What Is Bookkeeping? Getting Started in Accounting

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about what bookkeepers do and how to start this career.

[Featured image] A bookkeeper works at her laptop computer next to a window.

Bookkeepers manage a company’s financial accounts, ensuring they are accurate and easy to review. Their work plays an important role in the operation of a successful business. In this article, we’ll explore what bookkeepers do, why they’re important to a business, and how you can get started in this role.

What is bookkeeping?

Bookkeeping is the process of keeping track of a business’s financial transactions. These services include recording what money comes into and flows from the business, such as customer and vendor payments. While bookkeepers used to keep track of this information in physical books, much of the process is now done on digital software. 

It’s a skill used in large and small companies, and bookkeepers are needed in almost every business and industry. 

Did you know?

Bookkeeping as a profession dates back to the 15th century when Italian mathematician Frater Luca Pacioli—the father of modern bookkeeping—detailed many accounting systems and tools still used today, including double-entry bookkeeping.


What does a bookkeeper do?

The work of a bookkeeper may vary depending on the needs of a business. You may work at a large company, small business, or as a freelancer.

Here are some other tasks you may handle as part of this job:

  • Record transactions using accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases

  • Collect and organise financial records, cash flow statements, bank documents, and loss statements

  • Generate invoices and receive payments from customers

  • Track debits and credits for various accounts

  • Reconcile financial statements

  • Create balance sheets and income statements

  • Review reports for accuracy

  • Complete payroll

  • Deposit taxes

Bookkeeper salary: How much can you make?

The average annual base salary for a bookkeeper in India is ₹2,44,898, according to PayScale as of November 2023 [1]. You can usually expect to earn much more once you have at least five years of experience. 

Bookkeeper vs accountant: What’s the difference?

Both accountants and bookkeepers work to maintain accurate records of finances, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. Generally, bookkeepers focus on administrative tasks, such as completing payroll and recording incoming and outgoing finances. Accountants help businesses understand the bigger picture of their financial situation. 

An accountant can perform bookkeeping tasks, but the title also involves other responsibilities. An accountant may interpret the financial records put together by a bookkeeper to assess a company’s financial health. They may also perform audits and prepare tax returns. Becoming an accountant usually requires more training and education than bookkeeping, but it can be a good next step in your financial career.


How to become a bookkeeper

If you're organised and enjoy working with numbers, a job as a bookkeeper could be a good fit. In India, there is no specific path to becoming a bookkeeper. The requirements will vary based on the organisation you work for and your responsibilities. However, the more education, training, and experience you have, the better your resume will look when you seek to fill a job vacancy. Here’s what you can do to gain the skills necessary to start.

Take a bookkeeping course. 

A bookkeeping course can teach you the basic knowledge to prepare financial reports, organise data using tools like Microsoft Excel, or understand how to balance books. 

Some courses can also earn you a credential from an industry leader for your resume—like the Intuit Bookkeeping Professional Certificate on Coursera. 

While it’s not always necessary to have a degree, some companies will look for candidates with coursework in accounting.

Continue your education. 

An employer may request that you have a secondary school diploma to work in bookkeeping, but beyond that, requirements will vary. Some employers may hire you if you are working on a certificate, diploma, or degree in accounting, finance, business administration, or a related field. Employers may also take you on if you are working towards a full professional accounting designation so that you will eventually move into an accounting position at that organisation. 

Build essential bookkeeping skills

As you take courses and pursue a certification in bookkeeping, be sure to acquire skills that are essential for your bookkeeping career, as explored below:

Technical skills

  • Debits and credits

  • Invoicing 

  • Billing 

  • Vendor relations

  • Accounts payable 

  • Accounts receivable 

  • Data entry

  • Spreadsheets

  • Payroll 

  • Financial statements

  • Bank reconciliation

  • Accounting software like Quickbooks

Workplace skills

  • Organisation

  • Communication

  • Time management 

  • Attention to detail 

  • Error correction 

  • Oral and written communication  

  • Decision making 

  • Critical thinking 

  • Interpersonal skills 

Get started in bookkeeping

Start building the professional skills you need to get a job as a bookkeeper in two months with the Intuit Academy Bookkeeping Professional Certificate on Coursera. Learn at your own pace from industry experts while getting hands-on experience working through real-world accounting scenarios.

Article sources

  1. Payscale. "Average Bookkeeper Salary in India, payscale.com/research/IN/Job=Bookkeeper/Salary." Accessed November 16, 2023.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

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.