What does a bookkeeper do? (Duties, careers and salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 8 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a bookkeeper could be a great career path for you if you're highly organised and enjoy working with numbers. To succeed in this profession, it's necessary to build a strong skill set and to learn how to use popular accounting software. Reviewing the common duties of a bookkeeper can help you decide if this is the right profession for you. In this article, we answer, 'What does a bookkeeper do?', explain their day-to-day duties and show you how much you can make in this profession.

What does a bookkeeper do?

Learning the answer to 'What does a bookkeeper do?' is helpful when you're considering which career in finance and accounting to pursue. Bookkeeping is a regulated profession, which means it's necessary that bookkeepers comply with Money Laundering Regulations (MLR) legislation. A bookkeeper is usually an office professional who keeps track of a company's financial records. They also help prepare accounts and financial statements for the company's accountant. Although many bookkeepers are full-time employees working for one employer, it's also possible for them to become self-employed and help individual clients complete their financial documentation, including self-assessment. Typical daily duties of a bookkeeper include:

  • processing invoices and payment receipts

  • completing VAT returns

  • preparing income statements

  • ensuring the accuracy of financial records

  • using accounting software to generate financial reports

  • keeping track of an employer's daily transactions

  • preparing the books for the accounting team

Which skills do bookkeepers usually use?

Building a strong skill set is essential to pursuing a career as a bookkeeper. This usually involves developing soft skills, such as interpersonal skills, and hard skills, such as a strong understanding of accounting and financial regulations. To increase your chances of succeeding in this profession, consider focusing on developing these skills:

Attention to detail

Bookkeepers process large volumes of financial statements and documentation daily. Their duties can get repetitive, which means it's important that they remain attentive at all times. Strong attention to detail helps them notice and quickly identify any discrepancies that could result in financial losses for their clients.

Collaboration and communication

As a bookkeeper, you may regularly work with accountants and other finance professionals within a company, as you would be preparing statements and accounts that they can then process. The ability to collaborate and communicate with others is essential. This allows you to prioritise your duties to make sure the company's financial department reaches its productivity goals on time.

Customer service

Bookkeepers can make good use of their customer service skills when they decide to become self-employed and work with multiple clients. It's also a useful skill for full-time bookkeepers who may occasionally assist professional customer service representatives in dealing with difficult clients. For example, they can help with explaining the debt collection or billing processes to them.

Mathematical knowledge

This is one of the most important skills for bookkeepers. Although employers rarely require them to know advanced maths, basic maths knowledge is essential, as it allows them to add, subtract and divide financial figures to ensure statements and receipts are accurate. Maths knowledge is also a sign that can show a potential employer that you like working with numbers, which is what you do daily in this profession.

Knowledge of accounting software

Most bookkeepers use specialised accounting software to process and generate financial documentation. Accounting software also helps them store and prepare financial data that they forward to accountants. Being able to use at least one popular accounting program significantly increases your chances of finding a job as a bookkeeper, as it shows employers that you already have some experience in the field.

How to become a bookkeeper

Depending on your career plan and situation, there are several ways you can choose to become a bookkeeper. These include:

1. Consider a college course

Obtaining a university degree is usually unnecessary for junior roles in bookkeeping, and one of the most popular ways of becoming a bookkeeper involves completing a relevant college course. For example, you can consider a level 2 certificate in bookkeeping, accounting or manual and computerised bookkeeping. To qualify for a certificate of this type, it may be necessary that you have two or more GCSEs in grades 9 to 3.

Related: What A levels do you need to be an accountant? (With FAQs)

2. Complete an apprenticeship

An apprenticeship can be a great solution if you'd like to continue your education while gaining work experience as a bookkeeper. Bookkeeping intermediate apprenticeships are widely available and usually take around one year to complete. During an apprenticeship of this type, you learn about bookkeeping theory while working as an accounts and finance assistant. To qualify for this programme, it's important that you have some GCSE qualifications. English and maths are two common options.

3. Find an entry-level job in bookkeeping

If you're a motivated self-learner, you may successfully work your way up to an independent bookkeeping position. This way of becoming a bookkeeper usually involves finding an entry-level position as an assistant, which would give you a chance to support an experienced bookkeeper and learn from them at work. To make your application more attractive to potential employers looking for finance assistants, consider learning about common accounting software at home.

4. Stay up to date with financial regulations

Bookkeepers process financial documentation and prepare statements for accountants. This means that they often use their knowledge of current tax regulations to perform their duties. Most commonly, regulations that affect bookkeepers include money laundering, terrorist financing and transfer of funds regulations.

5. Consider certification

Becoming a certified accountant can help you explore better work opportunities. It also improves your professional qualifications in finance and bookkeeping. Official bookkeeping qualifications that you can consider include:

  • AAT Access Award in Bookkeeping

  • AAT Access Award in Accounting Software

  • AAT Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping

  • AAT Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping

Read more: Guide to accounting certifications to help you stand out

Salary of a bookkeeper

The national average salary of a bookkeeper is £23,447 per year. Salaries in this profession may vary depending on the size of a company and your professional experience. For example, if you're looking for an entry-level position as an assistant bookkeeper you're likely to make £22,234 per year. More experienced bookkeepers in senior roles make around £26,591 per year.

Other careers in accounting and finance

If you're unsure about becoming a bookkeeper, there are many other careers in finance and accounting that you could explore. These careers include:

1. Accountant

National average salary: £35,019 per year

Primary duties: An accountant is a finance professional responsible for preparing accounts and tax returns. They often monitor spending budgets and prepare financial forecasting reports. Senior accountants can also provide employers and clients with advice on reducing operations costs.

Related: 12 types of accountants and different areas of accountancy

2. Auditor

National average salary: £31,431 per year

Primary duties: An auditor is someone who ensures that companies and individuals comply with internal and general regulations and financial procedures. To determine that, they usually examine records, reports and documentation that bookkeepers, accountants and other financial professionals working at companies prepare. After analysing a company's documentation, auditors then prepare comprehensive reports that document their findings.

Read more: Auditor skills for ensuring financial accuracy and transparency

3. Budget analyst

National average salary: £43,176 per year

Primary duties: Budget analysts are typically responsible for analysing budgets that companies allocate to their processes. They also help organisations determine more efficient ways of using their resources, which often helps companies maximise profits. In other words, budget analysts work with private or public companies and help them plan their finances for maximum financial growth.

4. Cost estimator

National average salary: £32,809 per year

Primary duties: A cost estimator is a professional who gathers and analyses data related to the costs of resources, including raw materials and labour. They then use this information to estimate how companies can effectively price their products or services to match industry standards. By providing different pricing strategies, they help businesses sell more by impacting customers' purchasing decisions.

5. Loan advisor

National average salary: £23,915 per year

Primary duties: Loan advisors are responsible for evaluating and authorising the approval of loans, including business, real estate or credit loans. Most loan officers work at commercial banks or mortgage companies, but it's also possible for them to work at other financial institutions or become self-employed. Self-employed advisors often offer their services to individual clients who want to analyse their financial situation before taking a loan.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles