No matter what industry you are in, finance and accounting will play a role in various sections. Accountants analyze and prepare financial records for organizations and individual clients. However, certain skills are needed for specific accounting jobs by title. For example, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) specialize in tax forms, balance statements, and other forms of financial documentation that clients must legally disclose. This job requires precision, analytical skills, and strong ethics.
If you seek more ways to be productive and become a better accountant, discover the essential skills of numerous accountants below.
1. Financial Statement Preparation Capability
Preparing financial statements is one of the main things accountants do. Financial statements track the organization’s business activities and financial position. Three primary statements you should be able to prepare are our income statements (profit and loss), cash flow statements (movement of cash assets), and balance sheets (a real-time look at assets, liabilities, and equity). These statements provide a snapshot of an organization’s financial health.
2. Knowledge of Business Practices in General
A bachelor’s degree in accountancy can be partnered with a concentration in Leadership and Management or followed up with an MBA to gain valuable knowledge of business operations. It is wise to take business courses along with your accounting major. This will benefit you since you will likely work with employees in other departments and colleagues or clients in different industries. A foundation in business will help you better understand the unique financial needs of internal and external clients and offer the necessary professional accounting assistance they need.
3. Organizational Skills in Accounting
Accountants handle multiple clients, meet deadlines, and follow proper reporting guidelines every day. Each assignment has a significant amount of documentation, and it is challenging to keep track of crucial paperwork if you are disorganized. Accountants can stay on top of deadlines and work on assignments by being organized. However, future accountants will benefit more if they hone their organizational skills before entering the profession. For a successful balance of your work and other areas of your life, it is better to have some practice beforehand.
4. Skills in Time Management
Many accountants handle multiple projects at a time. Multitasking and managing one’s time are essential to provide satisfactory results. The analysts who work on different projects and can manage deadlines separate themselves from passable peers. Time management is very beneficial during tax season since many accountants are overloaded with clients and bound to inflexible deadlines.
5. Skills in Critical Thinking
It is common to come across errors, discrepancies, and inaccuracies in accounting. If these things are not detected and addressed, the mistakes can have severe consequences for employers and clients. To solve complex problems, accountants have to approach situations critically by considering all variables and potential risks. Workers who can think through financial strategies and plan for the future are deemed true assets to their team.
6. Communication Skills in Written and Verbal
Even though accounting involves dealing with numbers, most accountants spend considerable time writing. This includes emails and correspondences for non-accounting professionals, which requires accountants to explain complicated ideas and concepts in plain terms. Also, analysts draft memos that take positions on financial statements or tax returns and write instructions and guidelines for improving on-the-job efficiency for team members. Numerous accountants do more daily writing than expected for the accounting industry. Try to enhance your writing skills before starting your career or in the early stages to help the process go smoothly.
While analyzing and optimizing financial records is a central part of the job, accountants must explain their findings to colleagues and clients. Many of these individuals do not understand complex financial concepts. That means accountants serve as data interpreters, which requires strong communication skills. The best accountants can simplify the vast amount of data available and dispose of unnecessary data. Aim to transform numbers, tables, and infographics into something everyone can understand.
7. Accounting Practices Knowledge
Accountants should be highly familiar with GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). These principles help standardize accounting practices in companies and industries across the United States. You should also be aware of the regulatory standards related to corporate and public finances to guarantee requirements for financial reporting are met.
8. Accounting Software Expertise
Much of accounting involves utilizing common spreadsheet software and account reconciliation software. Accountants also have to know how to use database reporting, financial reporting and analysis, financial statements, compliance, and project management. When you prepare tax returns, you must have a thorough knowledge of tax software. Even when you are not handling tax returns, you will likely provide financial information and prepare documents for others. This will help you stand out as a highly-skilled accountant. Accounting software helps small business owners track accounts receivable and accounts payable, and have a clear understanding of their profitability.
For upper-level jobs such as senior accountants and financial analysts, navigating Enterprise Resource Planning Software (ERP) is a required accounting skill. Many organizations use ERP software to manage daily business activities, including supply chain, manufacturing, and operations. Knowledge of business analytics software is another plus since it takes raw data and converts it to clear, insightful information for business decisions.
9. Data Analytical Skills
Accounting work requires great attention to detail. Accountants have to sift through vast amounts of financial records to ensure every detail is accurate and current. If they do not ensure things are correct, their analysis may contain inconsistent results. If someone wants to be a great accountant, they will not simply pull an analysis together. Instead, they will look at the output and judge whether it is reasonable or not. That way, everyone’s time is not wasted on an analysis that makes no sense looking back on it later.
10. Continual Education
After reviewing the top skills an accountant should have, you probably wonder what the best route is to develop them. There are multiple ways you can proceed.
Suppose you prefer to go the self-taught route. In that case, you can find information online to build a foundation for your financial knowledge. Articles, videos, and books from trusted and reliable sources can set you on the right path. If you want to practice, you can access most public companies’ financial statements reported quarterly.
However, you may prefer a more structured format. Courses, workshops, and boot camps are all available options. It doesn’t matter where you are in life.
You can take a more structured approach if you are:
- A newly appointed manager who wants to refresh your financial knowledge
- An entrepreneur gearing up to launch your business
- A recent college graduate
- A working professional considering an MBA
- Someone who wants to develop your skills quickly
What are the Courses to Take in an Accounting Degree Program to Improve Skills?
If you are unsure of what courses to take for your career advancement, there are several options. Some are free, and others are paid, but you can take them at your own time and pace.
Some examples to try include:
- Introduction to Financial Accounting by Wharton, University of Pennsylvania
This course will help you master the technical skills needed to analyze financial statements and disclosures for use in financial analysis. You will also learn how accounting standards and managerial incentives affect the financial reporting process.
- Fundamentals of Accounting Specialization by the University of Illinois
This class covers the fundamentals of financial accounting and managerial accounting. Students will learn to create, interpret, and analyze financial statements (balance sheet, income sheet, and cash flow statement). Also, individuals will be exposed to various information that will help them make common business decisions.
- Introduction to Finance, Accounting, Modeling, and Valuation (Udemy)
This is the #1 best-selling accounting course on Udemy. It helps you understand accounting, finance, financial modeling, and valuation from scratch. Additionally, you will learn how to create, analyze, and forecast data for countless documents and situations.