What is the Difference Between and Accountant and a Bookkeeper?

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Bookkeeper vs. AccountantFor many, describing the difference between accountant and a bookkeeper can be difficult. The difficulty stems from the fact that each function is often used interchangeably without considering the differences in the process. Bookkeeping is a function within the field of accounting, but bookkeepers have very different roles and responsibilities compared to an accountant. If you are studying finance, accounting or a related field, knowing the difference between each title is important. Entry-level professionals often choose to work as a bookkeeper, whereas people with an advanced degree would work towards completing higher level processes that are much more subjective. Read on, and learn about each process so that you know which position to pursue.

The Roles of a Bookkeeper

Bookkeeping in a low-level process that involves recording the daily financial transactions of an organization or agency so that the records are organized and easily accessed. One of the main roles of the bookkeeper is to keep, maintain and balance the general ledgers so that the sales and expense receipts are as accurate as possible. In addition to posting debits, posting credits and balancing the general ledger, the bookkeeper will record financial transactions, complete payroll, produce invoices and file important financial documents. While this is important role, it is much more objective than that of the accountant. A bookkeeper will perform only a shallow level of responsibilities that the accountant performs.

The Roles of an Accountant

An accountant is a high-level professional who uses the information that is compiled and maintained by the bookkeeper to make sense of everything. Depending on an accountant’s level of responsibility within an organization, they may prepare financial statements or assist executives and ownership when making future financial decisions. While the roles of an accountant vary largely, it is common for professionals with this title to use a subjective approach to adjusting entries, analyzing costs, preparing statements, completing income tax returns and understanding the company’s profitability. Typically, when an organization hires both bookkeepers and accountants, accountants will oversee the bookkeeper who is an entry-level professional in accountancy.

How Much Training is Required in Each Role?

You may not want to go to school to earn an advanced degree just to start your career. This is why it is important to choose a role where you qualify to fill a position. Bookkeepers can find positions with an associate’s degree or with two to four years of experience. You must be extremely organized and accurate to be selected as a bookkeeper. An accountant, who earns a higher income and holds more responsibility, must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance.

It can also go a long way if you have a professional certification like the CPA, which shows your commitment and that you are competent. All CPAs must pass the uniform CPA exam before they earn licensure. According to Becker Professional Education, to take the exam, you must meet your state’s application requirements, which typically requires you to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Related Resource: Chief Financial Officer

If you would like to be involved in objective transactional processes over management of finances, you may want to become a bookkeeper. If you would like to be part of analyzing records, being an accountant is more up your alley. Consider your strengths and goals and remember the difference between accountant and a bookkeeper when you choose your degree program.

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