Bookkeeper vs Accountant: What’s the Difference?

Bookkeeper vs Accountant: What’s the Difference?
Eine Buchhalterin bei der Arbeit im Büro mit Taschenrechner

Last Updated on February 20, 2022 by binkhalid

Did you know there will be over 750,000 new finance jobs created before 2030?

As many baby boomers retire, there will be a huge demand for bookkeepers and accountants. But if you’re interested in a career in finance, which should you pick?

Keep reading for the key differences in bookkeeper vs accountant jobs, including qualifications, salary, and more.

Bookkeeper vs Accountant: Role Differences 

A bookkeeper manages a business’s records of daily sales and purchases. They also handle payroll, invoices, and the general ledger. 

The general ledger is the record of all the money going in and out of a business. The bookkeeper must make sure it is completely up-to-date and fully documented. 

A bookkeeper often works under the supervision of an accountant. The accountant takes the bookkeeper’s minute reports and analyzes them. Then, they make broad goals for the business and manage growth.

The accountant uses financial models to provide insights and advice to the business owner. They also file tax paperwork, complete audits, and keep tabs on overall cash flow.

So while bookkeepers handle day-by-day minutia, accountants handle big-picture analyses for the business.


Bookkeepers do not technically require any certification. But, 100% of employers report that they prefer some kind of bookkeeper qualification. Therefore, many choose to take a certification training course.

A bookkeeper qualification provides a competitive edge over the average Joe. Thus, certified bookkeepers get more job offers and make higher starting salaries. 

Accountants need a four-year Bachelor’s degree in accounting or at least finance. Most accountants also decide to pursue specialized certifications. These are highly regarded by employers.

Some accounting certifications include:

  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)
  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)
  • Enrolled Agent (EA)

But perhaps the most respected and well-known certification is the CPA, or Certified Public Accountant. This requires additional study, experience, and passing a rigorous exam. Once certified, an accountant is in hot demand, and earns more than an uncertified accountant. 

For more about Certified Public Accountants, read this article.

Career and Salary

The median bookkeeper salary is $42,000 per year. The median accountant salary is $74,000 per year. 

However, there is a higher startup cost to becoming an accountant. Four-year degrees are expensive and time-consuming.

As a result, many people desiring a career in finance choose to start with a bookkeeping position. This way, they gain real-world experience and begin earning money. Later, they pursue further studies, take exams, and become certified as an accountant. 

Some companies promote bookkeepers to accounting roles, despite a lack of formal qualifications. This may happen if the bookkeeper has built up lots of experience handling the company’s finances. A big-picture mindset and long-term visualization skills are key.

Finance Jobs: A Smart Investment

Now that you understand the main differences in bookkeeper vs accountant jobs, you are well on your way to a fulfilling career in finance. 

If you enjoyed this, keep reading for more helpful business and education articles.