Accountants, by the definition of their work, are responsible for a company or organization’s money -- where it goes, how it is used and how it is recorded. If you are interested in becoming an accountant, there are certain skills you’ll need to possess or develop to succeed in the field. Being “good with money” is just a start -- the most successful accountants also have strong analytical, communication and computer skills.
The basic foundation for any career in accounting is the skill to think analytically. Analytical skills can mean everything from your skill in mathematics to your ability to read a balance sheet. Mathematic skills are a must since, on a daily basis, you must be able to not only analyze mathematical data but make the necessary computations to balance budgets, produce financial statements, pay expenses and account for revenue. Some accountants specialize in tax law, so you’ll need to not only interpret complex tax rules but implement them properly based on your company’s financial statements.
There was a time when an accountant could be seen punching numbers into an old-time adding machine, but that time has passed. Accountants must have high command of the financial and office software needed to complete the many reports that accountants must compile. Computer skills, in this case, could mean anything from creating a spreadsheet to tracking sales to creating pie charts, graphs and bar charts to demonstrate annual earnings, profit/loss statements, and other corporate financial information.
Ability to Synthesize Data
How accountants manage data is just as important as how data is computed. As an accountant, you must not only gather and input data but interpret the data’s meaning. For instance, when reporting on a company’s quarterly earnings, part of an accountant’s role is to examine the figures in historical or global context. An accountant might report that revenue was down, for instance, and has been declining for the past six quarters. Accuracy in reporting is also extremely important. An inaccurate report with data that has been synthesized incorrectly could lead to false assumptions, either negatively or positively. Synthesizing data is also important when forecasting future growth or decline and when developing future budgets.
When listing all the attributes of a good accountant -- accurate, analytic, and precise -- the skill of communication often falls down the list, yet, according to Careers-In-Accounting.com, communication skills can be highly valuable. Accountants often work in teams, helping to develop budgets, financial reports and annual reports, and the ability to communicate findings, either verbally or through written expression, to team members and a general audience is an underrated but necessary function of accounting. Without a good explanation of the findings, the data is just that, data, and it's open to misinterpretation by those less informed than the accountant who prepared the findings. Effective communication skills can help you, as an accountant, bridge the gap between what is on the ledger sheet and what is communicated to a broader audience.
John Zaphyr is a marketing and sales manager with the Oncology Nursing Society. He has written professionally since1999 and also has editing credits with Friedlander Publishing Group. His articles have appeared in the "Pittsburgh Tribune Review." John earned a master's degree in English education from the University of Pittsburgh.