accountant or bookkeeper


Senior Member
English - Southeastern USA
Good day!

I'm wondering about the word accountant. For, say, a person who does accounting work, like for a school or hospital, but has not been professionally certified, bearing a title such as a CPA, can that individual still be referred to as an accountant or would that be a misnomer without that person having earned the proper credentials to the title, much like you can't call yourself a lawyer or a doctor without going to law or med school, passing the necessary tests and for doctors completing the residency. The word "bookkeeper" also came to mind, but I wonder if this word indicates a sort of lowly position, which would not be the one occupied by the school or hospital's "accountant" referred to in the original question.

Thanks for your comments!
  • In BrE the term "Accountant" is ususally reserved for somebody who is professionally qualified with one of the recognised bodies. They are oten used more for audfiting a business's books than for keeping them.

    "Bookkeeper" means somebody who has had some training but hasn't taken his/her studies to a higher level. It can also mean somebody who has learned on the job, without doing any formal study or taking any exams.

    In between, personnel could be called accounts managers, accounts assistants, accounts supervisors etc.

    In short, they are not precise terms with absolute meanings.


    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    Doesn't work quite that way in the United States, as explained by the Wikipedia entry:

    In the United States, legally practicing accountants are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and other non-statutory accountants are Certified Internal Auditors (CIAs), Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) and Accredited Business Accountants (ABAs). The difference between these certifications is primarily the legal status and the types of services provided, although individuals may earn more than one certification. Additionally, much accounting work is performed by uncertified individuals, who may be working under the supervision of a certified accountant. However, as noted above the majority of accountants work in the private sector or may offer their services without the need for certification. [bf added]
    It is true, however, that the term "bookkeeper" generally connotes a lesser degree of skill/education than does the title "accountant," even if the accountant is not formally certified.

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