With the field of accounting undergoing immense transformation at the hands of new technologies, account skills continue to take new shape and expand. Accountants work for individuals and firms to provide financial advice, along with a variety of duties.
Here, we will outline everything you need to know as a finance leader about being an accountant, from the basic accounting skills necessary to the technical accounting skills that are evolving and the skills your team will need to develop to be successful in this changing world.
To become an accountant, there is a demanding amount of education and training required. It generally takes about three years to complete. Once an accountant is ready to enter the workforce, he or she works with businesses and individuals to manage their financial needs.
Before the advent of automation software, accountants were required to not only oversee data entry and records, but they’d also spend hours, days or weeks creating reports. Business leaders and stakeholders rely on accountants to provide them with accurate financial information that aid in decision-making.
While automation technology has dramatically increased the productivity of accounting teams and allowed accountants to spend more time dealing with strategy, accountants are still employed to:
Create and share reports, financial statements and business plans
Where do Accountants Work?
Accountants play a vital role in every type of organisation, whether it be big or small, public or private, established or just getting started. Some accountants work for their own private practice and are employed by individuals and businesses. Others may work in accountancy firms.
Let’s review some of the typical employers of accountants:
Charities and nonprofits
The public sector
Professional services firms
What Qualifications and Training Do Accountants Need?
To become an accountant, no matter where you want to work, you’ll have to fulfill a list of requirements and meet qualifications. It begins with education.
Accountants generally must obtain at least a bachelor’s degree. Most accountants choose a major like accounting, business administration, economics or a related field. To obtain a high-level or management role, students should consider earning a master’s degree, too. This typically takes one to two years beyond a bachelor’s degree.
Once you complete a master’s degree, you are eligible to earn the title of a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). To do so, you’ll have to pass the rigorous exam and also work under a licensed CPA. Upon completion of the latter, you have earned the badge of CPA and can start as a qualified member of the accounting profession.
What are the Key Skills of Accountants?
As we often talk about in our articles, the field of accountancy and finance is shifting in what’s been coined asfinancial transformation.This new era of finance has created teams of accountants who do more than prepare financial statements. Finance and accounting departments have access to deep insights that are helping to shape businesses and prepare them for the future.
As such, we’ve outlined the necessary skills of an accountant in today’s day and age:
Business & Industry Knowledge: Working in the world of financial statement and under strict regulations requires immense industry knowledge of how financial statements work. Accountants must understand the basics like how debits and credits work on a ledger to the steps for account reconciliation. They should also have a firm understanding of the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
Analytical Skills: Accountants leverage software solutions and data analyticsto use historical data and forecast future events. The importance of analytical skills begins with the ability to know what kind of data to collect and how it should be organised for best use. Not only must accountants know what information to pull together or input into an automation tool, but they importantly need to understand what the information is telling them. These insights are crucial in leading the organisation towards success.
Technology Expertise (Automation): Automation is increasingly being used across accountancy firms and finance departments. Having proficiency in software like Microsoft Excel and Word is a solid start, but the growing world of technology is calling upon accountants to know more. There are many specialised financial automation tools on the market that ultimately make the job of an accountant easier, but first, an accountant must know how they want to use the tool. Many out-of-the-box solutions require zero coding and can be up and running nearly instantaneously. Once deployed, automation tools can help accountants formulate reports, reconcile accounts, create audit trails, conduct data analysis and more.
Communication Skills: Accountants work with people throughout any organisation, from the C-suite to marketing teams. Since their expertise lies in numbers and analysis, they must know how to formulate the information in a way for any team member to easily understand. This will require both written and verbal communication skills. Accountants typically are tasked with creating budget reports, tax reports, financial reports and more. As such, they must know how to share this valuable information with the organisation and its respective stakeholders.
Adaptability: The world of accounting is constantly changing. This is because all the work of an accountant takes place in relation to internal and external factors, including: market shifts, regulatory adjustments, consumer preferences and more. Accountants need to stay up-to-date with the dynamic environment and be willing to adopt new technology, learn new skills, and understand novel standards and protocols.
Organisation: Accountants are responsible for a lot of moving pieces within organisations. At the top of the list for necessary skills, they must be organised and pay close attention to detail. They’ll utilise their organisation skills to submit reports on time, manage multiple clients’ needs and follow the standards. Technology and automation tools have made it much easier for accountants to stay organised. With the mass amounts of data flowing into and out of a business, automation tools can collect, transform, and securely store data and information in a centralised location. This way, accountants always have the ability to access what they need, when they need it and can do so from anywhere, given that the software works in the cloud.
Critical Thinking: While errors are less than optimal, they are practically inevitable within an accountancy’s environment. Without being able to spot errors, accountants can run enormous risks on behalf of the business entity that they work for. With critical thinking skills, accountants can solve complex problems and analyse risk effectively to minimise the chance of mistakes. Not only is this skill applied to financial statements and transactions, but importantly, accountants have access to data and analysis that can help position a business in the optimal setting to excel in the future. Automation tools can help minimise errors, and setup alerts for any process beaches or unusual inputs. Critical thinking skills help take this further and make it possible to make the best use of data, as accountants create strategies and plan ahead with the data insights.
Time Management: Accountants manage a lot at once. Time management is required to meet deadlines (that are often regulated). Clients and business entities can clearly see the results and output of an accountant’s work, so timeliness is key. If an accountant chooses to carry out all their workflows manually, there’s a high chance of missing deadlines and experiencing delays because of bottlenecks or key person dependencies. Automation software makes it very easy to manage timelines and offers utmost visibility into accountancy processes. Since the system can handle most manual processes with little to no human intervention, you can eliminate the risk of delays and simply manage time while boosting productivity.
Help Others & Teamwork: Accountants work with people across the organisation, as well as within their own teams. Being a team player, while also honing the ability to work individually, can help an organisation excel.
Customer Service: Accountants are always providing a service, whether it be to a client, an individual, a stakeholder, a business owner, etc. Remaining ethical and helping customers understand their data, insights or financial statements will build trust. Prioritising customer service allows for financial reporting that is credible and upholds integrity.
Specialised Experience: Many employers will continue to seek out candidates with specialised experience, like in regulatory compliance, for example. With the ever changing nature and importance of regulations, those with a deep understanding of specific topics will continue to possess a competitive advantage.
There’s no doubt that accountants handle a lot of crucial business tasks. As time and technology progresses, accountants are shifting into strategic roles. The ability to access and leverage big data opens the door to business insights.
These insights and automation solutions provide a way for accountants to help make informed, critical business decisions in a timely manner. All the while, the strengths of an accountant resides in their industry knowledge, technical acumen and ability to remain adaptable as their roles grow.