Career Advice for Job Seekers
Top 10 accounting skills you need for a successful career
Are you an accountant looking for a successful career? Developing the right accounting skills can be the difference between achieving your goals and simply making do.
With the ever-evolving business landscape, certain accounting competencies have become indispensable, and there are some new ones that you need to add to your arsenal. This article will discuss the essential accounting skills you need to acquire to succeed in any situation. We’ve broken them into two categories: technical and soft skills because you’ll need both to stay ahead of the competition.
Top 10 accounting skills you need for a successful career:
Accounting technical skills
As an accountant, having the right technical skills is essential for success. Technical accounting skills involve knowledge and understanding of the fundamental principles of accounting—from bookkeeping, budgeting, and financial analysis to taxation and auditing. Here are some of the most important technical accounting skills you need to possess to be successful in your career.
Understanding of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)
Accountants need an understanding of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). These are the standards for financial reporting in the U.S. GAAP is set by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), and it consists of a broad set of rules, conventions, and procedures that govern how companies prepare their financial statements. GAAP provides a standardized set of accounting rules and regulations that ensures accuracy and consistency in reporting financial data.
Proficiency in accounting software
To be successful as an accountant, you need to have proficiency in various accounting software solutions. In fact, according to a survey by the American Institute of CPAs, over 50% of finance leaders believe the competencies of their teams will need to change significantly over the next few years as technology takes over traditional tasks.
Some accounting roles rely more on technology than others, so depending on your organization and your position, you may need an understanding of small business accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero. Or you may need to be able to work in an enterprise accounting system like Sage Intacct, Microsoft Dynamics, or Oracle Netsuite.
You should also be able to use Excel and other business intelligence tools to create financial reports and interpret data.
Knowledge of tax laws
Many accountants need a thorough understanding of tax law to accurately estimate tax provisions or prepare tax filings for their organizations. This includes knowledge of local, state, and federal taxes and an understanding of the filing process.
Not all accountants prepare tax returns. Even so, understanding basic tax regulations can make you a valuable member of any team. After all, any successful business that generates income must pay some kind of tax. So an understanding of strategies for minimizing those taxes is always in demand.
Financial statement analysis
Accountants need to be able to analyze financial statements and interpret the data accurately. This includes the ability to comprehend balance sheets, income statements, cash flow statements, and other financial documents.
Accountants should be familiar with a wide range of financial ratios and be able to compare performance over time.
Organizations, especially those that are publicly traded, must undergo an annual audit. As an accountant, you might be the one conducting these audits, or you might be working for the company being audited. Either way, understanding audit assertions, internal controls, sufficient appropriate audit evidence, and financial reporting is invaluable.
Accounting soft skills
In addition to technical accounting skills, there are a few soft skills you should focus on developing to build a successful career. These soft skills involve interpersonal abilities that help you work with clients, manage teams and lead projects. Here are some of the most important soft skills you need to possess to succeed as an accountant.
Good communication skills
Strong communication skills are essential for accountants. You must be able to effectively explain complex financial concepts and procedures to clients, colleagues, and other stakeholders clearly and concisely. This includes written as well as verbal communication. You also need to be able to explain the financial implications of decisions to non-financial people.
Time management skills
Accountants must be able to manage their time efficiently to complete tasks and meet deadlines. This includes developing a system for organizing and prioritizing tasks and having the discipline to stick to a schedule. Good time management skills help you stay organized and on track, which is vital for delivering accurate and timely financial reports.
Accountants must have strong organizational skills to manage large amounts of data and accounts. This includes having the ability to:
- Organize files and documents in an orderly manner
- Maintain a consistent and organized chart of accounts
- Reconcile accounts quickly and accurately
- Prepare for tax season and other key deadlines
Critical thinking skills
Accountants must have the ability to think critically when making decisions. This involves analyzing financial data, identifying potential risks and opportunities, and determining the best course of action in any given situation. Critical thinking skills are essential for developing effective strategies that meet the organization’s needs.
Accountants often need to take on a leadership role, either in the accounting department or in an organization as a whole. This means having the ability to motivate and guide teams, set goals, delegate tasks, and manage conflicts. Leadership skills are necessary for managing staff members and ensuring that projects stay on track.
These days, technical skills are table stakes for a successful career in accounting—it’s soft skills that will set you apart from the rest of the pack. By honing your communication, critical thinking, and people skills, you’ll be well on your way to a successful accounting career. And who knows? With the right mix of hard and soft skills, you just might make it to CFO.
— Mike Whitmire, CPA*, is CEO and Co-founder of FloQast, a provider of accounting workflow automation software created by accountants for accountants to help them work smarter, not harder. B Before founding FloQast, Mike began his career in audit at Ernst & Young, focusing on media and entertainment, before joining the accounting and finance team at Cornerstone OnDemand as the company prepared for its IPO. During his time at Cornerstone OnDemand, Mike first developed the idea for what would be FloQast.
In July 2021, FloQast raised $110 million Series D at a $1.2 billion valuation. Today, it has more than 400 employees worldwide. In January, FloQast released PBC, a comedy series written and developed by FloQast employees, including Mike, based loosely on his experiences as an auditor.
A proud Angeleno, Mike is a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan and an avid baseball card collector. He resides in LA with his wife and daughter.
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