Maybe you’ve never considered bookkeeping interesting, or worth your time. Or maybe you’re a small business owner who’d always wonder if bookkeeping courses could help you succeed.
But no matter who you are, one thing is clear: with the rising availability of online courses, bookkeeping no longer needs to be prohibited to a small group of professionals.
The best bookkeeping practices are constantly evolving, and nowhere is that clearer than with the rise of online courses and technology. Botkeeper is a rising star in bookkeeping but bookkeeping of a truly digital age.
This December, the company raised $18 million in a recent round of funding. Coupled with other sources, the funding amount exceeds $22 million, money which they plan to use to invest in sales, marketing, and engineering.
Raising that amount may be lucrative, but what’s far more interesting is the concept behind the company’s business model. The company acts as an automated bookkeeping source for other companies, combining AI technology with professionals for an approach that is at once faster, but also still personal.
Bottom Line Up Front: For a general primer, I highly recommend starting with Accounting Foundations on LinkedIn Learning right here. It has the right mix to get you a solid course completition certificate AND a base of knowledge to further refine your specialization.
Entry-Level Bookkeeping Online Courses and Online Programs (Familiarization)
Later on I recommend accredited bookkeeping program options, but I do recommend starting with some entry-level digital courses, specific to certain bookkeeping platforms (like Quickbooks) as well as a general “survey”.
Starting here might be enough for what you need OR serves as a great way to figure out which specialization you want to hone in on.
- Acounting Foundations: This course, courtesy of LinkedIn Learning, provides and EXCELLENT overview of accounting fundamentals. Low cost and full of the most critical bookkeeping basics, I recommend this for anyone interested in pursuing bookkeeping, whether for personal accounting or in preparation for professional certificaiton. Check out the course summary here.
- Excel for Accountants: If you need some additional Excel skills, this is my default course. It’s enough to separate you from the rest of the field with Excel, but not so much information that it’s overwhelming or obscure. Like it or not, most businesses use Excel in some way or some fashion. Check out the course summary here.
- QuickBooks Essentials: If Excel is the swiss-army knife, QuickBooks is the butter knife for most businesses. Chances are, at least one of your clients or businesses will use QuickBooks at some point. This course is a great overview of the critical information to make QuickBooks “work” for you. Check out the course summary here.
But I thought bookkeeping was outdated?
Bookkeeping, even if you aren’t completely versed on what it means, tends to be a term most people have at least heard of. One reason is that it’s been around for a very long time–by some estimates, as early as 8,000 B.C., when, in the West Bank city of Jericho, King’s accounts were kept in fairly rudimentary ways.
As you can imagine, the way bookkeeping is done has dramatically evolved–which is why it still remains relevant, despite its association with more older times. While in the past bookkeeping did indeed mostly consist of keeping accounts, Ingrid Edstrom, bookkeeper at Polymath LLC, an advisory firm, explains that these practices are quickly changing for one reason:
Apps and artificial intelligence can do the job of what bookkeepers once did in the past. That has led to many eschewing even the idea of taking online bookkeeping courses, mistakenly thinking that bookkeeping was no longer relevant.
In fact, bookkeepers are still in demand, and in some ways, has become a more specialized industry, combining not just accounting skills, but also teach business practices, and customer service.
What exactly is bookkeeping?
What bookkeeping is depends on how it is being applied. By strict definition, bookkeeping is simply the practice of tracking accounts and expenditures for businesses, or individual professionals. Systematic approaches to tracking financial transactions occur daily, and help businesses not only to understand their budget and balance but also helps ensure accuracy for transparency and compliance purposes.
A specialized branch of accounting, bookkeeping practices tend to follow one of two main methods or a combination of both:
- Cash Basis: transactions are recorded upon payment
- Accrual Basis: transactions are recorded regardless of payment
By providing accurate information, bookkeeping allows outside groups, such as investors of financial institutions, make decisions when it comes to investing.
What does a bookkeeper do?
Given how much things have changed, many looking to take online bookkeeping courses might wonder what becoming a bookkeeper would even mean in this day and age. While your duties would depend on your specific employment, bookkeeping now is no longer the singular act of keeping account of transactions.
In fact, while technology such as apps can be employed for quicker tracking, a bookkeeper is still helpful to analyze and apply data. Using the data accrued, bookkeeping tends to fall into two categories: direct financial statement preparation, and helping the company achieve outcomes:
Financial Statement Preparation
- Income Statements, displaying profit and loss balances over a specific time period
- Balance Sheets, which act as a summary of finances within a set period of time
- Statement Changes of Equity, to display how reserves, shared capital, and earnings have fluctuated
- Cash Flow Statement used to track the flow of hard cash
- Working with IT and Tech Support, for a streamlined process and to communicate best practices and/ or suggestions for improvement (depends on company)
- Monitoring Debt Levels
- Helping Maintain an Annual Budget
- Processing Payroll
- Acting as a Source of Communication, presenting financial statements and making recommendations for company balance and/or growth
While some of these practices are not so drastically different than bookkeeping in the past, what has changed is that bookkeepers, no longer so tasked with the more day to day transactions tracking, now are tasked with duties of personnel, interpretation, and communication, making bookkeeping, in some ways, more dynamic and innovative than before.
What Skills Are Needed for Bookkeeping?
While the best online courses truly can jumpstart a willing student into a career, or at least give them a nice overview of bookkeeping for their own knowledge, there are some skill sets and interests that are helpful for bookkeeping.
Owl Guru actually offers a one minute quiz, along with a brief overview, to help you decide whether enrolling in bookkeeping courses makes sense for you. The International Career Institute (based in Australia) recommends 9 essential skills to bookkeeping:
Great computer skills, love of technology, and a willingness to stay up to date are all musts.
Ability to communicate well
In the past, bookkeeping was more or less a profession you’d assume had more to do with strict accounting and less with personnel, but as we’ve mentioned before, and ICI suggests, you’ll need to be able to communicate with accountants, other departments, and engage in both virtual and face to face conversations in order to be successful.
This goes without saying, but fortunately, you can learn all the bookkeeping skills you need from enrolling in the best online courses.
Organization and attention to detail
Accuracy and organization are absolutely essential for bookkeeping. You’ll also need to be attentive, and able to focus even after many hours working on a computer with precise data.
While yes, you do need to be forward thinking when it comes to adapting to and integrating new skills and technology, you likewise need to be able to understand patterns and keep longer-term plans and solutions in mind. While much of the work is day to day, it’s important to have ‘the bigger picture’ in mind.
Be committed, self-disciplined and prepared to take online courses
This goes for any online courses, but you need to make sure you’re committed, able to, and disciplined to taking courses for bookkeeping. Determinations means and general interest in bookkeeping are the most important skills you need to have before enrolling because most others can be, to a degree, developed.
How to Find The Best Bookkeeping Courses
What online bookkeeping courses that will be best for you depend on the reason you’re taking them. If it’s just for personal development, enrolling in a single course is fine. But if you intend to pursue a career in bookkeeping, or hope to supplement your current career with more coursework, there are a few important things to consider.
Certification or Degree?
In almost all cases, you’ll be looking to pursue a certification, not a full-fledged degree. While certificate programs technically qualify you to become a bookkeeper, however, the reality is it may not be enough to become a competitive, even from the best courses. The best route is to pair a certificate in bookkeeping with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s in a related field, such as accounting or business. Seeking internships is also helpful, as is any additional experience you can get. The best programs will affirm that you will earn certification by the end of the coursework.
You absolutely must ensure that the online courses are recognized by the professional world and are considered accredited. Start by looking at the “About” page, which, for most of the best courses, should mention accreditation. You can then verify this by visiting either the Department of Education or The Council for
After you complete your certification program, you likely will have to pass an examination to become officially certified. What organization you go through depends on your prior education; individuals with no degree, for instance, go through a different certification process than those with degrees. For more information, take a look at Fit Small Business’ guide on becoming certified.
Courses should be user-friendly
Flexible learning modules, interactive materials, links to additional resources, and the ability to bookmark pertinent information are all pluses for an online course.
You can unplug from time to time
If it’s important to you, some of the best programs offer lessons you can review even when you’re offline.
It takes a reasonable amount of time to complete, and there’s some flexibility
An average length of an online bookkeeping certificate will run about 4 to 6 months, though there are some exceptions, where a more extensive program could take up to a year. You’ll want to ask if that is the maximum time allotment, and if there is any flexibility in the pace at which you complete your courses. You’ll also want to ask how many courses and modules that time includes, so you can decide if it’s the best option for you and your current schedule and level of commitment.
It’s affordable, and the costs are clear
You should be able to know that the total cost of the courses up front, and, of course, you should be able to afford it. Ask about scholarships and different payment options, and make sure the listed cost is all-inclusive. While some courses bill monthly, it’s best the get an overall estimate. Expect a certificate program in bookkeeping to run you a few thousand dollars for the best programs. You’ll also want to factor in certification and testing, which generally costs a few hundred dollars. However, online courses do tend to be more affordable than traditional bookkeeping courses.
The coursework is appropriate
Don’t take a program’s word for it; ask to see a list of sample courses with descriptions and see if they align with what should be expected for a certificate in bookkeeping. If you can’t get a firm confirmation about what coursework will be required of you, then it’s time to look into a different program.
The courses have a solid reputation
Do a little detective work, and also speak with admission representatives. Ask questions like, what is the graduation rate and job placement rate? How do you prepare students for a career in bookkeeping? See if you can find any external reviews from former students.
Instructors know what they’re doing
Whether they’re trained educators or professionals, who should know who your instructors will be, their qualifications, and what degree of communication you’ll get. You’ll also want to inquire if there is anything like physical or virtual ‘office hours’, should you need them.
Should I Take Courses & Are They Worth It?
There may be more benefits to studying online than you might think. The best courses will also allow you to interact with instructors and learn in different ways. And for a certification program, it makes since to able to pursue something and work or pursue an internship at the same time.
Best Traditional Accredited Institutional Online Bookkeping Courses
There are many options available for only bookkeeping courses, but here are some that might be worth taking if they’re a good match for you:
This nationally accredited course is completely self-paced, completely online, and provides academic support. You’ll be using an e-textbook (or traditional), and you can finish in as little as 4 months, depending on your pace. You’ll learn concepts like the accounting equation; accounts receivable and payable; revenue expenses, and other similar concepts. This is a good option for getting your feet wet into bookkeeping. One downside is that quote the price per month, so you’ll want to see if you can get a total cost estimate and see how long you’d take to complete the course.
This nationally and regionally accredited course can be completed in as few as five months, but like Ashworth, depends on your pace. You’ll study assets and losses; liabilities, and expenses. Students enrolled in the course are paired with an academic success coach and given access to faculty that are professional bookkeepers themselves. You can also connect with other students. Courses also include a mix of media for better learning, including virtual simulations, video lectures, and progress-trackers. They also bill by the month.
Of the many online bookkeeping courses available, this is one of the best in terms of transparency of program specifics. From the first page, you’ll get a full list of exact coursework (which includes computerized accounting, payroll accounting, financial accounting, business math, and Excel spreadsheets), and a link to program outcomes.
Though there isn’t one specifically for certificate courses, you can find general gainful employment and graduation rates for all of their programs, including accounting. There’s also an easy to find faculty list. Finding out the cost though is a little trickier. While tuition for programs is clearly listed, you may need to inquire for certificate courses.
One of the best things about this accredited course is that the total cost (a little over two thousand dollars) is easy to locate. So too is the amount of credits you’ll need, as well as the time frame it’ll take (about 16 weeks). The unique thing about this course is that it is “stackable”, meaning that, should you want to, you can directly combine it to complement other degrees and certificates from them, through designated ‘career sequences’. You get free tutoring through the general accounting center, and you’ll use QuickBooks technology to learn, software that will help you track your data.
Rutgers, an accredited and respected university, offers a few different bookkeeping certificate courses through its continuing development online branch. All incorporate Quickbooks, except for the certified bookkeeper course, which incorporates the use of more traditional workbooks. The certified online training course is actually for individuals who have already trained as bookkeepers but are not yet certified. Many programs have a time limit of a few months to complete the program, which is a difference from the self-paced but monthly billed courses. They accept a variety of payment methods.
No matter what bookkeeping courses you think are most worth taking, taking courses can help advance and rejuvenate your career. The best courses offer a variety of resources, solid coursework and materials, and academic support to help you succeed.