What is the Difference Between Accounting and Bookkeeping?

Many people wonder what the difference between accounting and bookkeeping is.  Accounting is a matter of analysis. Accountants are charged with examining financial information and presenting what they discover in a format that is useful to a business. Bookkeeping is basically recordkeeping. Bookkeepers’ responsibilities are less complex; they are tasked with entering all the necessary information properly. Although there is some overlap in the duties that accountants and bookkeepers perform, their primary goals are actually distinct.

What Does an Accountant Do?

Accountants use their knowledge of accounting theory and practice to establish the procedures a company follows to record its financial data. Once the needed information has been collected, they analyze it to provide the business’ leaders with valuable information about the entity’s strengths and weaknesses. This information can be used to create strategies for improvement, identify or prevent fraud, plan wisely for tax time, and prepare for future growth. To become an accountant, an individual must earn at least a bachelor’s degree. Many accounting professionals choose to pursue the American Institute of Certified Public Accountant’s certified public accountant (CPA) designation. To earn this qualification, they must complete 150 college credits, which generally requires the completion of both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree program. They must also pass the institute’s challenging Uniform CPA Examination.

What Does a Bookkeeper Do?

Bookkeepers are responsible for dealing with a company’s day-to-day financial details. They are expected to accurately enter a company’s financial information into the systems set up by accountants, but they are not asked to interpret that information. Their job duties often include writing up sales invoices, sending out bills for their company’s products or services, recording payments received, entering bills from vendors, paying those bills, and processing their company’s payroll. Unlike accountants, bookkeepers have no formal educational requirements to meet. Individuals interested in becoming professional bookkeepers should be detail-oriented, possess basic math skills and be familiar with common office computer programs. Employers generally require at least a high school diploma, and many expect their bookkeepers to hold an associates degree in either business or bookkeeping. Some employers prefer to hire individuals who have earned the certified bookkeeper designation. To become a certified bookkeeper, a person must have two years of professional bookkeeping experience and pass the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers’ certified bookkeeper exam.

How Do Accountants and Bookkeepers Cooperate?

Despite the differences between accounting and bookkeeping, the two functions are intrinsically interconnected. Accountants rely on the meticulous records maintained by bookkeepers to provide them with the raw data they need to fuel their analytical evaluations and interpretations. Without accurate data, they would be unable to use their training to offer helpful recommendations to their clients. Bookkeepers depend on the systems established by accountants to provide them with both a clear idea of what information must be logged and the proper structure for their recordkeeping. Large companies often have both accountants and bookkeepers on staff. Small businesses may lack the resources to enlist a full-time accountant. In this situation, they generally have bookkeepers who rely on accounting software like Peach Tree or Quick Books to provide the structure for their records and consult with an accountant about more complicated financial issues like tax planning and preparation.

When it comes to finances, accountants tend to deal with the big picture, and bookkeepers mind the details. Despite the difference between accounting and bookkeeping, professionals in both fields play vital roles in maintaining the financial health of a business.

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