Every business needs to track how much money it's bringing in, and how much it owes to employees, vendors and suppliers. These services may be handled in-house by an employee, or they may be contracted out to a freelance bookkeeper or bookkeeping firm. However, because of the need for bookkeeping in all business types and sizes, these skills should always be in demand, whether in-house or on contract.
Bookkeepers have the responsibility of helping ensure a company's financial information is properly managed and recorded. This may involve maintaining the books for an entire company, tracking payment histories, handling payroll, sending payments to the bank or suppliers, preparing invoices and keeping track of overdue accounts. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were nearly 1.6 million bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks working in the U.S. in May 2013.
How Much do Bookkeepers Make?
The BLS does not have a statistic for bookkeepers alone, but reports that bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks in the U.S. earned mean annual wages of $37,250 in 2013, or about $17.91 an hour. Nationwide, employment was concentrated primarily across five types of employers in the field:
- Accounting, tax prep, bookkeeping and payroll services (92,690 workers): $36,670
- Management of companies and enterprises (75,040 workers): $38,100
- Local government (70,220 workers): $37,790
- Depository credit intermediation (41,570 workers): $35,600
- Elementary and secondary schools (39,340 workers): $37,860
Of course, salaries vary based on numerous factors, including size and type of employer, length of the bookkeeper's experience, the industry, type of training, and geographical location. For instance, though they employ a very small proportion of those working in this profession, the employers that paid the highest average annual salaries to bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks in May 2013 were:
- Postal service (only 390 workers): $59,280
- Securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage (5,890 workers): $51,590
- Rail transportation (780 workers): $47,880
About one-quarter of bookkeepers work part-time, according to the BLS, and some only work during busy seasons, such as right before the end of the year or the April IRS tax-filing deadline.
Career Outlook for Bookkeepers
The job outlook for bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks is in line with the average growth pattern for the rest of the U.S., according to the BLS. About 204,600 new jobs are expected nationwide between 2012 and 2022, for a projected growth of 11 percent. Furthermore, the BLS notes that full-charge bookkeepers are expected to see strong growth, and those who are certified bookkeepers (CBs) are expected to have the best job prospects.
Because bookkeepers are so widely valued in business, high concentrations of jobs may be found in large metropolitan areas that are financial centers. Take a look at a few top picks for bookkeepers, plus metropolitan area wages as reported in 2013 by the BLS:
- New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ: With the nation's highest concentration of bookkeeping, accounting and auditing clerks (63,210 workers), the annual mean wage was $43,580.
- Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA: This area had the 10th-largest concentration of these workers (20,880 workers) in 2013, and was the fifth-highest-paying metro area, with an annual mean wage of $45,050.
- Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-MD-VA-WV: This metro area had the eighth-largest concentration of workers (22,010) and was the seventh-highest-paying, at $44,760.