Why a Bookkeeping Certification Isn’t Enough

podcast Apr 10, 2023



Today, I want to talk about why a bookkeeping certification is not enough to actually prepare you to become a bookkeeper and start your bookkeeping business. 

A common question that I get asked is, “Should I be certified in QuickBooks Online or Xero?” And the answer is…not necessarily yes or no.

In my opinion, you should be. It makes things easier. But a bookkeeping certification by itself isn’t going to be the thing that single-handedly shows you how to become a bookkeeper, because that's not actually what these bookkeeping certifications are there to do. Let me explain…



The Objective of Bookkeeping Certifications

The actual objective of bookkeeping certifications are to help accountants and bookkeepers become efficient on their software, knowing how to use the functions and the tools that they have to the best of their ability.

When you are getting started and certified on something like QuickBooks Online or Xero, the expectation is that you have a basic understanding of accounting or bookkeeping. Therefore, their objective is not to teach you what accounting is or how bookkeeping works, but rather how to utilize their software to put together the pieces that you need to do the job of bookkeeping or to function within the role of accounting.

So if you don't already have the core understanding of accounting, if you don't already understand what the big picture is for bookkeeping, these bookkeeping certifications are not going to piecemeal those things together for you. They’re for people who are already existing bookkeepers or accountants. 

The bookkeeping certifications are only there to help you navigate the system. So are they valuable? Yes. Do they often have perks? Yes. But they’re not something you need to do the work of bookkeeping—you actually need something more all-encompassing.


My Experience Getting Certified in QuickBooks

I am a Xero girl through and through these days, and part of the reason is my experience with my first bookkeeping certification. 

Back when I first passed my CPA exam in the early 2010s, I was doing the QuickBooks Pro-Advisor certification. I sat in my dimly lit cubicle with no windows, tasked with becoming Pro-Advisor certified, going through that whole process…and I hated it. 

I hated it. It was so tedious. It made no sense. And like I said, I’d just taken the CPA exam. You would think that I had all of the qualifications that would allow that process to be easy, and it was not.

While I did end up passing, it took a long time. I can't tell you how many hours it took. I had to watch videos and memorize things that I swear I never touched throughout my actual work. It wasn’t testing me on the things that I actually did as a CPA; I didn't implement it within my job, and I have never implemented it within my bookkeeping business. 

I think that that says a lot; while I don’t believe that it’s an inherently bad platform or an inherently bad bookkeeping certification, it’s overwhelmingly robust. Sometimes that's a good thing, and sometimes that's a bad thing, but for people who want to build that simple, scalable bookkeeping business, QuickBooks is likely not the thing that you're going to utilize. It has an iceberg full of features that you're never going touch. In my business, I do the tip of the iceberg, and it's highly effective. 

That’s what I love about Xero; it’s much more effective for people who want that kind of business. That’s why I want to focus on the Xero bookkeeping certification here rather than QuickBooks.



Should You Get Certified?

All that to say, people who are considering joining my program Become a Bookkeeper will often ask if they should get certified.

I used to say, “You don't have to, but I would recommend it.” That’s still the truth; that answer is not going to change. But the more that I think about it, the truth is, you really don't need it. I wasn’t certified in Xero when I first started, and even if I had been, most of my clients wouldn’t have known what a Xero certification was.

This is something I want to drive home to you: your clients are not going to know what these softwares even are, never mind give a shit that you are certified in QuickBooks Online or Xero. To them, that's not going to be the difference between hiring you or not.

A bookkeeping certification may boost your confidence and make you feel a little more qualified and comfortable, but outside of that, it’s not going to give you some piece of capability for the actual bookkeeping work. It’s not meant for that.

So yes, I think that you should get certified. Yes, I think that you should grit your teeth and bear down and get through that bookkeeping certification process early so that you can reap the rewards it offers for a longer duration. The time that you need to commit to getting certified is finite, so if you can just say, “Okay, tonight instead of binging Arrested Development, I'm going to get certified in Xero,” you can have that done and under your belt.

Is it uncomfortable? Yes. Is it going to be worth it for the future version of me? Also yes. So I would recommend that. 

However, the bookkeeping certification by itself—without a background that helps you gain a foundational understanding of accounting and bookkeeping—is not the thing that's going to teach you how to navigate things with your clients in real life. 

If you don't already have that knowledge from practical, real-world experience in something like a CPA firm or training under a bookkeeper who was gracious enough to teach you the whole process, or through an accounting degree or a master's degree or a combination of both, you're going to have gaps. This is where a program like Become a Bookkeeper will come into play.


Become a Bookkeeper

If you don't already have experience or education, and you want to do it in a shorter period of time with a greater level of understanding of the whole process, you're going to benefit from my Become a Bookkeeper program. 

There are three phases to Become a Bookkeeper: Learn, Shadow, and Apply. These are things that you're not going to see inside of the QuickBooks or Xero certification, because that's not their point. 

So, with Learn, you're going to get the accounting basics with a textbook. You're going to get the tax basics so that you can have competent conversations with tax preparers. You’re going to understand the whole picture of bookkeeping conceptually before you get into phase two, Shadow, where you watch me do a real-life client example in the system. And then the third phase is Apply, where you get to take mock data, import it into the system in Xero (my preferred platform for a reason!), and actually test what you just learned in a different example so that you can see what you’ve got.

Then, once you're done doing that, you get to compare your reports to mine, and you get to watch the answer key where I do it and see what you did differently.



Certifications are Valuable…But Not Enough

All in all, the conclusion I want you to draw from this is that a bookkeeping certification is valuable. I would recommend getting it a hundred times over, but ultimately…your clients don't care. So what you really need to consider is the benefit to you. And in addition, if you think that these certifications are going to show you the whole picture of bookkeeping enough to replace a formal education experience or enrollment in Become a Bookkeeper, you're wrong, because they serve two different objectives. 



If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs). 

To learn about the programs and get a peek behind the curtain, head to www.katieferro.com/6-secrets.

Learn how to take your bookkeeping skills and turn them into a business that allows you to replace (or surpass) your corporate salary, be present for your life, and profoundly impact your clients without selling your life in the process by joining Life by the Books (LIBBY).

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Website: https://www.katieferro.com/