August 3, 2022
When you first start thinking about a career in accounting, you might think that all you need to do is go to university, get your degree, and you’ll be set for life. However, like many other careers, the skills needed to be an accountant are quite varied, and while you will certainly learn a lot of them during your studies, you might need to cultivate a few more.
Of course, you need to complete all your professional studies and graduate from the program you select. But you will need a lot more skills that aren’t directly related to accounting. Some can be picked up on the job, but there are many that you can learn ahead of time to prepare for success in an accounting role.
Let’s look at some of the more in-demand skills needed for accountants who want to succeed.
Even if you have the best accounting skills, if you don’t have a solid foundation of business knowledge, you won’t be able to offer the best possible service to your employer or clients. So, while you’re learning accounting skills, make sure you also learn the fundamentals of business.
Another kind of accounting skills that are in high demand are skills that are specific to a particular industry or company type. One example is the construction industry, which requires a particular type of accounting, or businesses in import and export, where you might need additional skills in exchange rates and import/export law.
The more specialized your skills are, the more in demand you will be in your chosen niche.
When it comes to soft accounting skills, communication skills are very close to the top of the list.
Accountants work with a huge variety of people both inside their organization and from other companies, government departments and more. So, it’s no big surprise that one of the skills needed for accountant success is great communication!
Accountants need to be able to communicate ideas and requests clearly in writing and verbally. While you don’t exactly need to complete a degree in communications, you should make sure you master basic business communications skills.
There was a time when the most complex technology accountants needed to master was a calculator with a paper roll. Those days are over.
These days, accountants who want to succeed need to, at a minimum, understand commercial accounting software like QuickBooks, have advanced Excel and Google Sheets knowledge, have a good handle on Microsoft Office, and be able to use enterprise software.
Accountants who really want to stand out can also pursue studies in coding, whether it’s VBA for Excel or learning to create complex integrations to automate and improve their work processes.
Many people think that accountants only get involved after the fact, capturing costs and analyzing expenses. However, most accountants, particularly those who work for small or medium-sized businesses also get very involved in planning and strategy.
Whether it’s deciding when to place an order, advising management about anticipated price increases or advising employers when to buy or sell equipment or property, accountants need to have well-developed financial planning and strategizing skills.
Another one of the accounting skills that most people don’t realize they need is people skills.
You might think that once you have your accounting degree and an office, you will spend your days in peace and quiet, crunching numbers.
However, most accountants also spend a lot of time interacting with colleagues, suppliers, clients and more. You will probably deal with everything from payroll inquiries to vendor payment inquiries and a whole lot more in an average day. You will also work with a variety of people, including those who work in operations, purchasing, management and more.
It might not be one of the most commonly listed technical skills for an accountant, but people skills are definitely one of the most important to master.
Accounting is so much more than just entering data into an accounting software package. Accountants need to be able to analyze information and understand what it all means so that they can provide the best advice and information to their employers.
You will probably learn some analytical skills during your studies, but you should also practice as much as you can. Train yourself to look for anomalies and patterns. Practice looking for red flags in data, which could indicate that there’s a problem that needs further investigation.
Like many skills needed for accountants, analytical skills will develop more over time. You might find you struggle at first but keep at it. Eventually, you will be able to pick up issues at a glance, and when you can do that, you will be a very valuable asset to any employer.
Many accountants find themselves in charge of various other people – even if they don’t have a full accounting department.
There’s a good chance you will work closely with people in administration, bookkeepers and other team members. They will usually require your input and advice to do their jobs, so make sure you practice your leadership skills.
Leadership is much more than telling people what to do, though. You need to be able to guide your team, work with them to improve results and inspire and motivate them. Leaders also need to stand up for their team when necessary, and they often need to make decisions, even when they don’t want to.
The good news is that people who have great leadership skills tend to do very well in their career – no matter what field they are in!
You might think that accounting is a rigid, regimented profession. It’s true that how you do things is often according to a prescribed formula, but every business changes every day. There will be days when a crisis takes you away from what you planned to do. There will be times when you need to work late on short notice or when something dramatic changes without warning.
Which is why, when it comes to accounting skills, flexibility and the ability to roll with the punches is so important!
Learning accounting skills is only part of the process of becoming an accountant. While you definitely need to learn the skills needed to be an accountant, you will need many other soft skills and technical abilities.
Make lifelong learning part of your process. Learning new things, even if they aren’t traditionally considered skills needed for an accountant, will always stand you in good stead.
Embrace technology too. There are plenty of modern tools like LiveFlow that can change the way accountants work, save time and increase efficiency. It all works together to make you a better accountant, and that will always make you more successful.