While it is true that the right education is a significant part of a successful career, it is also true that some careers have necessary skills that can’t (as easily) be taught. These ingrained skills are often something we are simply born with, but the right ones can be the difference between a mediocre career and a prosperous, rewarding career.
There is no question that there are certain accountant knowledge and abilities one would likely need to truly be effective. A quick perusal of job descriptions or example resumes will show that some skills are going to make you a more enticing job candidate. Are you discouraged because you don’t have many of them? Don’t be. While it may be tough to grow new skills, (especially those that aren’t your natural inclination) it is possible and it is worth it, especially if it is going to help you get the job you want.
What Does An Accountant Do?
This question is broad, but it can be answered broadly as well. Accountants are responsible for collecting, tracking, and organizing financial information for organizations and/or individuals. They are also responsible for finding appropriate and concise ways to display and/or present that information to their clients. Accountants are also involved in tax preparation and auditing activities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the accounting and auditing industry is expected to grow at a rate of 6% through the year 2028. This is equal to a healthy national average. Median pay in 2018 for an accountant/auditor was $70,500/year.
The Accounting Industry: Top Accounting Skills and Habits
Like most industries, an accountant needs both hard and soft skills. Technical and business savvy are important (and can often be taught or learned), but interpersonal skills will prove just as (if not more) important as well. So what are some of the best accounting skills to include on a resume?
Hard Accounting Skills
What are hard skills? These are the skills you’ll see on a resume or job description that are usually specific, defined, measurable and teachable. Usually, these can be learned in school, through books, in training, or through certifications. Typically, these skills relate to specific levels of competency; credentials that follow a name can often be directly related to hard skills.
Examples of hard skills for an accountant include:
- Technology Expertise: This includes proficiency in accounting software programs, especially as accounting automation increases in popularity. Some common programs and knowledge areas include Advanced Excel, Enterprise Resource Planning (like Oracle), data analytics, cloud based software, Microsoft Visual Basic, Hyperion, Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or QuickBooks.
- General Accounting Skills: These skills are likely what you’d imagine when you consider an accounting career. Are you analytical and detail-oriented? Are you comfortable with business jargon and financial jargon? Are you a problem-solver? The ability to prepare and interpret financial statements, the ability to develop and present financial reports, and the ability to communicate this knowledge clearly will be Note here that both written and verbal skills are equally important.
- General Industry Knowledge: While this sounds basic, it can be challenging to stay up to date on a constantly changing industry. Explicit knowledge of industry regulations, strategic thinking, and negotiation skills will be a must, as will strict adherence to policies, regulations, procedures and practice. You must be trustworthy, discreet, and ethical.
Soft Accounting Skills
Though soft skills are less tangible and harder to measure, they are still an integral part of job success. Some employers believe that soft skills, which are often considered harder to teach, are more important than hard skills. Soft skills can be enhanced over time, so do the work to either better yours or build them.
Examples of soft skills for an accountant include:
- Collaboration: Accountants are going to have to communicate with a variety of professionals (as well as their clients), at multiple levels of an organization and industry. You will be working with regulators and auditors, as well as several other non-financial individuals. The ability to assimilate the information you receive from all individuals is incredibly important.
- Commercial Awareness/Understanding: While it is integral to understand your industry academically, it is also important to understand how your client fits into the market. Know your craft! The ability to understand and make sound decisions based on economic, social, or political movements is hard to quantify but can be crucial to excellence.
- Communication: You’ll find effective communication a buzzword on nearly any job description, but there is good reason for that. Accounting is often storytelling; you must be able to tell the story in a way others can understand. You also must be able to listen and understand your client’s long-term goals and plans, building appropriate professional relationship(s) with them.
- Intellectual Curiosity/Innovation: Those with fresh ideas show they want to make an impact on the industry. These self-starters show initiative, prove they can work on their own, and can think independently.
What Skills Should I Work On?
The list of top accountant skills and abilities is going to continue to change. While this may feel frustrating, certain hard and soft skills will always be important. To best set yourself up for success, stay on top of your education and pursue extra certifications and credentials. These activities will absolutely grow your hard skills, while also showing that soft skills, like industry understanding, curiosity, and awareness, are important to you as well. Accountant knowledge and abilities can be taught and they can be grown. Do the work to learn new things, while also showcasing (and continue to grow) the areas in which you are already strong.
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