Careers: Would You Like to be a Bookkeeper?

(Circa Jan/Feb 2008)

Are you looking for a new occupation following your arrival in Canada? If you are computer literate and reasonably good at mathematics, the “bookkeeper” occupation could be a good source of bread and butter.

I came to this conclusion after attending a “Career in Bookkeeping Information Session” at WoodGreen Immigrant Service Centre. The session was conducted by Lina Uchinucura, Director of Education, at the Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping.

“Today, over 300,000 bookkeepers work in Canada,” said Uchinucura, “because all of the businesses – small, medium and large – perform financial transactions and all of them need bookkeepers”.

According to the website http://www.workingincanada.gc.ca this trade is in demand in Canada. By clicking on bookkeepers, you will find out that the average rate of unemployment across Canada is seven percent, but for bookkeepers, the unemployment rate is only three percent, which also means low competition. Although bookkeepers’ average hourly earnings are $14.88, which is a little less than the country’s average ($18.07), the bookkeepers’ prospects are good.

Also, you could consider bookkeeping as a launching point toward a future career as an accountant.

Another source that confirms the advantages of the bookkeeper profession is the brochure “An Index of the Employment Opportunities for New Immigrants, Based on Skills Transferability and Occupational Barriers”, published by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC). The authors of this brochure have come to the conclusion that certain occupations are better for new immigrants than others. If you have a good occupation, you can find a job quickly, but if you practice one with poor prospects, you will face a lot of problems and might even have to change your field of expertise.

What is included in a bookkeeper’ duties?
According to the National Occupational Classification (NOC) code 1231, bookkeepers maintain complete sets of books, keep records of accounts, verify the procedures used for recording financial transactions, and provide personal bookkeeping services. All of these duties include working with numbers, which is why I originally suggested that you should have talent in mathematics. And these days, almost all bookkeeping duties are carried out on a computer – so a bookkeeper should know such programs as Microsoft Word, Excel, Simply Accounting and QuickBooks. Accounting professionals must also know ACCPAC.

What is the potential for career growth in this trade? According to the NOC, career advancement into better paying accounting occupations is possible with additional training.

Where can you get this training?

“Bookkeeping programs are offered by many colleges and business schools,” said Uchinucura, “To get complete education in bookkeeping you have to take nine courses: Bookkeeping I and II, Computer Applications I and II, Computerized Bookkeeping I and II, Cost Management, Income Tax and Payroll Administration”.

Along with studying, it is necessary to get Canadian experience, and many educational institutions have co-op programs for this purpose. However, if you are not sure that this profession is for you, basic bookkeeping courses can be taken at most Adult Learning Centres for little more than a registration fee.

After finishing your education, you should write a résumé and search for bookkeeper ads in various job banks, like www.workopolis.com or www.jobbank.gc.ca. Currently, these job banks contain about 350 ads of vacancies for bookkeepers.

Here is an extract from a typical bookkeeper ad in a Canadian job bank:

  • Salary plus benefits.
  • Education: Completion of high school or vocational or training
  • Experience: 3 - 5 years
  • Languages: Speak English, Read English, Write English
  • Computer Applications: Windows, electronic mail, word processing software, spreadsheet software, Excel, accounting software, Quick Books, internet Browser
  • Specific Skills: Maintain general ledgers and financial statements, post journal entries, prepare trial balance of books, reconcile accounts, calculate and prepare cheques for payroll, prepare other statistical, financial and accounting reports, calculate fixed assets and depreciation.
  • Essential Skills: Reading text, document use, numeracy, writing, oral communication, working with others, problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, job task planning and organizing, finding information, continuous learning.

And I have reserved the best news for the end: the bookkeeping profession today is completely unregulated. This means that during your interview an employer can not ask you for your licence as it is not required. However, there is a Canadian title called
Registered Bookkeeper, which is given by the Canadian Institute of Bookkeeping (www.cibcb.com), and which would probably give you an advantage over your competitors.

“To receive the ‘Registered Bookkeeper’ title,” said Uchinucura, “it is necessary to pass all nine exams, with graduation marks no less than 65 percent and to have three years of bookkeeper’s experience, including self-employment. Immigrants’ international experience would be counted as one year of work.”

Once you become a registered bookkeeper, you can rest assured, that you have learned most of the secrets of this profession and are ready move up to accounting heights – which in the above-mentioned list of 200 trades is located in second place after a Computer Engineer.

Additional information about the profession of bookkeeper in Canada is available on Canadian Bookkeepers Association site (www.c-b-a.ca).

CNM

This story is from the "Train for a Financial Career" InfoBlock. To read more stories on this topic, click here.