Accounting skills and how to improve them: A comprehensive guide

Accounting skills and how to improve them: A comprehensive guide
Jobstreet content teamupdated on 22 January, 2024
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If you're an accountant or are thinking about becoming one, you need certain skills to do well. Learning these skills can help you excel at work, opening the possibilities to promotions and even better work opportunities. Developing these key skills for accountants is important to succeed in finance jobs. 

This article discusses important and in-demand accounting skills. It also explores how you can improve them. We'll explain how to showcase your skills when applying for accounting jobs. Here's what the article will cover:

What are accounting skills?

Accounting skills are the abilities that people use to create and understand financial records. These skills help individuals and businesses manage their money well and meet their financial goals. People with these accounting skills are more likely to excel in finance-related roles. 

There are two types of skills to be an accountant — hard skills and soft skills. Hard accounting skills, or technical abilities, include competency in using accounting software. They also involve understanding financial reports, statements, plans, and controls. Soft skills help you communicate effectively with your manager, teammates, and clients. You need a mix of both skill sets to be a successful accountant.

For many, success in the accounting field means becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). This entails passing the licensure examination and registering with the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). To be eligible to take the exam, you need to have a bachelor's degree in accountancy.

Hard skills

Unlike more general soft skills, hard skills are specific and easy to measure. You can learn many important hard skills in school, especially those listed in the CPA skills list. This is especially true if you choose to pursue a bachelor's degree in accountancy. You can also develop your hard skills by taking courses, undergoing training at work, and reading literature on the subject. 

In accounting today, hard skills include knowing how to use relevant technology. The following skills are important:

Accounting software proficiency

Accountants use online accounting tools that store information in the cloud. Understanding how to use spreadsheets and popular accounting software that relevant industries use can help you stand out when applying for a job.

Smaller businesses typically use accounting software alone. Bigger companies, though, use enterprise resource management (ERP) systems. These systems help handle important tasks such as accounting, sales, inventory, and customer relationships. An ERP suite is more comprehensive than accounting software.

Financial reporting

Advanced accounting goes beyond simple bookkeeping. It means making financial reports that show a company's financial health. Accountants compare sales to costs and calculate profit. They create documents such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements. They also explain how these statements relate to each other and to the financial performance of a business.  

Data analysis

Data analysis involves looking at raw data and presenting it in a way others can understand. Using this skill, you draw conclusions and make important business decisions. Accountants should be able to analyze data to provide deeper insights into the company they work for or the financial situation of their clients.

Soft skills

Soft skills, unlike hard skills, aren't quantifiable or easy to measure. You can acquire them in various ways, including through training and experience in the workforce. Here are some of the more important skills accountants need:

Communication

Accountants don't just deal with numbers. They also need to explain what the numbers mean in an easy-to-understand way. This is especially true when talking to people who may not know much about accounting. These may include your clients or the stakeholders of the company you work for. 

You also need good speaking and writing skills to work in accounting. You use these abilities to write clear and accurate emails and create and report financial statements and other related documents. 

Problem solving

In every company, there are financial problems that require solutions. Skillful accountants can think critically to help solve these issues. Use your problem-solving skills to analyze problems and determine the appropriate course of action to resolve them.

Critical thinking

Critical thinking refers to your ability to think rationally and recognize the logical connections among ideas. It's essential for accountants because it lets you analyze financial data effectively and then form a sound judgment. If you can think logically, you may be able to come up with better solutions to finance-related problems. 

Interpersonal skills

Good interpersonal skills are useful for networking, which means building connections with others. The ability to talk to people and establish a rapport easily is a big advantage. This is especially true for accountants in public practice who meet with clients on a regular basis. 

Attention to detail

In accounting, it's important to be a keen observer. Your attention to detail can help you navigate long financial statements and reports carefully and thoroughly. It also enables you to create accurate reports, which is important in this line of work. This is because one mistake can affect the analysis of a financial document. 

How to improve accounting skills

Woman presenting at work in front of coworkers

Accounting is an important part of running a business. It's a field that's always changing, especially with new technology and updates to financial concepts. You need to keep learning to stay up to date on the latest developments in your field. Here are some ways you can improve your basic accounting skills:

Take online classes 

Choose online classes that expand your knowledge of finance or accounting concepts. Other options include learning a technical skill, such as using accounting software. You can also take courses that help you improve your soft skills. These classes can give you a good starting point or help you advance in your job. 

It's a good idea to take online classes that provide a certificate when you complete them. You can then include the courses you've finished in your resumé. These can help you stand out when applying for a job.

Read books and articles

As an accountant, it's important to keep up with new rules and technologies in the sector. These include international financial reporting standards. You can read books and recent articles about accepted accounting principles. This can keep you up to date and help improve your performance at work.

Join a professional organization

Being part of a group of professionals can help you connect with other accountants. You can learn from their experiences in dealing with clients and other aspects of their work. Professional organizations can also help you earn the units you need for your continuing professional education if you're a certified public accountant.

Find a mentor

A mentor might be someone who has been in the accounting field for a long time. They can help you reach your career goals by providing advice on how to improve your performance and deal with problems you may face in the workplace. They can also introduce you to other professionals, which may open new doors for your accounting career. Your mentor could be your university professor, a senior colleague, or a fellow member of your professional organization who has practiced accounting longer than you have.

How to list accounting skills on a resumé

When listing skills on your accounting resumé, organize them to highlight sought-after abilities. Here are some tips on where and how to list your skills:

  • Make a section just for your skills: Add a part to your resumé that lists your accounting skills. This helps potential employers or hiring managers quickly see what you're good at.
  • Match your skills to the job: Read the job description and find out what skills the employer wants. If you have those skills, put them on your list.
  • Use bullet points: Instead of writing a long paragraph, list your skills. This makes it easier for people to go through your skill set.
  • Highlight relevant skills: Place the most important accounting skills at the top of the skills section. These are the skills the employer mentioned in the job description.

Mistakes to avoid

Be careful not to make these mistakes when talking about your accounting skills on your resumé:

  • Listing too many skills: Show off your best abilities by not listing everything. Only include skills that are relevant to the job.
  • Being vague: Be clear about your accounting skills. For example, instead of saying you have finance skills, say you're good at financial analysis or tax preparation. 
  • Providing inaccurate information: Always be honest on your resumé, and only include skills you possess. This can help you land a job that's right for you based on your current skill set. 

Conclusion

Accounting team in a business meeting reviewing reports

Having diverse hard and soft skills is vital for success in your field. Your technical accounting skills include your knowledge of current best practices and your ability to use relevant software. Your soft skills include communication, problem solving, and attention to detail. When you write these skills on your resumé, make sure to be clear, concise, and truthful. Finally, remember to adjust the list to fit the job you want.

FAQs

Here are answers to frequently asked questions about accounting skills:

  1. What are the essential skills needed to become an accountant?
    Skills essential to becoming an accountant include:
    - ⁠financial literacy
    - ⁠attention to detail
    ⁠- analytical skills
    ⁠- mathematical ability
    ⁠- technological ability
    ⁠- communication skills
    ⁠- problem-solving skills
    ⁠- an ethical mindset
    ⁠- time management and organization
    ⁠- commitment to continuous learning
  2. What software programs should I learn to enhance my accounting skills?
    Learn software programs the accounting sector commonly uses. This is important for aspiring and currently practicing accounting professionals. Some of these programs include:
    - ⁠QuickBooks for tasks such as bookkeeping and financial reporting
    ⁠- Microsoft Excel for data analysis and financial modeling
    - ⁠SAP ERP for integrated business processes
    - ⁠Oracle Financials for comprehensive financial management
    ⁠- Xero for cloud-based accounting features
    ⁠- Sage Intacct for advanced reporting
    - ⁠NetSuite for integrated cloud-based solutions
    ⁠- Wave Accounting for simple small business accounting

    ⁠Mastering these tools can help you streamline tasks, improve accuracy, and increase productivity. This can also make you more marketable to potential employers.
  3. What certifications should I pursue to enhance my skills in accounting?
    You can pursue several certifications to enhance your skills:
    - ⁠Certified Public Accountant
    - ⁠Certified Internal Auditor
    - ⁠Certified Management Accountant
    - ⁠Certified Financial Analyst
    ⁠- Chartered Global Management Accountant certification
    - ⁠Association of Certified Fraud Examiners certification
    - ⁠Certified Bookkeeper
  4. How can I stay aware of changes in accounting technology and software tools that can enhance my skills?
    It's important to keep yourself updated on changes in accounting technology and software tools. This can increase your chances of getting the position you want, as many employers make use of accounting software. Here are some strategies to stay updated:
    - ⁠Read industry publications and journals about new technology and software in accounting.
    - ⁠Join groups for accountants and go to events to learn about new tech tools.
    - ⁠Join online communities to ask questions and learn about the latest software.
    - ⁠Take continuing education courses or workshops that cover technological advancements in accounting.
    ⁠- Visit software vendor websites regularly to explore new features and updates.
    ⁠- Follow influential professionals in accounting and technology on social media platforms.
    ⁠- Read accounting-focused blogs to gain insights into new technologies.
    ⁠- Build a network of professionals in the accounting and technology fields.
    ⁠- Seek out mentors who can guide you in adapting to technological changes.

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