Bookkeepers keep accurate financial records and data for businesses.
They ensure that all of a company’s incomings and outgoings are accounted for, manage day-to-day cash flow and help to prepare company accounts and tax returns.
This complete guide features a full bookkeeper job description and everything else you need to know about bookkeepers, including salaries, qualifications, career progression opportunities and more.
- Bookkeeper job description
- How much do bookkeepers earn?
- What does a bookkeeper do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs bookkeepers?
- Which junior jobs progress to bookkeeper roles?
Bookkeeper job description
How much do bookkeepers earn?
The average salary for a bookkeeper in the UK is £27,000. While this is under the national average, the job can offer fantastic opportunities for progression with experience.
Bookkeeper salaries in the UK
- Low: £24,000
- Average: £27,000
- High: £32,500
Bookkeeper salaries will vary hugely depending on:
- The level of responsibility required — Roles with advanced tasks, such as budget control and account audits, may offer higher rates
- Whether the candidate is qualified – Although it’s possible to work as a bookkeeper without formal qualifications, those who are AAT, IAB or ICB qualified typically earn more
- General salary factors – Such as level of candidate experience and location
For example, an AAT-qualified bookkeeper who is involved with more complex financial tasks such as strategy and budget management is likely to earn a higher hourly rate or salary than an unqualified bookkeeper who only has basic bookkeeping duties. Additionally, a bookkeeper working in central London can typically command a higher rate than a bookkeeper working outside of the capital.
The figures listed above are taken from job advert samples and do not include extra benefits such as overtime pay, flexible working opportunities and bonuses.
What does a bookkeeper do?
The typical job description of a bookkeeper includes the following duties, tasks and responsibilities:
- Daily bookkeeping – Keeping an accurate record of all financial transactions, including purchases, sales, receipts, and payments
- Managing general ledger – Keeping track of all business income and expenses
- Processing invoices – Receiving, processing, filing and paying business invoices, as well as creating and sending invoices and ensuring they get paid
- Reconciling accounts – Cross-referencing books and records against bank statements and other financial data to confirm accuracy
- Handling payroll – Calculating and processing employee pay and deductions
- Creating financial reports – Creating a variety of financial reports to summarise the company’s financial position, such as monthly and yearly profit and loss statements
- Preparing tax returns – Working with accountants to prepare tax returns
- Using accounting software – Using a range of accounting software and systems to record financial information
- Ensuring compliance – Ensuring that the company is in line with all financial and tax laws, policies, rules and regulations
What do bookkeepers need?
Bookkeepers need a range of skills, experience and knowledge in order to carry out the job effectively. A good standard of education — and, in some roles, formal bookkeeping qualifications — are often required too.
While specific requirements will vary between employers, here’s what’s generally needed to gain a bookkeeping job and succeed in the role:
Bookkeeper roles are often open to entry-level candidates with no prior experience, as in-house training is normally provided.
However, some employers seek candidates who can hit the ground running and, in these cases, often ask for 1+ years of experience in a bookkeeping, accounts assistant or similar role.
Bookkeepers require the following skills, knowledge and competencies:
- Accountancy basics: Understanding the full breadth of bookkeeping tasks and best practices
- Maths & numeracy: Having a head for numbers and working out sums and calculations with ease
- Accountancy IT packages: Using a range of accounting and financial software and working with databases
- Taxation knowledge: A current understanding of UK tax laws and HMRC reporting responsibilities
- Data entry: Consistently inputting key figures and other information into digital systems and spreadsheets
- Attention to detail: Being detail-oriented and accurate in all work and spotting vital errors before they cause damage
- Confidentiality: Handling sensitive company information, such as payroll records and bank statements, with discretion
- Time management: Carrying out jobs in a timely fashion and meeting crucial deadlines
- Communication: Communicating with accountants, managers, business owners and clients via a variety of mediums including face-to-face, phone and email
It’s possible to become a bookkeeper without any industry-specific qualifications.
However, the majority of employers will expect a good standard of general education. Most employers will place emphasis on a GCSE and/or A-Level in Maths specifically, usually at grade A* – B or C.
With that said, there are several courses and qualifications that can help candidates gain access to higher-paying, more competitive bookkeeping jobs, as well as open up more opportunities for career progression. Some popular options include:
The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualifications
The AAT is the world’s leading professional body for accounting technicians, and offer a range of internationally recognised qualifications. While these are not essential to becoming employed as a bookkeeper, they are highly respected by employers and can be extremely advantageous during the job search.
There are five short bookkeeping qualifications available from the AAT. Each take between six and twelve months to complete:
- Access Award in Bookkeeping (Level 1)
- Access Award in Accounting Software (Level 1)
- Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 2)
- Foundation Award in Accounting Software (Level 2)
- Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 3)
Those who complete the Advanced qualification can apply for AAT associate bookkeeping membership and achieve professional AAT Bookkeeper status, allowing them to use the AATQB designation after their name.
The International Association of Bookkeepers (IAB) qualifications
The International Association of Bookkeepers is one of the most well-recognised professional bookkeeping bodies in the world. They offer a range of Ofqual-regulated qualifications that are designed the provide the necessary bookkeeping and business skills to thrive as a bookkeeper.
The qualifications can be studied flexibly alongside existing work commitments and range from levels 1 – 4. The Level 4 Certificate in International Accounting Standards and IFRS allows bookkeepers to carry out more complex tasks, such as drafting financial statements and preparing consolidated financial statements and can, therefore, lead to higher salaries and greater opportunities for progression within accounting and finance.
The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) qualifications
The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers is the largest bookkeeping body in the world and offers several established bookkeeping qualifications.
The qualifications shown below are recognised within the industry and can be studied at home and completed in any week of the year:
- Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping
- Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping
Those who complete the Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping can apply to become a full ICB member and achieve professional status as a qualified bookkeeper.
What is expected of bookkeepers?
Bookkeepers will typically be expected to commit to the following:
- Full or part-time hours – A wide variety of hours are available, ranging from full-time roles (35 – 40 hours per week) to part-time hours (usually between 10 – 30 hours per week)
- Permanent and contract work – Permanent, temporary, contract and freelance work are all widely available
- Overtime – For those in permanent roles, some overtime may be expected to cover busy periods, such as at the beginning and end of the financial year
- Location – Typically office-based, with much of the work taking place at a computer
- Some travel – Those who’re self-employed may need to travel during the working day to visit clients
On top of their salary, bookkeepers who are employed on a permanent basis will receive a number of extra benefits from their employer, such as:
- Bonuses – based on performance
- Training opportunities
- Career progression support
- Flexible working opportunities – bookkeepers often work from home
- Company discounts
However, this will vary between employers. Bookkeepers who work part-time will receive benefits on a pro-rata basis. Self-employed bookkeepers will benefit from increased flexibility and autonomy over their work, but will not be eligible for any benefits from their clients.
Who employs bookkeepers?
Bookkeepers are employed by any organisation that requires financial management, meaning employment opportunities are available across all industries and sectors.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes must keep accurate and up-to-date financial records by law, meaning bookkeepers are — and will continue to be — in demand.
Typical bookkeeper employers include, but are not limited to:
- Small and medium-sized businesses
- Service providers
- Restaurants and hotels
- Local government
- Healthcare providers
- Educational institutions
Bookkeepers can work in-house for a single organisation, where they’ll handle all bookkeeping duties or be part of a bookkeeping team, taking care of a specific aspect of the bookkeeping process.
However, bookkeepers can also work for accountancy firms, bookkeeping firms and tax services firms, where they’ll carry out bookkeeping services for several clients.
Which junior jobs progress to bookkeeper roles?
Bookkeeper jobs can be gained without prior experience, making them a great opportunity for junior/entry-level candidates looking to kickstart a career in accountancy or finance.
Bookkeeping and accounts apprenticeships are also widely available and typically offer on-the-job experience combined with a funded route to professional ICB membership and, eventually, higher accountancy qualifications.
Which senior jobs do bookkeepers progress to?
For those wishing to progress within the accounts and finance industry, a job as a bookkeeper can provide valuable experience and a wealth of transferable skills.
The job can act as a springboard into numerous career opportunities, though the majority of higher-paying roles will require additional training and qualifications. However, the great thing is, as finance professionals are in high demand, most employers will sponsor committed employees to complete this training.
Experienced bookkeepers typically make good candidates for the following roles:
Accounting technicians work alongside chartered accounts on a wide range of accountancy, taxation and finance tasks and duties such as managing payroll, bookkeeping, preparing accounts and budgets and monitoring transactions. Bookkeepers often move into the role of accounting technician after becoming qualified with the AAT.
Assistant and chartered accountants help to advise and guide businesses on all their financial affairs, carry out financial audits and prepare accurate and up-to-date accounts. Working as an accountant requires additional training through the ACA, ACCA or CIMA, which can take years but can be completed alongside a full-time role. Salaries increase significantly at this point, with chartered accountants earning an average of £52,500.
Many experienced bookkeepers decide to go it alone and set up as a freelancer or independent contractor. This is where a single professional offers their services to numerous clients and normally works from the comfort of their own home. Freelance bookkeepers typically charge between £15 and £30 per hour and have the added benefit of being able to set their own hours.
Bookkeeper job description – conclusion
As businesses of all shapes and sizes need professionals to keep an eye on their day-to-day finances, skilled bookkeepers are in high demand across the UK.
The job pays under the national average salary but can be accessed without any formal training.
Additionally, with experience and professional development, opportunities for progression within the finance industry are widely available.