Bookkeeping Certification: What It Is and How to Choose the Best One for You

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Discover more about bookkeeping certifications and bookkeeping certificates, and learn about choosing the best option for your goals.

[Featured image] A person in a white shirt sits at a table in front of a wall of windows and studies for their bookkeeping certification. They hold a pen and have a laptop and notebook in front of them.

Bookkeepers are an integral part of any business. They typically manage a company's financial accounts and maintain accurate records. Whether you're interested in working as a bookkeeper or would like to learn about fundamental bookkeeping processes, a bookkeeping certification can be a worthwhile credential to earn.

In this article, we'll discuss bookkeeping certifications and certificates, the skills you can develop through these types of education, the benefits of earning one, and the primary certifications worth exploring.

What is a bookkeeping certification?

A bookkeeping certification is a professional accreditation you can earn to verify the knowledge you've gained and the skills you've developed around bookkeeping. It often involves completing a bookkeeping-intensive curriculum and may also require passing an exam and continuing to take ongoing courses to keep relevant skills sharp.

Bookkeeping certifications are typically for those with some type of previous bookkeeping experience, and they tend to show potential or current employers the steps you've taken to acquire an industry-approved education.

There are also bookkeeping certificates, which can be useful for those looking to pivot into a bookkeeping career with little prior knowledge or who have bookkeeping responsibilities and want to strengthen their skill set in that area. These often take a few weeks to a few months to complete, and cover fundamental knowledge and skills so you can get started in the field.

What subjects does a bookkeeping certification cover?

Both certifications and certificates cover foundational tasks as well as more advanced tasks. The type you enroll in will depend on your bookkeeping experience. There are options that serve as an introduction to the subject, while others expect some amount of prior experience.

Subjects can include:

  • Preparing financial statements

  • Using bookkeeping software

  • Managing accounts payable

  • Managing payroll

  • Conducting depreciation for accounting purposes

  • Correcting accounting errors

  • Recording inventory

Learn more: A Guide to Bookkeeping: Skills, Salaries, and Careers

Is a bookkeeping certification worth it? 

Given the financial responsibility bookkeepers (or those handling some bookkeeping responsibilities) handle, earning a bookkeeping certification or completing a bookkeeping certificate is a way to show the standardized knowledge you've gained about bookkeeping processes and practices. It's also an excellent way to develop—or strengthen—important bookkeeping skills, such as invoicing, spreadsheets, accounts payable, and more.

While the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that bookkeeping jobs will decline by five percent between now and 2031, the agency still anticipates around 197,000 openings for bookkeepers each year [1]. In short, there's still demand for this line of work. According to Payscale, people in the US with a bookkeeping certification can earn, on average, $55,000 per year [2]. 

What's more, many financial roles or small businesses benefit from having employees who understand bookkeeping fundamentals, thereby making a certification or additional education about this area a worthwhile endeavor.

The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers reports that graduates of its Certified Bookkeeper program have experienced career advancement. In-house bookkeepers have secured new jobs, promotions, and raises, while freelance bookkeepers have gained new clients, raised their rates, and used certification status for promoting their services [3].   

Benefits of getting a bookkeeping certification

In addition to career advancement potential, earning a bookkeeping certification may lead to the following benefits:

  • Fundamentals: A standardized understanding of the fundamentals of bookkeeping.

  • Up-to-date skills: An opportunity to develop or strengthen important bookkeeping skills and fill knowledge gaps.

Read more: Bookkeeping Services: Tasks, Tools, and More

4 industry-recognized bookkeeping certifications and certificates

In this section, we'll cover two primary bookkeeping certifications and two popular bookkeeping certificates. Additionally, the options outlined in the table below can be completed online, and many are self-paced, meaning you can work on them around your other responsibilities.  

CertificationsWhat you’ll learnPrerequisitesCostTime to complete
AIPB: Certified Bookkeeper ProgramHow to make adjusting entries; correct general ledger errors; conduct payroll, depreciation, and inventory processes; prevent fraud1 year of college accounting coursework, plus 2 years of bookkeeping experience$479 for members; $584 nonmembers (total includes separate registration, course, and test fees)At least one part of the four-part exam must be completed in the first year of registration; entire exam must be completed within three years
NACPB: Bookkeeper CertificationHow to understand accounting fundamentals, analyze business transactions, conduct accounting and payroll tasks, and more.None$369 for members; $449 for nonmembers2-3 months for the course; 2 hours for the exam
Coursera & Intuit: Bookkeeping Professional CertificateHow to apply foundational concepts, analyze and produce financial statements, use accounting softwareNoneFree 7-day trial, then $39 / month with subscription4 months
LinkedIn Learning: Become a Bookkeeper Learning Path (with certificate of completion)How to create financial statements, manage cash flow and small business finances, use QuickBooksNoneFree 1-month trial, then $39 / month with subscription12 hours, 34 minutes

How to choose the best bookkeeping certification for you

Not every bookkeeping certification will address your unique needs. Follow the steps below to figure out how to find the best option for your goals.  

1. Identify your bookkeeping career goals. 

Get clear on what you want to achieve as a bookkeeper, including the skills you want to master. Knowing what you want to achieve can help you choose the best certification program for you. Draw from these bookkeeping career goal examples to articulate your own: 

  • Master advanced bookkeeping skills like preventing fraud or correcting accounting errors. 

  • Turn your bookkeeping side hustle into a full-time business.   

2. Prioritize your goals.

Starting with the table above, think about what factors are most important to you. These can include:

  • Cost

  • Requirements

  • Length of time

  • Method of delivery

  • Skills and knowledge covered

  • Program outcomes

Think about each factor and prioritize the ones that are most important to you. For example, perhaps you can be flexible about cost but need a certificate that you can complete relatively quickly. Or perhaps you're most interested in program outcomes. Get clear about what it is you're looking for.

3. Research relevant certifications and certificates.

Once you've identified what matters most out of a bookkeeping certification program or a bookkeeping certificate, start researching which options align most closely with your priorities. Use the table above to get started.

4. Register for and complete the training material.

Once you’ve chosen a program, complete the coursework or training material. Be sure to allow enough time in your schedule to learn the skills your certification or certificate program measures, and be mindful of any deadlines by which you must take a certifying exam.

5. Share your credentials. 

After completing a program and/or passing a certifying exam, display your credential on LinkedIn and add it to your resume. Featuring your credentials online means you can visually represent your skills and knowledge and potentially attract employers' attention.  

Read more: How to List Certifications on Your Resume: Guide + Examples

6. Update your skills periodically. 

As the professional landscape evolves and demand for bookkeepers fluctuates, it’s important to update your skills periodically. That way, you can take on real-world business challenges effectively and remain competitive in the job market. 

Depending on the certificate or certification program you complete, you may be required to recertify regularly to keep your credential. Recertification can ensure that you have mastered the latest bookkeeping skills, techniques, approaches, and technologies. You can also sign up for additional courses in bookkeeping to explore specific skills. 

Learn bookkeeping with Coursera 

On Coursera, enroll in the Intuit Bookkeeping Professional Certificate program to dive into financial statement analysis, assets, liability, and equity. Or explore relevant courses, like Bookkeeping Basics, to develop key skills.

Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks,” Accessed March 29, 2023. 

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This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.