What’s the difference between an accountant and bookkeeper?

A lady writing and using a calculator


No, it’s not the set up for a joke, but a genuine question we get asked. What really are the differences between bookkeeping and accounting? Let us tell you more.

Simply put, a bookkeeper records a company’s daily transactions, and an accountant builds on the information given to them by the bookkeeper. But there’s a bit more to it than that.

What does a bookkeeper do?

A bookkeeper is the person that prepares accounts, whether that’s for a large company or a sole trader. They document financial transactions and offer a literal look at where a person or company stands at a particular moment in time.

What qualification do I need to be a bookkeeper?

The wonderful thing about bookkeeping is that you don’t need any prior knowledge or experience to become one. You need an eye for detail and accuracy, and then you can take a bookkeeping course such as AAT Certificate in Bookkeeping. Then you can go out into the world and bookkeep all you like!

What does an accountant do?

An accountant takes the data given to them by the bookkeeper and produces financial reports, analysis, and statistics for wider company decisions. Accounting can be more subjective, and needs skilled interpretation. Accountants can help a business decide when to make major financial decisions, or hold back on a big investment.

What qualifications do I need to be an accountant?

Accounting takes a bit more training than bookkeeping. You have to take standardised exams and authorised courses. You can, however, start with little to no experience. For example you can start at AAT Foundation Certificate with only a good standard of English and basic maths skills.

Can a bookkeeper call themselves an accountant, and vice versa?

A bookkeeper can’t call themselves an accountant if they’ve not got the relevant qualifications. If you’ve just done a bookkeeping course, then you can only call yourself a bookkeeper. An accountant can call themselves a bookkeeper as they will have done bookkeeping training during their accounting qualification.

Interested in bookkeeping or accounting?

If you think either option sounds good to you, have a look at our AAT Bookkeeping page, or our AAT Accountancy page, for more information.