Certified Public Bookkeeper vs Certified Bookkeeper – Is There A Difference?

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeper
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Certified Public Bookkeeper vs Certified Bookkeeper – does the added word
‘public’ really make a difference?

Bookkeepers, either trained or untrained, are people who keep track of the financial records such as income and expenditure for companies and business organizations. Some of these records also include financial statements and transactions involving sales, receipts, invoices, debts, profits, and purchases from other individuals and organizations.

You can be a bookkeeper as soon as you graduate from high school; however, doing so limits your chances of getting better jobs. On the other hand, getting a certificate opens the door to more opportunities.

Although you can become certified as a bookkeeper by taking local or online college courses, bookkeeping certification can best be obtained from the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB) or the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB)

Both organizations are nationally recognized; the only difference is that completing the NACPB program makes you a Certified Public Bookkeeper vs Certified Bookkeeper (CB) certification with the AIPB program.

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CERTIFIED BOOKKEEPER

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperYou can become a Certified Bookkeeper by documenting your work experience and passing the four-part American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers certification exam. In detail, the steps involved include:

    • Submitting an application
    • Meeting minimum requirements of full-time bookkeeping experience of two years or its fulltime/part-time equivalents.
    • Writing and passing a four-part certification exam
    • Obeying the institution’s code of ethics
    • Completing an average of 20 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year

The first and second parts of the certification exam are to be taken at the testing center while the third and fourth parts are in the form of assignments that you can take home to be completed at your own pace. You then mail them to the institution for grading. A minimum grade of 75% is required for the first and second part, and a minimum grade of 70% is required for the third and fourth part to achieve certification.

The letters “CB” Certified Bookkeeper can be added after your name after receiving a certificate of completion. This allows your potential clients and employers to know that you have gone through the certification training, and you’re qualified to handle their bookkeeping tasks.  You can also use the letters “CB” on your business cards, social media sites, email signatures, and other marketing materials.

The AIPB certification is essential if you have not gone to any formal bookkeeping school and you want to be more relevant in your career. It is also good if you have been working as a bookkeeper before or you aspire to start a bookkeeping business.

BECOMING A CERTIFIED BOOKKEEPER

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperAs earlier discussed, there are five steps that you need to take to become a certified bookkeeper. We’ll take a comprehensive look at each of these steps.

  • Obtaining a High School Diploma.

A high school diploma is a minimum requirement needed to become a certified bookkeeper. Although it is not directly related to bookkeeping, it serves as a foundation to continue your training as a bookkeeper. Taking courses related to bookkeeping such as accounting, math, computer science, and English will go a long way to ensure that you become a good bookkeeper.

The AIPB program teaches such intricate bookkeeping skills as costs recording, value inventory, financial statements analysis, QuickBooks, payroll administration, and the use of accounting software that makes bookkeeping easier like Microsoft Excel.

  • Training as a Bookkeeper.

On-the-job training is essential to becoming a Certified Bookkeeper. Learning from an experienced bookkeeper will help a new bookkeeper learn how to perform bookkeeping operations and other work policies associated with bookkeeping. Different employers have various methods of doing their work. It’s better to learn the practices about your workplace or regional ethics.

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GETTING THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL BOOKKEEPERS (AIPB) CERTIFICATE

  • Submitting an Application.

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperThe first step in getting an AIPB certification is completing a two-page application.  On the form, you are required to answer some personal information such as your name, date of birth, contact address, and other information about your current job place. If you work as a freelancer or you do not meet the work experience requirements, there are spaces in the form to indicate such.

If you’ve not yet met the requirements for the work experience, you can still submit the form and do that later on. A registration fee of $60 for nonmembers of AIPB or $25 for AIPB members must be included when mailing your application.

  • Statement of Work Experience Submission.

The next step in obtaining an AIPB certification involves submitting a report of your bookkeeping work experience. Full-time, two-year work experience is the minimum requirement needed for the award of the AIPB certificate. However, if you’re a freelancer or a part-time worker, you must complete its equivalent which is about 3,000 hours of bookkeeping work.

You do not need to complete the minimum working experience before you submit your application. You are allowed a maximum of three years from the date you pass the last part of the exam to complete your bookkeeping work experience.

If you have some work experience, you can input the number of hours you have met so far and complete the rest later. If you are working under an organization, you are required to obtain the signature of the employer/employers those hours were completed under. For freelancers, you need to get the signature of the clients for whom you are submitting the hours.

  • Writing and Passing a Four-Part Certification Exam

The AIPB certification Exam is a significant part of becoming a certified bookkeeper. As explained earlier, it is a four-part exam with the first two parts to be taken at a Prometric test center and the other two parts to be done in the workbooks you need to purchase when preparing for the exams. You can purchase the workbook separately, or you can purchase the bundle for $314 for nonmembers and $254 for AIPB members.

The first part is a multiple-choice, two-hour exam on the topic Entries Adjustments and Error Correction. It costs a total of $100, and it is to be taken a Prometric test center. The second part of the exam is the same as the first part except that the topics to be tested are different. The second part’s topic consideration is Payroll and Depreciation. Both exams require a 75% passing grade before you can attain the AIPB certificate.

You need to schedule a test with Prometric by contacting them about available dates. Prior to this, you should have received a notification from AIPB telling you that your application has been processed and a personal testing identification number. You need to find the nearest Prometric test center to you; there are about 300 Prometric test centers nationwide.

After completing the first and second part of the exam, you immediately receive your exam scores. The third and fourth parts of the exam can be mailed or faxed to AIPB for grading. You can retake the exams if you do not pass any of them. The first and second part can be retaken for $60 each while the third and fourth part can be retaken for $25 each.

COST

The total cost of certification is $479 for members and $574 for nonmembers. AIPB allows you to spread the payment over months or years. The payment includes exam fees, workbook fees, and application fees.

NEXT STEPS

Obeying the Institution’s Code of Ethics

The next step of the AIPB certification process is to sign a two-page document listing the code of ethics of a bookkeeper and obligations to clients, employers, and the society at large. It also includes the duties that a bookkeeper has to the bookkeeping profession.

Completing an Average of 20 hours of (CPE) Each Year

AIPB requires that you maintain your certification by acquiring at least 60 continuing professional education (CPE) credits within three years, starting from the date you satisfy the experience requirement or from the anniversary of the last certification test passed. This is required every three years after.

There are different ways through which you can earn CPE credits. You can either attend local classes or sign up for the various online classes that count as CPE credit.

You don’t have to spend hours or days searching for CPE training classes; AIPB offers several CPE training courses to their members. The certificate can be withdrawn if a person fails to meet the continuing professional education requirements.

PREPARATION FOR THE AIPB CERTIFICATION EXAM.

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperYou need to prepare adequately if you are going to be writing the AIPB Certification exam, whether you’re a veteran bookkeeper or a new bookkeeper. There are many options available to you to aid your studying. Some of these include:

  • Self-Preparation

AIPB makes preparing for the exam easier by providing workbooks on each of the topics to be tested. Quizzes are introduced at the end of each section to ease your preparation and to ensure you have mastered all the parts of the curriculum. You can also take advantage of the practice exam included in each workbook to be familiar with the format of the final exam.

Below is the breakdown of the cost of each of the six workbooks needed to complete the exam:

The Entries Adjustment and Accounting Errors workbook both cost $39 each for AIPB members and $49 each for Non-members. The Payroll, Depreciation and Inventory Workbooks all cost $49 each for AIPB members and $59 each for non-members. The Internal Controls & Fraud Prevention Workbook costs $29 for AIPB members and $39 for non-members.

  • Preparation and Instructor-Led Preparation

Various preparation programs grant you access to seasoned instructors to teach the topics in the curriculum and to answer questions that need clarification.  

An example is Ed2go; the Ed2go program offers students more relevant material than you can find in the workbook.  Another is UCSD Extension. Rather than an online program as offered by Ed2go, they provide live instruction classes to prepare you for the AIPB certification exam.

CERTIFIED PUBLIC BOOKKEEPER

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperThe Public Bookkeeper Certification is offered by the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers (NACPB). NACPB has been established for some years now with the primary aim of ensuring that only qualified personnel provide bookkeeping services. They achieve this objective by training, examining, and certifying bookkeeping professionals, employees, and students in the field of bookkeeping, payroll, accounting, tax QuickBooks, and Excel.

Basically, the NACPB offers both a bookkeeper license program and a bookkeeper certification. The American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB) is in a way related to NACPB in that the bookkeeper certification program of the AIPB can be likened to the bookkeeper license program of the NACPB.

Below are the requirements for the bookkeeper license program offered by the NACPB. The steps to apply for and obtain licensure are also almost the same as the AIPB.

The NACP has made the process easier by offering two paths to obtaining a bookkeeper license: The Education path and the Work Experience path.

The Education path expects that you have an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting or a bookkeeper certificate. The Work Experience path, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily require you to have a formal education, but it requires that you have at least two years (4,000 hours) of bookkeeping or accounting experience. The Education path has alternatives in case you do not have an associate or bachelor’s degree in accounting. You can substitute the requirement by passing the following courses:

Accounting Fundamentals

Accounting Principles

Payroll Fundamentals

QuickBooks Fundamentals (Desktop) or QuickBooks Online Fundamentals

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REQUIREMENTS TO BECOMING NACPB-CERTIFIED

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperYou need to choose one of the two paths earlier mentioned to obtain certification through NACPB. Below are the detailed steps for both paths.

THE EDUCATION PATH

You are qualified to apply for your NACPB license through the education path if you possess a bookkeeper’s certificate or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in accounting. The NACPB assumes you already have enough knowledge and skill required of a bookkeeper to apply for a license without any prior experience working as a bookkeeper. People who have completed the education alternative courses can also proceed to apply through the education path.

The process of acquiring your license through the education path is listed below:

    • Acquire an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in accounting or complete the education alternative.
    • Write and pass a four-part certification exam.
    • Agree to abide by the code of conduct that binds the bookkeeping profession.
    • Maintain your license by obtaining 24 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year.
    • Complete and submit the CPB application for licensure.

THE WORK EXPERIENCE PATH

Some people don’t have a bookkeeper’s formal training but have enough work experience needed to work as a bookkeeper or accountant. This category can also apply for the Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) license through the work experience path. However, people applying through this path need are required to have at least two years (4,000 hours) of experience working as a bookkeeper or accountant.

The process of acquiring your license through the work experience path is listed below:

    • Obtain at least two years (4,000 hours) of experience working as a bookkeeper or accountant.
    • Write and pass a four-part certification exam
    • Agree to abide by the code of conduct that binds the bookkeeping profession.
    • Maintain your license by obtaining 24 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year.
    • Complete and submit the CPB application for licensure.

There are lots of local courses and online courses you can sign up for to meet the required CPE credit each year. The NACPB also provides classes to their members.

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IN-DEPTH REVIEW OF THE STEPS TO OBTAINING THE CERTIFIED PUBLIC BOOKKEEPER (CPB) LICENSE

  • Submission of Personal and Contact Information

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperOn the application form, you are required to provide some personal information answers and your contact information, such as email address, mailing address, and phone number. As in the AIPB Certified Bookkeeper Application, you are also required to provide a list of clients or employers that you have worked for and also the number of hours you worked. You also indicate if you worked as a freelancer, but you must provide all your clients’ names and the total hours worked.

NACPB does not allow you to submit your application for CPB license until you have passed the certification exam, completed the work experience or education requirement, and signed the professional code of conduct. This differs from the way the AIPB certification process works because they allow you to submit your application, then complete the other requirements later.

  • Statement of Work Experience Submission

The next step in obtaining the CPB license entails submitting a statement of your bookkeeping work experience. Two years (4,000) hours is the minimum requirement needed for getting the CPB license when applying through the work experience path.

Each client or employer that you have included in your application will need to complete a one-page form.  They will need to answer a couple of questions that include the name of the employer/client, address, phone number, your position in the business organization, dates you were employed, the total number of hours worked, and general questions about your disposition to work. There is also a place to fill in extra comments if required.

  • Statement of Education Submission

If you’re applying through the education path, you will need to submit transcript(s) that ascertain that you have completed the educational requirement. If they were obtained from other organizations, submit certificates from the organizations you have named.

  • Writing and Passing the Certification Exam

The National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers’ (NACPB) offers a Uniform Certified Public Bookkeeper Exam to everyone who wishes to obtain a Certified Public Bookkeeper (CPB) license.  

After the requirements have been met and the application has been submitted, the exam is the next stage of obtaining the CPB license. Candidates who have gone through this process can then add the letters CPB (Certified Public Bookkeeper) after their name using the CPB license and logo. You can also use CPB on your business cards, on social media sites, email signatures, and other marketing materials.

There are also four parts of the Uniform Certified Public Bookkeeper Exam similar to the AIPB certification exam. However, unlike the first and second part of the AIPB certification which you must take at a Prometric center, all four parts of the CPB certification exam are CBT and can be taken in your house.

The first part is a two-hour exam on the topic of accounting fundamentals. It costs a total of $100 for NACPB Members and $150 for non-members.  The second part of the exam is the same as the first part in terms of pricing and the number of hours. However, the topic you’ll be tested on is accounting principles.

The third and fourth parts of the curriculum are payroll fundamentals and Quickbooks fundamentals respectively, and they cost the same as the first and second. This makes the total cost of the exam $400 for NACPB members and $600 for non-members.

All exams are open-book exams; they require a 75% (37 out of 50 questions for each part) passing grade before you can attain the CPB license. You can only take one part at a time. You must, however, schedule a day and time to take the exam by going to ATU. You will receive the exam via email 24 hours before your scheduled exam time.

You only have one year from the date of purchase to take and pass each part of the exam. You can retake any part you didn’t pass by purchasing a re-take. It costs $50 for NACPB members and $75 for nonmembers for each part.

  • Adhere to Code of Ethics

The next step of the CPB licensure process requires you to sign and agree to the code of professional conduct of the National Association of Certified Accounting Paraprofessionals. It also includes the duties that a bookkeeper has to clients, employers, the public, and fellow bookkeepers and accounting professionals.

  • Meet the Continuing Professional Education Requirements Every Year

For you to maintain your certification, NACPB requires that you complete 24 hours of continuing professional education each year. Failure to do this might result in the withdrawal of the license. The NACPB offers free educational courses that you can apply to this requirement. Although, you can search on your own for other online classes that count towards the CPE requirement.

PREPARING FOR THE UNIFORM CERTIFIED PUBLIC BOOKKEEPER EXAM

NACPB offers a number of ways to help candidates prepare for the certification exam. Some of the available options are discussed below:

  • Practice Exams

NACPB offers practice exams that take the format of the real exam to help candidates see whether they can pass the exam based on their knowledge and work experience. The practice tests are free, so you can take it to see if you are ready to take the certification exam or have an idea on the areas you need to improve.

  • On-Request Videos

Members of the NACPB have access to on-request videos for each of the four parts of the exam: Accounting Principles, Accounting Fundamentals, Payroll Fundamentals and QuickBooks Fundamentals. The videos come in handy after taking the practice exams and you’ve discovered the areas you need to study more. The membership fee is $100, and it grants you access to other packages including the videos and reduced application and exam fees.

  • NACPB Certification Examination Preparation Program

Many free study tools are available to NACPB members if you decide to join their association. NACPB also offers an examination preparation course which costs $399 for NACPB members and $499 for non-members, amounting to a total cost of $1,596 for NACPB members and $1,996 for non-members.  

There is a prep course for each of the four parts of the certification exam.  People that have taken course attest that it entails a pre-assessment test, on-demand video instruction, a textbook, workbook, and a whole lot of other study tools.  Your questions and unclear arguments can also be answered by an instructor.

ONLINE AND LOCAL COLLEGE BOOKKEEPING COURSES

certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeperApart from the AIPB and NACPB certification, there are a number of additional bookkeeper courses and certification programs that exist. Two among the most recognized of these programs include the U.S. Career Institutes’ Bookkeeping Specialist program and UCLA Extension’s Bookkeeping Specialization program.

After completing these courses, you do not earn any kind of letters to put behind your name as in the AIPB and NACPB programs. However, you will be given a certificate from an accredited institution that verifies that you have the knowledge and skills to perform the duties required of a bookkeeper.

BOOKKEEPING SPECIALIST, U.S. CAREER INSTITUTE

The U.S. Career Institute is an online educational institute established for more than 35 years now. They offer online bookkeeping training designed specifically for distance learners. After completion of the course, you are given a bookkeeping specialist certificate that you can use to work in many places.

The curriculum includes courses such as Bookkeeping Equations, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Discounts, Closing the Books, Banking, Payroll Records, Reversing Entries and Allowances, The Journal and Entry Systems, Computerized Bookkeeping, Financial Statements, Partnerships, Corporations and Non-Profit Organizations, The Ledger and The Worksheet.

The Bookkeeping training program costs $589; the program can be completed at learner’s pace.

BOOKKEEPING SPECIALIZATION, UCLA EXTENSION

UCLA Extension offers a bookkeeping specialization program designed for both experienced bookkeepers and office managers and those who are looking to further their bookkeeping/accounting career or startup a bookkeeping practice. They offer both on-ground and online courses; the on-ground courses are taught at UCLA, located in Westwood, CA.

The total cost of this program is $3,635. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required in each course to be eligible for the award of a certificate upon completion of all courses in the program.

Some of the courses offered in this program include Bookkeeping and Accounting Essentials I, Bookkeeping and Accounting Essentials II, Payroll Tax and Accounting and an elective course from Accounting using QuickBooks or Cloud-based QuickBooks.

ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE CERTIFICATION PROGRAMS

After completing a certification program that will differ for a certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeper, it’s also pertinent that you get an accounting software certificate. Most bookkeeping tasks can now be done with software, saving you hours and improving your work efficiency. By getting certified, you will have a better understanding of how to use these digital tools in your own business.

Below is one of the most popular top accounting software programs used by millions of small businesses all over the world.

  • QuickBooks ProAdvisor

QuickBooks ProAdvisor is a top accounting software used by small and medium businesses all over the world. Getting QuickBooks ProAdvisor software certification opens a lot of opportunities for you. To get certification, you need to pass a 55-question exam. The exam is divided into several sections.  You are required to score a minimum of 80% to advance to the next section.

A lot of benefits come as a result of getting the Quickbooks ProAdvisor certification badge. These include adding it to your portfolio, CV, or business card and more job opportunities. You will also be listed on the Find-a-ProAdvisor website, so businesses searching for a Quickbooks Pro Advisor expert can quickly locate and hire you.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We’ve reviewed some of the best certification programs for certified public bookkeeper vs certified bookkeeper that can take you to the next level in your profession. You can select any of them based on the different benefits they offer.

The AIPB certification does not require you to have any kind of education or work experience in bookkeeping before you submit your application, while the NACPB certification requires that you have either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in accounting or a minimum of two years (4,000 hours) experience working as a bookkeeper.

Whichever you choose, you still must write their certification exam and adhere to their code of ethics.

Lastly, below are some of the skills that every bookkeeper must have:

  • Embrace technology.

The world is becoming a global village, and technology is a significant force that drives its evolution. It has also helped in making tasks easier in all fields including bookkeeping. A bookkeeper must be able to keep up with technology and with the competition.

Learning new software grants you an edge over others; it makes your work easier, faster, and more efficient. You don’t expect someone using Quickbooks Pro Advisor and someone doing it manually to perform different bookkeeping tasks at the same speed and accuracy.

Therefore a bookkeeper must be technology-savvy and be able to keep up with the innovations pertaining to the bookkeeping and accounting industry.

  • A bookkeeper must possess excellent communication skills.

You’ll be expected to discuss finances with the manager of the business, and they’ll also expect feedback. Inform of basic financial reports and statements like the Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet and updates about cash flow.

Sometimes a bookkeeper has to work alongside other bookkeepers and professionals; excellent communication skills will ensure that you get the job done quickly.

As earlier mentioned, the world is a global village, and your clients as a bookkeeper can be people from other countries. Good communication skills help you extend your business because when you communicate with people at a more personal level; they become more endeared to the person who will love to work again with them.

  • Get the necessary educational requirement.

Although you can gain experience by working closely with a veteran bookkeeper, it’s pertinent that you get the required education. It makes you more relevant among other bookkeepers, and people will value your skills more.

Clients and employers are more willing to hire bookkeepers that have some level of education because they believe that they must have at least some knowledge of accounting principles, and mainly tested qualifications are necessary to become a bookkeeping professional.

  • Get some work experience.

Apart from getting the necessary educational requirement, it’s also necessary you get some work experience. In reality, the theory might be slightly different from the possible or actual work experience.

Also, most companies are more willing to hire a freelance bookkeeper with prior work experience. Spending a year or so working in a traditional office will prove that you can do the work required. It also provides you with the opportunity to meet with the “big men” in the bookkeeping industry.

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