If you’ve got a head for numbers and a passion for details, then the professional bookkeeping career is definitely one worth thinking about. Not only is it a job that’s in high demand but it is one that offers you plenty of scope for growth.

You can leapfrog from bookkeeper into financial leadership roles or use your skills to start your own busienss, especially if you invest into training and skills development while you work. It’s a solid career and one that many people find incredibly satisfying.

As a bookkeeper you will need a head for numbers and money. You won’t thrive in this role if you dislike maths or find it difficult to work with complex sums and calculations. It demands absolute attention to detail and painstaking care – if you don’t do it properly, you could put an entire business in jeopardy.

On top of attention to detail and self-discipline, you will need to be a good communicator who can clearly outline the work you’ve done and help people understand the numbers. You’ll also need to be good at organisation, ensuring that records and data are meticulously ordered and accessible, and you’ll have to undergo training to gain the hard skills that make up the bulk of your role.

The following skills are essential for you to learn as a bookkeeper:

  • Basic accounting and bookkeeping skills. These include everything from accounts payable and receivable through to bank deposits, reconciliation, and financial statements.
  • Payroll skills and training. While the payroll role is one that can be highly specialised, it can also be undertaken by someone with bookkeeper training and skills development.
  • Customer relations and finances. You will need to know how to manage billing, payments, invoicing and customer financial records.
  • Computing and technology skills. Technology has made it a lot easier for people to do this job but it does mean you need to know how to use a computer and be willing to learn whichever software platform your company has chosen.
  • A commitment to continuous learning. This is one of the most in-demand skills right now – people who are willing to keep learning are in very high demand as they’re most able to adapt to changing business needs and technology investments.
  • Investigative skills. A high degree of patience is essential in this role as you will need to find information, verify it, enter it and double-check it.

The bookkeeper is essential to the day-to-day running of the business. If you’ve got an open mind and you’re willing to learn, then this can be the doorway to a highly successful career in finance. If you undertake training as a bookkeeper, you can run your own business, you can work at a large corporate, or you can continue your studies to become a professional accountant or chartered accountant. Many firms will help you to grow your skills while you work for them, so this is a fantastic place to start if you’ve got a passion for numbers.

According to Payscale, the average bookkeeper salary in South Africa is R175, 238


Boost your skills while at school

There are many colleges that offer courses to train as a bookkeeper and most don’t expect you to have a matric. However, completing your matric year with strong maths and language skills will put you on track to continue your skills development to become an accountant or a financial advisor. You should work on getting your maths in excellent shape and consider developing your language skills in Zulu, Afrikaans and English, as well as your computer literacy skills. An understanding of computers is critical.

To boost your skills, visit the free Vodacom e-school portal for extra lessons and helpful guides. You can use the portal to also further your skills in English and Accounting. Visit TopDog for even more training courses that will help you with your studies.

Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning. Read our comprehensive breakdown of the accountancy profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.


How to train to become a bookkeeper

Bookkeeping accreditation is a serious process that’s governed by the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB). Their website provides you with comprehensive insight into the training requirements, different courses available, the certification processes, and their extensive list of accredited training institutions. This is really your first, best place to start when it comes to learning how to become a bookkeeper in South Africa. They offer you insight into the different types of training available and you can clearly see what you need to do in order to gain the accreditation required to start working.

This is a role that’s always evolving and the technology that supports it is always changing too. If you’re willing to learn and quick to dive into new programs or solutions, then you’ll already be ahead of the pack.


Accredited Bookkeeping Courses:

The following courses have been taken from the list of accredited ICB education institutions and are only a tiny snapshot of the different places that offer training. Take a look at their complete list here for more.


The Different Bookkeeper Roles:

  • Junior Bookkeeper – this is your entry level qualification
  • Senior Bookkeeper – you may have to undergo further training for this role
  • Accounting Clerk
  • Audit Clerk
  • Payroll Administrator – you will need to invest in further skills development for this role.
  • Accountant – this requires degree-level training and personal skills development
  • Financial Advisor – you will need to complete your degree and undergo further finance and management training


Professional bodies and associations:

  • ICB – an impressive resource that’s essential reading for anyone interested in this career
  • The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Accountants (ICBA) – the professional body for qualified finance professions
  • International Association of Accounting Professionals (IAAP)
  • South African Institute of Business Accountants (SAIBA)
  • South African Institute of Tax Professionals (SAIT)