Career In Accounting: Top 10 Key Skills Needed

Thinking about becoming an accountant? Check out the top skills you’ll need to succeed in this highly lucrative career choice!

Reviewed by Chris Leitch

Skilled Worker in Accounting

Do you have strong organisational, time management and communication skills? What about a passion for data analysis, spreadsheets and numbers?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may want to consider pursuing a career in accounting!

Whether you’re taking your first steps into the world of work, weighing up your career options or considering a career change, becoming a successful accountant means you’ll need to hone a specific skillset.

To help you get started, we’ve put together the top 10 skills you’ll need to succeed in the profession.

1. Organisation skills

The first skill many good accountants have is a flair for organisation.

Whether it’s effectively managing clients or completing work in a timely fashion, being organised is essential to succeeding in an accounting job, and this can lead to reduced stress, accurate planning, strong resource allocation and a higher degree of efficiency.

2. Data analysis

Just like organisational skills are important, data analysis skills are also a must.

When you venture into a career in accounting, you’ll be surrounded by data — bookkeeping, tax returns, payroll reports and tax planning all rely on strong data analysis skills.

This means understanding big data, comprehending what the data means and, ultimately, being able to utilise that data to provide value to your clients. It may be hard at first and may take some trial and error, but it’s a skill that can be learned through experience and time.

3. Spreadsheet proficiency

With today’s technology, accounting is not done solely with a pen and pad of paper. Most accountants and accounting firms use spreadsheet software, like Microsoft Excel, to easily calculate and analyse data.

Being proficient in spreadsheet tools is critical when venturing into an accounting career. Not only can it allow you to complete basic tasks with ease, but it can also be a great point to add to an accounting résumé.

4. Attention to detail skills

Are you a perfectionist? If so, you might make a great accountant.

Tax law is very specific and requires precise calculations, and to ensure you’re following laws and regulations to a T, you need to have a great attention to detail so you can accurately and thoroughly assist clients through solid accounting calculations and sustained productivity.

Indeed, overlooking a number or accidently entering an extra zero somewhere could be costly to you and your client, but simple mistakes like these can easily be avoided when you pay close attention to what you’re doing.

5. Regulatory standards proficiency

Tax law and accounting regulations are constantly changing, calling on the need for professionals to consistently stay up to date on the newest changes.

Regulatory standards proficiency is a key skill for an accountant, as you’re expected to know the latest changes so you can accurately assist and advise clients. You don’t want to be struggling on a phone call with a client because you neglected to look up new regulatory changes!

Many accountants invest in a subscription service, like Kiplinger, that sends them newsletters with the latest changes. Instead of spending hours researching, they can quickly glance through the newest issue to get an idea of upcoming changes. Subscription services can take a great burden off new accountants, so consider investing in one if you’re entering into an accounting career.

6. Business acumen

Business acumen is a term that hasn’t been widely used in the accounting field yet, but it is a top skill to have that can set you apart from the competition. This deals with leadership development skills, leading to the creation of an all-inclusive skillset to best serve your clients.

Clients will be relying on you for advice, your employer will be expecting strong accounting skills from you, and you want to grow in your accounting position. All of these aspects can be achieved with business acumen skills.

7. Communication skills

Just like business acumen is an essential skill that any prospective accountant should have, so too are communication skills. Producing quality work is great, but it doesn’t mean anything if you can’t effectively communicate your work to your client.

Clients usually don’t have the knowledge an accountant does, making it critical that accountants can communicate their work in simplified terms to the client. Not only will you need to communicate with clients, but you will also need to communicate with your employer and fellow employees in the firm — and being a good communicator can help foster teamwork in the workplace.

8. Time management skills

Time management skills are also important to retain in your toolbelt. Accountants are faced with many strict deadlines, from tax to payroll deadlines. These deadlines need to be met in order to avoid stiff fines and penalties.

Retaining time management skills will allow you to meet these deadlines with ease because you were able to space out your workload. Making lists and prioritising projects are both necessary tasks to stay on schedule.

Moreover, employers in the accounting field want to see you demonstrate time management skills, often making it a point of discussion in interviews and performance reviews. Please your employer, get your work done on time, and successfully assist your clients by managing your time effectively.

9. Numerical skills

Are you a numbers person? Do you like working with big data? Accounting revolves around numbers. If you enter an accounting career, you’ll be working with numbers every day, so strong numerical skills are essential, particularly when assisting clients.

The good news is that you get to use a calculator for most calculations, but you need to understand which numbers to calculate to generate accurate results.

10. Tech skills

Technology is constantly changing and evolving, leading to major changes in the accounting profession in the past decade. Most of the work an accountant produces is done through a computer and software program.

Not only do you need to understand different accounting software, but you also need to have basic tech skills, which can include writing and sending emails, understanding Microsoft Office, and as simple as knowing how to operate a computer.

Without these basic tech skills, you won’t be able to do the day-to-day tasks required of an accountant. Most companies are willing to train you on their specific accounting software, but you’ll need to have a general understanding of how to operate a computer and other devices.

Final thoughts

These are some key skills for an accountant that should be considered before going into the profession. Employers often look for these top skills, making them important to understand and hone in, on top of an accounting degree from a credible school.

What other skills do you think are essential for accountants? Let us know in the comments section below!

This article is an update of an earlier version published on 30 July 2018.