small local businesses or large international corporations. Since this job is so essential to managing a business, there are many different types of bookkeeping jobs to choose from.

bookkeepers vs. accountants

Accountants and bookkeepers are often mixed up because they have a similar focus on managing a company's finances. However, bookkeepers are specialized accountants that focus on the small details of finances. Accountants often look at big-picture financial trends, while bookkeepers focus on collecting, sorting and analyzing data. Bookkeepers handle day-to-day financial tracking and record keeping. They often need less formal certifications than accountants and may report to an accountant supervisor.

Would working as a bookkeeper suit your record-keeping and analytical skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a bookkeeper role.

bookkeeper jobs

average bookkeeper salary

According to Job Bank, the average salary of a bookkeeper is $44,479 per year, which translates to $22.81 per hour. When you work in an entry-level position, you earn $38,730 per year. While the earning is quite low, it allows you to build your skills and gain experience to move to mid-level positions with better compensation. Experienced bookkeepers with many years of experience make up to $55,000 annually.

how to increase your salary as a bookkeeper

You can increase your bookkeeper's salary by working longer hours or taking on jobs with additional responsibilities. Some industries pay higher salaries due to the complexity of responsibility. For instance, working in the insurance or banking sectors attracts higher salaries than working in a small business. Some locations also have higher earnings because of an increased demand for the role. Due to higher hourly rates, the best regions to work in as a bookkeeper are Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba.

You should also consider the size of the company when finding a job. Small businesses pay less due to the limited resources and minimal work involved. However, large companies have higher hourly rates, resulting from the complexity of the duties associated with the role.

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types of bookkeepers

There are different types of bookkeepers based on the types of records they keep. Some bookkeepers handle all departments, while others at bigger companies may only focus on one area. Some of the different records a bookkeeper can focus on include:

  • accounts payables: as a bookkeeper, you help a business keep track of its bills and debts. You ensure the company’s obligations to suppliers and other stakeholders are met on time to avoid interest charges.
  • accounts receivables: you keep track of the cash flow in the business by ensuring invoices are issued on time. When you collect cash on time, you can reduce bad debts and improve the business's liquidity.
  • payroll: you can specialize in managing the company payroll as a bookkeeper. You keep records of employee work hours and ensure they are paid on time.
woman smiling
woman smiling

working as a bookkeeper

Are you a fan of working with numbers? Then check out the duties, tasks and responsibilities of bookkeepers.


bookkeeper skills and education

Bookkeepers need the following qualifications:

  • educational qualifications: while most employers hire bookkeepers with a secondary school qualification and provide on-the-job training, a college program makes you competitive in the job market. Pursue a college course in bookkeeping, accounting or another relevant field. Alternatively, pursue a recognized professional accounting program like Certified General Accounting or Chartered Accounting. When you finish the first level, you can become a bookkeeper.
  • work experience: gain relevant work experience by working as a financial or accounting clerk. Your experience improves your chances of getting a higher-paying job.

competencies and characteristics of bookkeepers

Successful bookkeepers are analytical, focused, and can easily pay attention to even the smallest details. To perform well at your job, you need the following skills:

  • mathematical skills: although bookkeeping software will handle a lot of calculations for you, it is important to fully understand concepts like addition and subtraction. Mathematical skills make it easier to quickly estimate things and tell at a glance if a ledger needs to be corrected.
  • technological skills: modern bookkeepers spend a lot of time working with computer software. You need knowledge of programs like Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks.
  • attention to detail: as a bookkeeper, you focus on small details and stay focused, even when performing repetitive tasks. Good bookkeepers are meticulous record-keepers who put a lot of effort into ensuring all records are correct.
  • organizational skills: to avoid any issues, you need excellent organizational skills. Good bookkeepers organize numbers, documents, files and more.
  • time management: many bookkeepers work independently. You sit by yourself and create goals to ensure you finish all your work in a timely manner.


Here, you will find the answers to the most frequently asked questions about the profession of a bookkeeper.


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