Useful Skills Needed for a Career in Accounting

A degree may open the door to a variety of opportunities and diverse career paths. The degree programs offered at AIU will not necessarily lead to the featured careers. This collection of articles is intended to help inform and guide you through the process of determining which level of degree and types of certifications align with your desired career path.

So you've decided you want to pursue a career in accounting. Projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that it's a stable field estimated to experience 10% growth through 2026.1 Now, how can you prepare yourself to pursue this career field? The first step is to research and understand what employers are looking for in new accountant hires so you can set effective learning goals, better craft your résumé, and decide which professional skills to highlight during interviews.

Basic Soft Skills for Accountants

It's important to remember that with any job, "soft skills" can help assist you in the workplace as well as more specialized, technical skills required to carry out specific job duties. The soft skills are basic, professional skill sets worth developing as you work through more specific accounting-based curriculum, and they may be helpful in improving workplace communication and helping to effectively lead a team of other employees.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and O*Net Online list the following as important soft skills for accountants:2,3,4,5

  • Strong written and oral communication
  • Organization and attention to detail
  • Analytical and problem solving skills
  • Time management
  • Systems analysis
  • Mathematical and deductive reasoning
  • Critical thinking
  • Active learning
  • Clerical knowledge
  • Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite

Specialized Accounting Skills

Accountants and auditors work with financial documents and efficiently and accurately organize large data sets; therefore, they must have a familiarity with a range of financial management and budgeting software, as well as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and accounting processes.

Important technical skills for those pursuing a career in accounting include:6,7,8

  • Financial reporting and analysis (Brentmark Estate Planning Quickview, Delphi Technology, and Oracle E-Business Suite Financials software platforms)
  • Financial statements and tax preparation software (ATX Total Tax Office, CCH ProSystem fx TAX, Intuit Lacerte, and Orrtax Software IntelliTax Classic)
  • Account reconciliation (Intuit QuickBooks, Sage 50 Accounting, and Sageworks ProfitCents)
  • Compliance software (ACCUCert, FLS eDP PAYROLLtax, Intrax ProcedureNet, and Paisley Cardmap)
  • Spreadsheet software (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets)
  • Project management software (Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle Primavera Enterprise Project Portfolio Management)
  • Enterprise resource planning software (Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite ERP, Oracle PeopleSoft Financials, and SAP Business Objects)
  • Database reporting software (ADP Super Report Writer, SAP Crystal Reports, and FileMaker Pro)

Courses to Take in an Accounting Degree Program

Courses may offer both the knowledge and training necessary to develop your accounting skills and the time to practice and sharpen your existing skill set. Core accounting courses in a bachelor's program may include topics like:

  • Micro/Macroeconomics
  • Principles of financial accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Quantitative methods and analysis
  • Financial management

If you know you want to pursue a specialized accounting career, investigate whether your college or university offers courses in subjects like forensic accounting, internal auditing, or accounting information systems.

Having an awareness of the skills employers want from their accounting professionals may help you to focus on working to develop those skills to better position yourself for future success. Begin by seeking entry-level jobs to grow your skill set, find a mentor to guide you in setting and achieving your goals, and, if you haven't already, enroll in a degree program designed to establish a foundation as you work toward your goals.

Ready to learn more? Explore accounting degrees at AIU

American InterContinental University cannot guarantee employment or salary. For important information about the educational debt, earnings, and completion rates of students who attended these programs, go to www.aiuniv.edu/disclosures. Financial aid is available for those who qualify.
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1. “Accountants and Auditors: Job Outlook.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-6 (Visited October 31, 2018). Conditions in your area may vary.
2. “Accountants and Auditors: How to Become an Accountant or Auditor.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-4 (Visited October 31, 2018).
3. “Accountants: Skills." O*Net Online. Retrieved from: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.01 (Visited October 31, 2018).
4. “Auditors: Skills.” O*Net Online. Retrieved from: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.02 (Visited October 31, 2018).
5. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks: Skills.” O*Net Online. Retrieved from: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/43-3031.00 (Visited October 31, 2018).
6. “Accountants: Technology Skills.” O*Net Online. Retrieved from: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.01 (Visited October 31, 2018).
7. “Auditors: Technology Skills." O*Net Online. Retrieved from: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2011.02 (Visited October 31, 2018).
8. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks: Technology Skills.” O*Net Online. Retrieved from: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/43-3031.00 (Visited October 31, 2018).

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