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How to Become a Bookkeeper

Money makes the world go round 一 money ties businesses, employees and piggy banks together worldwide. Still, with some people floundering with their basic household budgets, it’s a wonder that companies can manage to make head or tail of their finances.
Auditor Or Internal Revenue Service Staff

Here’s the secret, most of them couldn’t! Enter bookkeepers - the unsung heroes of everything finance. A lucrative and well-established Australian career, bookkeeping bolsters business nationally and globally whilst maintaining stable employment rates and financial returns. With low entry-level requirements, bookkeeping offers countless opportunities and pathways to the mathematically minded. But you’re probably wondering, what exactly does a bookkeeper do?

What is a bookkeeper?

A bookkeeper is an integral player in the smooth operation of a business. By accurately recording and managing all financial documentation, bookkeepers allow business owners to allocate time and resources to other tasks. This is due to bookkeepers assuring their employers that their finances are in good hands. Bookkeepers perform a large variety of functions, including:

  • Record keeping
  • Accurate financial reports & data entry
  • Outline key business metrics
  • Manage accounts receivable/payable and process payroll
  • Budget maintenance
  • Business Activity Statements (BAS) and compliance preparation
  • Invoice creation
  • Monitor debts and overdue accounts
  • End of year reporting

By delegating financial management to a certified bookkeeper, a business ensures its financial records are kept up-to-date with accurate information, allowing for easier management and development of budgets. Bookkeepers also allow business owners the peace of mind that they are appropriately prepared for any potential audits and have detailed cross-referenced information.

Man concentrating at his work, writing in a journal

What’s the difference between bookkeeping and accounting?

Bookkeeping and accounting seem pretty similar to the untrained eye, but there are a few distinguishing differences. Whilst similar in responsibilities, a career as an accountant generally requires higher education requirements than bookkeeping. Accounting is therefore considered a natural step in career progression. Differences between bookkeeping and accounting are as follows:

  • Tasks: Bookkeepers and accountants perform slightly different tasks. While both professions require financial and mathematical skills, bookkeepers focus on the accuracy and management of information, whilst accountants are further skilled in making projections, interpretations, and data assessments. Essentially, accountants can provide financial analysis and insights whilst bookkeepers perform an administrative role, collating data and providing records for accountants to further develop into analytical reports.
  • Education: There is no higher education requirement past high school required to become a bookkeeper; however, training and a Certificate in Accounting and Bookkeeping places aspiring bookkeepers at a more competitive level in the employment scene. Further education is highly recommended as a pathway into bookkeeping, with specialised classes providing vital knowledge in essential skills such as report preparation and software competencies. Additionally, bookkeepers are required to be BAS certified to lodge tax returns. A BAS certification requires completion of relevant GST & BAS units, a minimum age of 18 years, professional indemnity insurance and 1000 hours of relevant experience in the past four years for a recognised association member to 1400 hours without membership. Comparatively, accountants generally have a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) title. Accountants are also held to strict requirements and codes of practice under the professional accounting bodies in Australia.

What are some key bookkeeper skills?

Though mathematical skills are integral to a bookkeeper's success, they’re not the only requirement. As key players in the business, bookkeepers need a broad range of skills in addition to their basic credentials. To succeed as a bookkeeper, you will need most if not all of the following soft and hard skills:

  • Communication skills - To perform well as a bookkeeper, you will need to clearly and concisely communicate financial information to other team members and business employees.
  • Digital literacy - As technology begins to play a more critical part in business, it’s essential to remain versatile and savvy with various accounting software. This software could include XERO, Quickbooks, Zoho, FreshBooks and Microsoft Excel.
  • Continued learning - Expanding upon your bookkeeping knowledge determines your ability to continue servicing businesses in the best way possible.
  • Integrity - As a bookkeeper, you have intimate knowledge of the business finances and practices; therefore, you need to position yourself as a trustworthy member of finances.
  • Attention to detail - The details are in the numbers; being consistent and rigorous with organisation and documentation is vital in maintaining clear records and data.
  • Data entry - Clean and organised data entry ensures that bookkeepers can quickly complete and refer to any information they need.
  • Organisational skills - By organising and maintaining all information using the proper tools, bookkeepers allow the business to run smoothly. This includes the ability to manage time effectively.

Benefits of being a bookkeeper

Whilst the skills required to become a successful bookkeeper may seem daunting, bookkeeping as a career is highly rewarding. Bookkeeping is a versatile and integral position within all businesses and therefore offers consistent and readily available work and opportunities worldwide. Not only is bookkeeping versatile in location but also in the field, with many types of businesses requiring bookkeeping services. This variety in choice allows bookkeepers freedom to work within an industry relevant to their interests and passions.

Bookkeeping has career growth potential, with many bookkeepers going on to higher-paying accounting positions. Additionally, this position allows for flexible working arrangements with freelance, part-time and full-time work capacity options available to bookkeepers.

The best pathway into bookkeeping is further education, with a certification enabling students to perform greater bookkeeping responsibilities such as tax returns whilst opening up multiple employment opportunities. Not only do these qualifications increase your employability, but they require minimal time compared to the accountancy requirements.

How to become a certified bookkeeper

Becoming a certified bookkeeper will expand your horizons, allowing for extensive employment opportunities and more comprehensive and desirable skills. There are two levels of bookkeeping you can train for, bookkeeping and BAS or tax agent. Working as a bookkeeper without BAS responsibilities requires a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, which is available for study through SWTAFE at our Warrnambool campus.

Our course is available delivered at a full-time capacity for 12 to 15 months. Your course duration will depend on your choice of delivery method, with two programs offered in either the day or evening. To be admitted into this course, students must attend an information session where they will complete a questionnaire. Once this is done, it’s simply a matter of applying at the SWTAFE website. Following this, you will undergo a pre-training review online and an interview.

By studying a Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping with SWTAFE, you will acquire the skills to progress into a career in bookkeeping and the sufficient educational requirements to register as a BAS agent. Additionally, this course will open a pathway into the Diploma for Accounting at SWTAFE and a Bachelor level in business or commerce if you so choose. This Certificate is also offered as a Free TAFE course for eligible students. For more information on our Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, you can view our website here.

How much do bookkeepers earn?

Bookkeeping is an illustrious career path with minimal entry requirements and high job flexibility. If that wasn’t enough to pique students’ interest nationwide already, this career also offers a competitive entry-level salary. According to, as a bookkeeper in Australia, you can expect to earn an entry-level salary of $59,475 per annum. Additional information collated from Seek and Payscale shows that wages for bookkeepers can climb to up to $77,000 per annum with further experience.

This career path has substantial opportunities for maximising income, with freelance options available for consideration additional to your primary employment. As a self-employed bookkeeper, you already have a leg up on many independent businesses; you can do your own bookkeeping!

Career opportunities in bookkeeping

Despite the popularity of bookkeeping as a career path, with over 100,200 bookkeepers working in Australia in 2019, bookkeeping has plenty of opportunities available with a stable future growth projection. Fresh graduates will be spoiled for choice with employment opportunities boasting an average 33% full-time workforce and a standard weekly pay of $1234. Not only will you have the ability to consider positions in various companies and locations, but bookkeeping offers further employment growth opportunities with the ability to progress into many study pathways that can lead to positions such as:

  • Accountant
  • Senior accountant
  • Finance manager
  • Tax accountant
  • Senior bookkeeper
  • Finance officer

With the facts laid out and the numbers crunched, bookkeeping is a fantastic opportunity for Australians nationwide, offering low entry-level requirements for high salaries and employment opportunities. If you enjoy budgeting and tracking your finances, you’re sure to take an interest in this career path. With an eye for details and a mathematical mind, bookkeeping offers a versatile and flexible industry with career growth and competitive salaries. The numbers all add up, and the data points to a successful career in bookkeeping, now to add the key factor: you!