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If you’re looking to gain a competitive advantage in the world of accounting, look no further than a bookkeeping certification. Skilled bookkeepers provide a valuable service to large and small organizations by keeping meticulous records of all financial transactions.
A bookkeeping certification not only adds value to your skill set but also helps you stay on top of the latest trends and technological advances in the industry. Read on to learn what you need to know about becoming a certified bookkeeper.
Bookkeeping Certifications: CB vs. CPB
A bookkeeper certification tells employers that you have all the skills and expertise required for advanced bookkeeping.
There are two major credentialing bodies for bookkeepers. The first is the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB), and the second is the National Association of Public Bookkeepers (NACPB). Both offer similar benefits regarding membership, resources and renewable credentials. While other bookkeeping credentials do exist, those offered by AIPB and NACPB are the most renowned and respected.
The primary difference between the AIPB’s certification and NACPB’s license is the resulting title. Those credentialed by AIPB earn the Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation. Those who earn licensure through NACPB gain the Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) title.
You do not need a formal education to go through the AIPB’s certification process.
However, NACPB recommends a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related industry to earn the CPB license.
In terms of hiring potential, there is little difference between the two designations. Both are nationally recognized and well-regarded by accounting professionals.
How Long is a Certified Bookkeeper Certification?
Prior to earning either designation, you must prove that you have sufficient bookkeeping experience.
To qualify for the CPB license, you need to accumulate 2,000 hours or one year of experience in the field.
CPB licensure lasts one year, after which you must demonstrate that you completed all necessary continuing education credits and pay an annual membership fee. CPB credentials require 24 hours of continuing education per year of licensure.
Requirements for CB certification are more extensive, as they ask for at least 3,000 hours of experience or two years of bookkeeping or accounting experience.
To maintain the CB credential, you must fulfill 60 continuing education credits every three years.
How Much Does a Bookkeeping Certification Cost?
Another difference to note between the CBP and CB credentials is cost. You must pay for each part of the required exam, along with any preparation courses you may take. As noted above, NACPB and AIPB both require annual fees as well to keep members’ credentials current.
To score discounted fees, consider becoming a member of the organization of your choosing before registering for any courses and exams.
Cost of the CPB Bookkeeping Certification
The cost to become a CPB includes four courses and their respective exams. If you purchase these materials as a bundle, they cost $1,276 in total.
You must also pay an application fee of $100. Annual renewal applications cost $25 for NACPB members and $50 for nonmembers. Membership also gives you access to resources that can help you prepare to become a CPB.
Cost of the CB Bookkeeping Certification
To become a CB, AIPB asks for a registration fee of $25 for members and $60 for nonmembers. The organization also offers one-, two-, and three-year memberships at discounted prices.
For preparatory courses and workbooks, AIPB charges $254 for members and $324 for members. The first two parts of AIPB’s four-part test cost $100 each. The final two parts of the exam are free and included in the workbooks.
How to Become a Certified Bookkeeper
The first step to becoming a CB or CPB is making the decision to do so. Earning your credential is going to take time, effort and patience, but the career advantages you’ll gain are well worth the effort.
After you’ve decided to pursue one of these professional designations, you must complete the following steps.
Meet All the Program Requirements
The first step to becoming a certified bookkeeper is ensuring you’ve met all professional and educational requirements. Regardless of whether you are pursuing credentials through AIPB or NACPB, your supervisor or a former employer must validate your experience hours.
AIPB also asks prospective CBs to sign the Certified Bookkeeper Code of Ethics. NACPB asks for an agreement to abide by the CPB Professional Code of Conduct. Both codes of conduct are part of an application form you’ll need to submit.
Enroll in a Program
Before jumping straight into either exam, you must first take a series of courses. Prior bookkeeping experience does not exempt you from these preparatory courses. Completing courses and workbooks can help you prepare for and pass your bookkeeping exam.
AIPB CB Courses
AIPB offers a series of six self-paced classes and accompanying workbooks, all of which are part of AIPB’s CB preparatory course. You can purchase each course separately or together as a bundle. AIPB also has extra courses for sale, such as mastering double-entry bookkeeping. However, these courses are not required knowledge for the CB exam.
NACPB CPB Courses
The NACPB requires you to complete four bookkeeping certifications to obtain the CPB license. These include certifications in bookkeeping, payroll, QuickBooks and accounting. Each has an accompanying self-taught course that takes 11 to 13 weeks to complete. A certification includes a pre-assessment test, the course itself, a post-assessment test and a certification exam.
Note that NACPB’s bookkeeping certification is different from its CPB license.
Pass the Credentialing Exams
Once you’ve met all of your chosen credential’s requirements and completed your preparatory courses, it’s time to take the exams.
The CB exam involves four parts. You must complete the first two in person. You can take the third and fourth parts at home. The four parts of the AIPB bookkeeping certification exam include:
- Adjustments and error correction
- Payroll and depreciation
- Inventory and internal controls
- Fraud prevention
You may use notes and your workbook for the final two parts of the exam, but not for the first two parts.
Register to take the first part of the exam at a Prometric test center near you. Make sure to bring proper identification and any required materials on exam day. After completing part one of the CB exam, repeat this process to take part two.
If you want to retake either of the first parts of the CB exam, the fee is $60. There’s no retake fee for the at-home portion of the exam.
NACPB administers all of its exams online. Sign up through the online testing center to schedule your exam. You’ll receive instructions via email about how to best prepare and set up your test-taking environment at home, a local library or another place with an internet connection.
You must pass the bookkeeping, payroll, QuickBooks and accounting certification exams before qualifying for CPB licensure. If you do not pass one of the certification exams, you can retake it for a fee of $50 for NACPB members and $75 for nonmembers.
Bookkeeping Certification Salary Potential
If you’re wondering whether to earn CB certification or CPB licensure, keep in mind that a professional designation can help boost your earning potential. According to Payscale, certified bookkeepers make around $52,000 each year. Bookkeepers in general earn closer to $45,000.
Moreover, both the CB and CPB credentials are respected in the bookkeeping field and can help you stand out to employers.