How To Grow Your Accounting Skills In 5 Simple Steps
There’s more to becoming a good accountant than graduating with a qualification. Here are your five key steps to growing your skills from Bryan Kesler, a licensed CPA who mentors accountants to pass their CPA exams.
1. Become a CPA
You are becoming a CPA (Certified Practicing Accountant), one of the most surefire ways to distinguish yourself as a qualified professional in the accounting industry and substantially increase your accounting knowledge.
The CPA exam puts your accounting skills to the test in Tax, Financial Accounting, Business and Finance, and Auditing.
CPA review courses help you prepare for this challenging exam, which consists of 4 exam parts. CPA candidates can usually pass the exam within six months with a good review course and a mentor. Review courses will help you learn the material and prepare you to pass the exam with practice questions, lectures, review notes, etc.
There are many different certifications in the accounting world, including the EA, CMA, and CIA. While each of those certifications is good, the CPA is the most widely recognised and most comprehensive exam. Nearly every accounting job posting you’ll see will say they want either the EA/CMA/CIA or the CPA license, making the CPA license the most versatile in career options.
2. Take the Right Classes
Accountants can work in many different career paths, including tax, auditing, and even information technology!
Most universities have accounting students take a predetermined set of courses to earn their accounting degree and give students the flexibility to choose their electives. Use these elective options to deepen your knowledge of your desired career. This is also an opportunity to hone soft skills, such as communication skills, problem-solving, time management and critical thinking, which will enhance your appeal to potential employers.
Not only will taking courses related to your career look good to potential employers, but it will also improve your skill sets to be more successful in your chosen career.
3. Take CPE Courses
Good accountants never stop learning! Continuing Professional Education (CPE) is a great way to stay updated with new regulations and changes to the industry.
All CPA licensees are required to take CPE each year. These a great way to acquire particular and valuable skills to apply to your career.
Want to learn pivot tables or Vlookup functions in Excel? Or maybe deepen your knowledge of tax planning, data analysis or forensic accounting? There are CPE courses that teach those!
Accounting is called a “practice” for a reason. You can learn a lot from courses and CPE, but the best way to truly enhance your skills as an accountant is to gain some work experience and apply what you have learned to real-world situations.
Accounting is a very technical skill that is best learned by being out in the field. The problems you’ll face in the real world will never be as clean and straightforward as you encounter what you know about in your accounting courses in your training. But that’s why accounting professionals are so highly valued – we solve problems.
Accountancy is rapidly evolving, making accountants needed now more than ever. Accountants used to fill out green ledgers and tax returns by hand. Now, most of the work we do is online, making virtual accounting more accessible than ever.
There is no shortage of demand for quality accountants, and many employers are desperate for suitable candidates who want to learn and grow with their companies. All you have to do is be willing to put in the work!
5. Find a Mentor
One of the most important things you can do for your accounting career is to find someone to be your mentor. Someone who will take you under his/her wing and help you think about your future. Even elite athletes have coaches and mentors to help them along the way.
Many accounting firms will partner their new staff up with a mentor who is just above their level. You should utilise this resource as much as you can.
Ask your mentor thoughtful questions about what to expect in your career and their thoughts on how to help you get where you want to be. Be clear about your career aspirations. And be sure to ask your mentors how you can help them. Their time and attention are valuable, and it’s essential to acknowledge them even if they don’t ask for anything in return.
And don’t stop with just one mentor. You can have many mentors! Just be sure that you’re not taking advantage of their time and are applying what they say!
Based on the market trend and research on what the employers are requesting in the job advertisement, there are top 5 ordinary but necessary accounting skills that recent accounting graduates should have to gain employment and make an immediate contribution to the company.
6. Up-to-date Knowledge of Accounting Software
The exponential growth of software advances in recent years has highlighted the importance of technology use. Cloud accounting is the latest technological breakthrough in the industry. The increased focus on digitisation and automation has encouraged more employers to look for candidates with the right IT skills to grasp new financial systems.
As the use of cloud accounting heightens, the efficiency of business is further dependent on the software. It is in the company’s best interest to take in candidates that will benefit the business’s productivity, meaning taking in candidates with sound knowledge of various software. Mastering the theory and how to pull insightful data out of a report are critical to an accountant’s success. However, if you can’t use the software and other tools necessary to do your job – advancing in your career will be tough.
If you want to maximise your employment opportunity or to advance in your current position, consider enrolling yourself on some accounting training courses to enhance your accounting skills in one of these areas.
7. Don’t Negate the Soft Skills
In 2017, Google announced the findings from an internal study of all teams to determine its most innovative and productive groups. They found that their best teams were employees who brought solid and soft skills to the collaborative process.
Employers usually look for two types of skills in the prospective candidates – hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills include the practical and theoretical qualities of accounting. However, as everyone graduating with you would have the same level of knowledge and skill, this makes soft skills a vital trait for recruitment as it is something not everyone has mastered.
A simple thing such as communication, for example, can help you convey your ideas and present yourself well in a job interview. Being able to communicate well in writing and person can display the hard skills you have acquired. Engaging with improving soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, time management set can you apart from the sea of candidates causing hard skills pointless to be without soft skills. Soft skills are the difference between adequate candidates and ideal candidates.
8. Desire to Gain CPA or CA Qualification
Both CPA and CA are excellent qualifications. They can provide your accounting career with a competitive edge in the job market. Especially for any accountants looking to make the next step in their accounting career, those with a CPA or CA certificate have a more competitive edge than those without one.
These qualifications give you the ability to work for many different organisations worldwide, and the accounting skills you have gained from the study are transferable to other industries.
People consider salary potential and benefits as important factors as a passion for the job. For those who think to gain CPA or CA license, the good news is that you will make 10-15% more than others with the same roles.
9. Customer Service Orientation
Whether you work in a public or private accounting firm, customer service skills can be crucial to your success in your role as an accountant. You need to be able to both retain current clients as well as bring in new customers.
Demonstrating good customer skills involves listening to your customers with empathy, answering their queries and providing them with the services they need in a timely matter. If you want your customer to return to your service year after year, be sure to make them feel comfortable and appreciated.
When you are applying for jobs as an accountant, employers often consider your customer service skills one of the top skills from candidates when deciding whether to offer you the job.
10. General Business Knowledge
In addition to accounting skills, employers are looking for job candidates who possess general business knowledge. As an accountant, contributing to the business requires more than just an understanding of the numbers.
In today’s business world, Accounting professionals are playing a broader role at work. Given the frequent interaction with other departments within the company, it is also essential for accountants to see the big picture and understand how their accounting skills impact the overall business.
Put Your Accounting Skills to Work
Accounting professions are in high demand and still expanding. Companies need accounting professionals who are developing their skills to include but not limited to those mentioned above. Whether you are a recent accounting graduate or an accounting professional looking to advance your career, consider taking on practical accounting training to improve your accounting skills.
We at BLC Training offer Practical Accounting Programs through supervised training with the actual data using various bookkeeping and tax accounting software. Through our training program, we intend to deliver an outstanding learning experience that empowers our clients to thrive and succeed as professionals in the versatile accounting industry.
Accounting Skills You Need to Succeed on the Job
The hiring environment has become more uncertain in recent months. However, the positive news is that many businesses are still staffing both on-site and remote positions, including their accounting and finance departments. If you have a well-developed set of accounting skills, that could increase your chances of being a solid contender for jobs you are targeting.
Essential accounting skills encompass more than the ability to crunch numbers, complete expense sheets and depreciate fixed assets. In addition to traditional accounting knowledge, there are several complex and soft skills that every accounting professional needs, whether working in an office or remotely.
Following is an overview of seven sets of accounting skills — some technical, some not — that can help you to advance your accounting job search, as well as your accounting career.
1. General business knowledge
The scope of accounting and finance positions has been expanding over time, especially in recent years. In particular, these professionals must collaborate and coordinate more often with colleagues in other departments.
So, it’s essential to know what other functions do and how the accounting and finance organisation’s work supports their initiatives. The better you understand the overall workings of the business. How you and your team fit into the “big picture,” the more productive your relationships outside your department will be.
2. Up-to-date technology expertise
Finance leaders are often challenged in finding professionals who have up-to-date technology expertise listed among their accounting skills. But you can be sure that working with finance-specific software programs will be a given in your role, as accounting firms and other organisations continue to expand their use of accounting automation.
Other examples of technology-related accounting skills that are in demand by many employers include:
- Advanced Excel ability
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) experience (e.g., SAP, Oracle)
- Expertise in extensive data analysis, advanced modelling techniques and SQL
- Knowledge of business intelligence software (e.g., IBM Cognos)
- Microsoft Visual Basic capability
- Aptitude with Hyperion (for the 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 about online accounting skills training options that the company may arrange. Or, if you’re currently searching for a job, you could enrol yourself in an online course in one of the skills areas listed above. Being proactive about your professional development could impress a potential employer.
3. Communication skills
Stay-at-home orders have put communication abilities front and centre among must-have skills as many workers have transitioned to remote jobs. The good news is that accounting and finance professionals have had to hone one of these abilities for years: presenting information in an easy-to-digest manner, especially for audiences that are not as numbers-savvy. Now, it’s time to refine other communication skills.
The ability to relay information clearly and concisely by enhancing your verbal and writing skills is essential. More good news is that you and your colleagues working from home may already have a leg up on this skill, as you’ve had to turn to email (writing skills) and video platforms (verbal skills) for each daily interaction, from business requests to simple morning greetings.
4. Adaptability and flexibility
Adaptability and flexibility were also top among the skills accounting and finance professionals needed even before the pandemic. Technological change, like the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) as a critical business tool, was a key driver for that trend, and you can expect that it will remain so. But now, as businesses try to define and operationalise their next “new normal,” the ability to pivot and roll with change is an absolute must.
5. Creativity and a willingness to help others
The best accounting professionals are ambitious self-starters who can develop new insights. You may need to serve as a source of aid when colleagues require help navigating a particular program or managing their first busy-season audit.
Your managers may also look to you for fresh ideas about how the organisation can ensure continuity of service to clients (especially during this time of disruption), improve compliance procedures or address a host of other issues.
6. Customer service orientation
Whether you work in public or private accounting, solid customer service skills are critical, too. If you work in a public accounting firm, you need to retain current customers and bring in new clients. And if you work in corporate accounting, you must meet the organisation’s other departments and managers’ needs.
Accounting professionals can demonstrate good customer service by earnestly listening to clients’ needs and concerns, whether internal or external.
7. Specialized experience
Specialised experience, such as a focus on regulatory compliance, can be a solid complement to your set of accounting skills. Many employers also look for candidates 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 seek accountants with experience in revenue recognition. Organisations like the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offer revenue recognition courses to help you better understand and implement the current and new revenue recognition principles — and make appropriate revenue recognition decisions.
Look for ways to boost your accounting skills.
As you work to grow your career, consider earning in-demand accounting certifications. And always look for opportunities to get training to make you more marketable as a job candidate and more valuable as a team member.
That said, for many of the above skills, on-the-job experience is the best learning method. One way to gain that experience is by working in temporary accounting and finance positions while building up your resume and searching for a full-time role.
In this uncertain time, many businesses are looking to staff accounting and finance positions with temporary and part-time professionals to count on to get the job done and perhaps work remotely. And the experience could put you on the path to finding more permanent employment sooner.