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Difference between an accountant and a bookkeeper

by Elizabeth Harmon
Posted: August 20, 2021

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**This is an updated post**

Are you looking to start a rewarding career in the accounting and finance sector? There’s a wide selection of roles to choose from, but two that are essential for successful businesses are accountants and bookkeepers.

Accountants and bookkeepers are often confused, with many people thinking they’re the same role. Whilst they are similar in that they both work with financial data, they are two very different professions and the duties of each rarely overlap. So, what is the difference, and which one would be the best fit for you and your career? Read this article to find out more.

What does a bookkeeper do?

As a bookkeeper, you’ll be responsible for handling a business’s day-to-day finances, so you’ll need to have a love of numbers. You’ll be expected to record any financial transactions in the general ledger and make sure all financial statements are kept up to date and organised. This enables a business to get an accurate view of how their finances are (such as sales, expenses and the bottom line), at any given moment.

Your role as a bookkeeper may also extend to invoicing clients, chasing customers for payments, paying suppliers and processing payroll.

Bookkeeping is a very popular profession, although the size of this field has remained the same in Australia over the last 5 years and is expected to stay the same over the next 5 years. According to Job Outlook, there are expected to be around 10,000 bookkeeper job openings each year though, in various states and territories across Australia. This is mainly as a result of staff turnover.

Full-time bookkeepers can expect to earn around $1,234 AU per week, which is slightly below the ‘all job’ average of $1,460 AU. However, earnings can increase with experience. There are opportunities to work full-time and part-time, although a large proportion of people, 67%, work only part-time.

What does an accountant do?

As an accountant, you’ll be responsible for filing accounts and working on tax returns. You’ll need to be able to interpret, analyse, summarise and report on a business’s financial information. This enables businesses to understand their finances better, which can aid in strategic planning. You may be able to help identify cost reduction opportunities, ways to maximise profitability and provide other expert advice, on areas such as tax or financial planning.

Being analytical is a must-have ‘soft’ skill for being an accountant, but it’s also important that you’re able to communicate clearly and effectively too, be methodical and be prepared to work hard.

According to Job Outlook, the number of Accountants has increased over the last 5 years and is expected to grow from 199,200 in 2018 to 207,200 by 2023. It’s also estimated that there will be around 16,800 new job openings each year, made up of staff turnover and new job openings. This means your skills could be in high demand.

Full-time accountants can expect to earn around $1,600 per week, which is much higher than the ‘all job’ average. There’s also the potential for this salary to increase with experience. Unlike bookkeeping, where many people worked part-time, as an accountant, 80% are full-time workers.

Starting a career as a bookkeeper or accountant

Whether you decide to become an accountant or a bookkeeper, you will need to obtain the appropriate qualifications. As a bookkeeper, you will need a formal qualification such as a certificate IV or higher. You’ll also need formal qualifications as an accountant, at diploma level or higher.

With Open Colleges’ FNS40217 Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping, you will develop the basic skills you need to get started in this exciting field. You will have the opportunity to develop a range of skills covering accounting and financial planning, bookkeeping, auditing, payroll and more.

As part of this course, you will receive memberships to the ‘Australian Bookkeepers Network’, ‘Australian Bookkeepers Association’ and the ‘Institute of Public Accountants’. You’ll also have exclusive access to Reckon One accounting software.

If you’re interested in starting a career as a bookkeeper or accountant, what are you waiting for? Enrol in a recognised course now and develop the necessary skills to take the next step towards your dream career.


Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabethis an experienced Freelance Social Media Consultant based in the south of England. She works with a growing number of clients all around the world, showing businesses how to use social media more effectively and helping them to get the maximum benefit from it.

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