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Bookkeepers provide vital services to businesses by tracking revenue and depreciation, keeping financial records needed for tax preparation, adjusting balances and handling payroll. Bookkeeping certification is not required for most bookkeepers; however, it can make a job applicant more desirable. Having professional certification holds a bookkeeper to a higher standard and requires further education, which makes any professional more knowledgeable about their field.
Most bookkeepers have a high school diploma or GED, but generally this is not a requirement to obtain bookkeeping certification. Bookkeepers can obtain certification by passing an examination and following up with continued education courses. The best preparation for bookkeeping certification is experience working in the field, although this is not a requirement either.
The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) is recognized around the world as the starting point for bookkeeping certification. Students from such countries as the United Kingdom, South Africa, South America, and Australia should contact this governing body to learn more about the certification process. Coursework is not necessary, though it is recommended for bookkeepers who are new to the field, and those that have no bookkeeping experience. ICB provides a list of courses and programs that are offered in many different formats, including online, correspondence, and typical classroom settings.
In the United States the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) oversees certification courses. The AIPB approves courses and programs offered by more than 200 colleges. These course are not mandatory to sign up for the certification examination, however anyone interested in becoming certified must have 3,000 hours or two years of bookkeeping work experience. AIPB certification allows a bookkeeper to provide services for a company that employs a maximum of 100 people.
Another option for bookkeepers who plan to work in the United States is to obtain certification from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers. The requirements of this organization are less stringent than those of the AIPB, and the examination covers the same areas of bookkeeping.
Keep in mind that certification requires a payment of fees, which vary by organization. The cost of coursework also varies from one institution to another. Other costs to keep in mind are membership fees to organizations which provide services and information to certified bookkeepers. Fees are usually due on an annual basis.
Examinations for bookkeeping certification generally require knowledge of basic bookkeeping, double-entry accounting, payroll processing, inventory control, calculating depreciation, bank reconciliation, and fraud prevention.
After certification is complete, the bookkeeper must follow a code of ethics and take continuing education credits on a yearly basis. Bookkeeping certification is a great step to being recognized as a professional in this field, and to increase yearly income.