Bookkeepers compute, classify, and verify monetary transactions in order to develop and maintain financial records. They keep a systematic record of financial transactions by keeping different sets of accounting books.  They may be responsible for the books of a small company, or part of an accounting department in a larger organisation.

Bookkeepers keep records of the credits owed to the company and the debts of the company. They record debits and credit in cash books, ledgers, subsidiary books and journals, compare current and past balance sheets, summarise details of separate ledgers and prepare reports for supervisors and managers. They may also prepare bank deposits and send cash, cheques, and other forms of payment to the bank. Every month they prepare statements regarding the money owed to the company. In some cases the amounts are adjusted by the addition of interest that has accrued.  The final statement or account is checked by the accountant or auditor and sent through to the client or customer.

When bookkeepers receive cash they write a receipt in duplicate, one for the company and one for the client. A record is kept of the daily balance and this balance is reconciled monthly and then annually. In smaller organisations bookkeepers handle all aspects of financial transactions. This money is regularly banked and bank forms have to be filled in by the bookkeepers.  A record is kept of the daily balance.  The increased use of computers has allowed the use of specialised accounting software on personal computers.

When merchandise is ordered from a factory or wholesaler by a dealer, they do not pay cash.  The dealers receive a summary of the amounts they owe at regular intervals and the bookkeepers arrange for payment of the account.

In department stores, bookkeepers deal with the goods that are bought and sold, while in a legal organisation, they check the securities of the clients and note the interest.  They often work with trust money and post entries into journals.  In some cases bookkeepers complete income tax returns for their employers or clients.

Work settings vary widely. Bookkeepers may have their own offices or may work in offices with many other employees. The actual settings in which they operate will depend on the type, size, location and financial resources of the various employers. Offices are, however, usually convenient and equipped with modern aids such as calculators, bookkeeping machines and computers.  Bookkeepers work normal office hours but they may be required to work overtime when balance sheets are drawn up.

Areas of specialisation and advancement positions include:

  • Credit Controller
  • Debit Controller
  • Stores Controller
  • Head Bookkeeper
  • Office Manager

Personal Requirements

  • accurate, careful and neat worker
  • able to concentrate and work well under pressure
  • enjoy working with figures and be figure orientated
  • able to perform routine arithmetical calculations correctly
  • interest in and an aptitude for bookkeeping
  • trustworthy, dependable and honest
  • able to get along well with others
  • able to deal with clients in a friendly way

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Entry requirements differ from one course to another, so check the requirements of the courses in which you are interested. A National Senior Certificate is usually required, as is the case at universities of technology for National Diplomas. The Institute for Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) requires a Grade 10 Certificate whereas other professional institutions require a National Senior Certificate.

Compulsory Subjects: None 
Recommended subjects: AccountingBusiness Studies

What to Study

The Institute for Certified Bookkeepers offers three examinations: the Certificate, Associate and Fellowship (for fellowship members of the Institute) examinations. To enable candidates to become Associate members, the Institute requires that the applicants register as students of the Institute and then write and pass the subjects required for the Certificate level before proceeding with the Associate subjects. Once these 8 subjects (4 at each level) have been written and passed, the candidates may accept Associate Membership and use the designation AICB (SA) (Associate Institute of Certified Bookkeepers).

Only those Associate members who are in good standing may continue to write the Fellowship examinations. (This level is not compulsory). Once the four subjects have been written and passed at this level, Associate members can accept Fellow Membership of the Institute and use the designation FICB (SA) (Fellow of the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers).

Degree: A BCom (Acc) degree is presented by all universities. The different universities should be contacted for admission requirements.

Diploma: The N.Dip. Commercial Education is presented by the following universities of technology: UNISA, DUT, UJ, CPUT, TUT, VUT, CUT, NMMU. They should be contacted for admission requirements.

Certificate courses are offered at most FET colleges, e.g. Northlink, South Cape.

Accounting Institutes: There are a number of other Accounting Institutes in South Africa offering various Accounting qualifications.

Representative Council of Accountants (RCA): The RCA is a new body representing all professional accounting bodies in South Africa. All persons wanting to be registered as bookkeepers, accounting officers, accountants or chartered accountants doing the attest function are required to be registered with an accounting body, as well as with the RCA. The accounting structure in South Africa has been divided into four particular Tiers representing the four levels of bookkeepers and accountants in South Africa.

The public service provides in-service training in financial administration.


  • public, provincial and municipal services
  • commerce and industry
  • educational institutions
  • professional and research bodies.
  • wholesale firms
  • retail stores and factories
  • banks and insurance companies
  • health care units
  • local authorities
  • government departments
  • self-employment, in private or part-time practices

Further Information

Institute of Certified Bookkeepers
Ground Floor, Birkdale 2
River Park, River Lane
Mowbray 7700
Cape Town, South Africa
Tel: (021) 659-1300

Getting Started

  • take part in any work or study programme your school may offer in bookkeeping or accountancy
  • try to obtain part-time or holiday work in the book-keeping or accounts section of a local company

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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