This is a frequently asked question and as time goes on, the answer becomes more and more blurred.
The reason for that is software packages like Sage Line 50 and Quickbooks have enabled bookkeepers to operate at a higher level than before while accountants can quickly and easily perfume more mechanical tasks than in previous times.
Still not making sense?
Then maybe the best way to explain it is that a bookkeeper does not need to be qualified to the same level as an accountant.
For that reason, bookkeeping is an easier field to get into than accountancy.
And in practical terms, a bookkeeper will tend to do the day to day financial work of the business including data entry, chasing payments and so on while the accountant will interpret the data provided by the bookkeeper and decide how to use it to maximise the health and profitability of the business.
So a bookkeeper may be seen as a technician while the accountant enjoys a greater level of creativity.
And both professions have different types of courses and qualifications.
For example, many people take bookkeeping courses with the venerated Pitman Training centres in London’s Notting Hill and Holborn as well as Manchester, which provide a very comprehensive Accounting Technician Diploma, for bookkeepers while those looking to become true accountants usually seek ACCA or CIMA qualifications.
Others position themselves somewhere between the two with an AAT certification, another type of Accounting Technician qualification.
Looking at the two ends of the spectrum of bookkeeping versus accounting training, it is interesting to examine the subjects taught.
The Pitman Training diploma provides a number of highly practical bookkeeping courses including basic bookkeeping, purchase ledger, sales ledger, final accounts and Sage Line 50 as well as Sage Payroll.
The ACCA qualification by contrast covers more strategic subjects such as Law, Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Auditing and Financial Management.
Accounting professionals are paid considerably more than bookkeepers, to reflect their expertise and knowledge but it takes much longer to study to be an accountant than the 3-12 months required for the Pitman Training Accounting Technician Diploma.
That is why so many people take bookkeeping courses in order to get work in a financial department and study at nights to get their accountancy qualifications.
While they are doing this, they are building up valuable skills and experience while getting their foot on the accountancy career ladder so that years later, when they have their ACCA or CIMA qualifications, employers will find they have an attractive blend of qualifications and practical skills.
For those who go straight into accounting training, it can be a challenge to find that first job as most students still need to learn to get to grips with Sage Line 50 and Sage Payroll in the real world, so where possible, some work experience at the bookkeeping level is always valuable.
Some of these accounting students take a course at Pitman Training because of the practical nature of their courses and one would expect that this might circumvent the need to gain work experience to some extent although there is no substitute for experience in the field.
For more information, you can call Pitman Training’s Notting Hill centre on 020 7792 5214, Holborn on 020 7025 4700 or Manchester on 0161 923 6814, or contact us by email.