While there are ample opportunities for both experienced and entry-level workers in finance and accounting, the field is constantly evolving. If you want to land a role at your top-choice company — and achieve job satisfaction and success — you’ll want to possess the most sought-after accounting skills.
Essential job skills for accounting professionals encompass more than the ability to crunch numbers, complete expense sheets and depreciate fixed assets. Aside from traditional accounting knowledge, there are a handful of other hard and soft skills that every accounting professional needs.
Here's a deeper dive into six skillsets that provide the foundation for advancing in your accounting career, along with some advice on how to acquire them.
1. General business knowledge
The roles of accounting and finance professionals are expanding. Given the frequent interaction with other departments, today's accounting professionals need sound decision-making, negotiation and strategic-thinking skills. It's also important to be able to see the big picture and understand how your accounting role impacts the overall organization.
As you acquire your accounting skills, see what temporary roles we place.
2. Up-to-date technology expertise
Finance leaders often say they have trouble hiring staff who bring enough technology skills to the job. The use of finance-specific software programs is a given in your role, and accounting automation is becoming increasingly popular at many organizations and accounting firms.
Other examples of in-demand accounting technology skills include the following:
- Advanced Excel ability
- ERP experience (e.g., SAP, Oracle)
- Expertise in big data analysis, advanced modeling techniques and SQL
- Knowledge of business intelligence software (e.g., IBM Cognos)
- Microsoft Visual Basic capability
- Aptitude with Hyperion (for analyst and financial reporting roles)
- Microsoft Visual Basic skills
- Knowledge of QuickBooks (for positions with small and midsize firms)
If you want to advance in your current position, consider asking your manager for on-the-job or outside accounting training or enrolling yourself in a course in one of these areas.
3. Communication skills
As an accounting professional, chances are good that you collaborate across departments and communicate with a wide array of colleagues or clients. The people you speak with may not be as savvy with the numbers as you are, so you need to be able to present information in an easy-to-digest manner.
Whether you communicate via email, phone conversations, in-person meetings or presentations, relaying information clearly and concisely goes a long way toward supporting your credibility.
Although the technical skills on your resume might land you an interview, companies are looking for accounting professionals with a collaborative personality, an executive presence, conflict-management abilities and adaptability. Of course, these aren’t the kind of skills easily taught in a classroom. But you can enhance them simply by paying attention to how others handle professional situations.
4. Leadership abilities
Accounting professionals need to be ambitious self-starters who can develop new insights, manage projects, and motivate and engage team members, all the while displaying solid leadership skills. While the partners at your firm or leaders in your department are managing the business side of the organization, you may need to serve as a source of aid when colleagues need help navigating a particular program or managing their first busy-season audit.
Additionally, your managers may look to you for fresh ideas regarding how the organization can ensure continuity of service to clients, improve compliance procedures or address a host of other issues.
5. Customer service orientation
Whether you work in public or private accounting, solid customer service skills are critical. If you work in a public accounting firm, it's essential for you to be able to retain current customers and bring in new clients. If you work in corporate accounting jobs, you must meet the needs of the organization's other departments and managers.
Accounting professionals can demonstrate good customer service by truly listening to the needs and concerns of your clients, whether they're internal or external. A positive attitude can also go a long way, especially when stress levels are high. And be careful not to overpromise when it comes to deadlines or deliverables.
6. Specialized experience
To ensure regulatory compliance, institutions look for risk, compliance and internal audit professionals, especially in the financial services industry. Many firms seek people with backgrounds in anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR) and the Dodd-Frank Act, particularly rules related to capital adequacy and consumer protection
Companies also desire accountants with experience in revenue recognition. Organizations like the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offer courses on revenue recognition to help you better understand and implement the current and new revenue recognition principles, and make appropriate revenue recognition decisions.
Put your accounting skills to work
The need for these six job skills underscores the fact that accounting roles are expanding. As you look to take on more responsibilities, consider working on the accounting certifications that can advance your career. Ask for training as your strive to be a valuable member of the accounting team.
Temporary finance and accounting professionals are in demand in cities across the United States. See what employers are looking for in these cities and check out the openings in your own area.