For an accurate diagnosis, veterinarians rely on an accepted set of quality controls.
Was the animal correctly fasted? Was the right collection vial used? What about the quality of the serum sample? Was it transported
in a way to ensure accurate chemical results?
Marsha L. Heinke DVM, EA, CPA, CVPM
Similar principles apply when handling financial and managerial data in a practice. Quality controls are essential, and applying
them requires a trained, experienced technician.
That technician is your practice bookkeeper.
The bookkeeper's duties basically involve handling financial data and maintaining good records. Key attributes are attentiveness
to detail, neatness, consistency and organization. Bookkeeping responsibilities are best handled by as few people as possible,
in order to achieve conformity and continuity in your records.
Bookkeepers do not require degrees or licenses, but you might consider one who is certified (more to follow). Most will have
taken business and accounting courses in a college or trade school. The bookkeeper should have a basic knowledge of computers
and software, including spreadsheet and bookkeeping programs.
The descriptions that follow will help you find the best type of bookkeeper for your practice.
Consider the skill level and duties you expect. Will the candidate have other duties in your practice besides bookkeeping?
You can use this information to improve current staff through additional training and education.
A Certified Bookkeeper (CB) designation is to bookkeepers what a DVM license is to veterinarians, or a CPA license is to accountants.
A bookkeeper who is certified must meet national standards set by the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers (AIPB).
Certification follows an examination proving a basic knowledge; also, a minimum experience level and ongoing professional
education requirements must be met.
On the examination, the candidate must achieve a score of at least 75 percent in each of five areas of knowledge: adjusting
entries; error correction, including the bank reconciliation; depreciation, book and tax, including passenger autos; payroll;
and inventory under the perpetual and periodic systems.
Before earning a CB designation, candidates must have at least 3,000 hours (two years) of practical office experience and
sign a code of ethics established by the AIPB. To maintain certification, a CB must complete an average of 30 continuing-education
credits per year.
The AIPB provides the following three titles and job descriptions for those who are not certified, but have skills and competencies
required for bookkeeping. Such persons may meet the basic requirements for bookkeeping positions in many veterinary practices.
A person at this skill level:
- n Maintains and handles all books through the adjusted trial balance.
- Records assets, leases and expenditures and performs the monthly bank reconciliation.
- Analyzes and corrects current-period errors in the general ledger.
- Handles payroll, files federal and state payroll tax returns and computes related deposits.
As a caveat, we strongly advise outsourcing payroll in most veterinary practices with relatively small staffs (fewer than
We believe veterinary practices are at risk when a single person is responsible for all aspects of payroll preparation, return
filing and trust-fund account remittances. When outsourcing, practice owners are wise to research credentials and bonding
before turning over payroll preparation. Talk with an accountant and attorney before deciding.
This individual has a lesser slate of duties and somewhat less expertise than the Full-Charge Bookkeeper. The basic profile:
- Has at least two years of experience in general bookkeeping, accounts receivable and payable, and bank reconciliation.
- Records transactions in main and subsidiary journals.
- Posts entries to ledger accounts.
- May or may not adjust entries, file federal and state payroll tax returns and compute related deposits.