Even as recently as twenty-five years ago small to medium-sized businesses recorded their accounting transactions manually, using journals and ledgers. Companies often had job opportunities for full-charge bookkeepers. These individuals were responsible for handling all the billing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory, sales, and expenses. Each transaction was recorded first to a journal and then posted to a ledger. An accountant would review the books periodically and make sure that entries were recorded correctly. At the end of accounting periods he or she would pull a “trial balance” to make sure that the books balanced, and then the accountant would prepare preliminary financial statements for someone to type.

This labor-intensive process was subject to errors both in recording the transactions and balancing the books. Information for management to use in making decisions was not readily available, and the delays in creating reports could lead to poor decision-making. Many of these delays have been reduced due to the introduction of computerized software that is available to even the smallest businesses at a reasonable cost. Most people who study bookkeeping today will also learn to use one or more of these types of software.

A bookkeeping accounting course includes topics like the following: debits and credits, making journal entries, paying bills, recording payments, handling sales tax, recording payroll, and other basic transactions. Some common software programs include QuickBooks, Peachtree, and Microsoft Office Accounting. One difficulty about learning to use these software programs is that they are designed to post transactions automatically in certain specific ways. If a user does not understand what the end result of a transaction should be and how the program will treat a transaction when it is entered in a specific way, entries might be posted in error and result in a lot of work to correct them.


For this reason, it is important to understand not only how to enter the transaction in the software, but also what the transaction means to the business. A good bookkeeper understands more than the mechanics of entries. Those who do are exceptionally valuable to business owners because they can help the owner understand how to make decisions that can improve operations and increase profitability.

Some bookkeepers work for only one company; others offer bookkeeping services to a number of smaller clients. These bookkeepers might drive to each client’s office on a weekly basis to pick up documents such as invoices and bills to enter into the bookkeeping software. These bookkeepers have the necessary software on their computer and use their own office for the bookkeeping service. Others could go to client offices and use the client’s computer to enter the data each week.

Bookkeeping courses are usually found at business or technical colleges. Most of these also offer an associate’s degree in business; however, this accounting course can be taken as a stand-alone class, too. Many of these classes are offered online, and some are free. Online courses can be a good option for students who learn well using multi-media classes. Some students will benefit more from classroom studies that provide interaction with the instructor. Small Business Development Centers across the country also offer courses in bookkeeping. Small Business Development Centers are cooperative efforts between universities and the Small Business Administration. Although consulting services offered by Small Business Development Centers are free, bookkeeping courses have fees.

Bookkeeping classes will be most beneficial for those who are small business owners, those interested in bookkeeping as an occupation, and people who want to understand more about accounting prior to deciding to seek a degree in the field. Managers and executives in larger companies will benefit more from taking an accounting course like principles of accounting.