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How to Become a Fully Qualified Bookkeeper in the UK

Whilst you don’t strictly need a bookkeeping qualification to work in the industry, having one can make the difference between getting your dream job and not.

Bookkeeping is an especially competitive industry, with some great opportunities (and salaries) existing for job candidates who have the right skills and knowledge.

Having a professional qualification under your belt can help you prove to employers that you have the skills and knowledge for the role you’re applying for.

With that in mind, here’s a short guide about how to become a qualified bookkeeper in the UK.

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Find the right qualification

Qualifications are the foundation that your bookkeeping career is built on, so it makes sense to take some time finding the right one for your needs and your career development plans.

The exact one that’s right for you will obviously depend on your own unique circumstances.

The three main bodies that offer bookkeeping qualifications in the UK, that can allow you to become a qualified bookkeeper, are:

The most popular bookkeeping qualifications in the UK though are offered by the AAT – the Association of Accounting Technicians.

The AAT offers qualifications that are probably the most highly regarded by employers in the field. They’re regarded as one of the most effective qualifications you could study for starting, or developing an existing career in bookkeeping.

The AAT is a professional membership body that’s responsible for maintaining a high level of standards and skills in the accounting world, based on the practical skills that employers want. They do this through offering qualifications.

The AAT has around 130,000 members across more than 100 countries and awards around 80% of vocational qualifications in accountancy and bookkeeping – a surprisingly large amount, proving how well AAT qualifications are in demand amongst learners and employers.

AAT qualifications are divided into different levels and different types of qualification. They cover all stages of your career in a bookkeeping role, from those early days where you’re finding your feet in the field through to more experienced stages where you’re looking to enhance your skills and move on to a more senior role.

The three specific bookkeeping qualifications that AAT offer are:

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Find the right study format 

Bookkeeping qualifications come in a variety of different formats, but you can split most into two distinct types: in-person learning, or distance-learning.

With in-person learning, you go to a college or university every week. You then complete the course over a specific period of time, by attending lectures with other students.

Distance learning is slightly different. With this type of learning, you complete the same course as in-person qualifications, but you do so from your own home, using an internet connection to work through the lectures and course materials at your own speed. 

Each learning format has its own pros and cons, so you’ll have to think carefully about the format that you learn best with when deciding on your qualification.

In-person qualifications are great if you learn better with other people and if you enjoy the personal interaction that comes with learning. It can be more expensive and slower to complete though, overall.

Distance learning is more flexible than in-person learning and can help you fit study around existing commitments, like a full-time job or family – you complete the course at your own pace and don’t need to stick to a strict schedule.

Distance learning can also be cheaper than in-person study too. That said, the fact that you’re responsible for your own learning doesn’t suit some learners and it's important to remember that you will have to be self- motivated to complete the course.

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Find the right price 

It pays to shop around when it comes to choosing your bookkeeping qualification.

Even though learning providers are committed to helping you progress your career, they’re also interested in making money too: they are businesses after all! Unfortunately, if something sounds too cheap to be true then there’s a strong likelihood that it probably is.

This means that you’ll need to keep your wits about you to make sure that you’re getting the very best price on your course, without sacrificing quality.

Use your common sense when it comes to finding your qualification at a fair price. Do some initial research into the key providers for bookkeeping qualifications and compare their prices and features.

The price of qualifications can often vary depending on the format it’s completed in, whether exam costs are included in the price and the amount of student support that you receive.

Periodically, most learning providers have sales where they offer discounts on courses. ICS Learn, for instance, has regular sales throughout the year where we’re able to offer significant savings to learners - so keep your eyes peeled for these!

An AAT bookkeeping qualification can be a significant investment. Luckily most providers offer some form of buy-now-pay-later scheme, or finance arrangement to allow you to pay back the total cost of the course over several months.

This can help you cope with paying the often sizeable cost of a professional qualification, as well as helping you avoid having to find the money upfront.

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Decide what you want from a provider

As we learned above, one of the things that affects the price you’ll pay for a qualification will be the things that come with it – the unique features that make one learning provider different from another.

These obviously vary from provider to provider. They can be things as small as free merchandise and stationery, through to alumni discounts, longer student support periods or even assessment and exam costs.

As the learning provider you choose to study with can ultimately have an effect on your grades, a key step of becoming qualified is determining whether the provider you’re studying with is giving you the best possible deal to support your learning journey.

Each provider will specialise in some unique feature they provide that their competitors don’t, so do some research to see how these match up with different providers. You might find one feature that particularly appeals to you. 

Specific features that different providers might offer to watch out for could include:

  • Exam costs included in the course
  • Free resits for assessments
  • Support periods (i.e. a period of time when you can get free advice and support from tutors)
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Study well

To qualify as a bookkeeper, you’ll need to gather your reserves of determination, motivation and focus. Professional, vocational qualifications aren’t a walk in the park – they can be quite challenging, particularly if you’re juggling other commitments at the same time.

Perhaps the most important thing you can do towards getting qualified as a bookkeeper in the UK is to just study. And study smart.

We’ve created lots of study resources to help you in your learning journey and to become the best bookkeeper you can be.

Whether you’re looking for the best app to help you streamline your learning, proven revision strategies or effective ways to fit your studying around full time work, our blog hosts tons of articles to help you.

Remember, your journey to qualifying as a bookkeeper is based on the type of qualification that you choose to study and the learning provider you opt for. Do your research and bear these five points in mind and you’ll qualify in no time!


Develop your bookkeeping career by studying a professional qualification that you can study anywhere. Download your free AAT course guide today.

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