Accounting Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips to Improve

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Developing the appropriate skills for an accounting career is vital to individual progression. Candidates who take constructive steps to develop their accounting skills may gain more competitive benefits and increase their value as an employee. Understanding how to develop your skills through effective methods can help you make more informed career decisions and achieve your personal career goals. In this article, we define what accounting skills are, explore their types, discuss why these skills are important and provide a step-by-step guide on how to improve your abilities.

What are accounting skills?

Accounting skills vary depending on the type of accountant. For example, a forensic accountant may require a unique skill set than a chartered accountant. These skills enable an accountant to perform their duties effectively. These skills are critical to interacting with clients, managing finances, making investments and calculating risks. Professional skills are vital to adapting to different career paths and can help candidates achieve their goals, such as pay raises, promotions or career changes.

Important skills for accountants

Candidates typically gain their professional skills from study. Undergraduate courses generally build on these qualities in lessons, with candidates building on this with additional certification, mentorship or experience later in their career. Here is a list of useful skills for an accountant:

  • Analytical: Accountants analyse lots of financial history in a single day, picking out significant costs and investments that make a big difference for their clients. To do this, they require extensive analytical skills to help them identify significant spending.

  • Critical thinking: Accountants can help clients reduce costs and budget effectively. To do this, they require excellent critical thinking skills to help their clients find more ways of living cost-efficiently.

  • Organisation: These professionals may work with multiple clients which typically means a lot of paperwork and filing. Accountants require organisation skills to stay on track with tasks and complete their duties while providing excellent service to their clients.

  • Mathematical: Accountants work with numbers every day, meaning they require strong mathematical skills. This skill enables accountants to budget for their clients, identify financial risks and manage large investments.

  • Time-management: Many accounting professionals may work to tight timescales, especially when completing tasks to do with tax, regulatory requirements or when working with third parties to investigate financial crimes. Time management is essential to ensure that accountants work effectively with their clients.

  • Data analysis: To plan budgets or calculate financial risk, accountants require strong data analysis skills. Data analysis skills enable accountants to organise data effectively and identify areas of cost savings or smart investments that can help their client's businesses grow.

  • Accounting software: These professionals may use a multitude of data management software to handle their client's personal information. This requires strong technical and software skills to effectively use systems and troubleshoot any problems.

Related: 13 Accounting Skills to Include in Your Resume

Why technical accountant skills are important

Here are some reasons why it's important to develop your accounting skills:

  • Provides job security: Developing your skills as an accountant and delivering a high-quality service encourages your employer to continue your employment. This can offer good job security, meaning you may be less likely to lose your job.

  • Ensures a high-quality service: Developing your skills ensures you can deliver financial advice in keeping with current financial climates. Delivering this provides clients with a better experience and encourages them to seek more financial advice from you.

  • Adds to business progression: Skills development is important to your client's business progression, as the advice administered can help them manage their money effectively and achieve their major development goals.

  • Boosts reputation: Working on and achieving a high level of proficiency in your professional skills can help boost your reputation as an accountant. As a result, you may bring in more clients and boost your stream of income.

  • Builds confidence: Developing your professional skills can give you a lot of confidence in your abilities. Confidence is crucial to building positive and trusting relationships between accountants and clients.

  • Contributes to personal fulfilment: Feeling fulfilled in your career is important to your general happiness and job satisfaction. People who experience a fulfilling career are likely to deliver higher quality service and progress in their careers.

Related: How to Become an Accountant (A Comprehensive Guide)

How to improve your accountant skills

Below are six ways to help develop your skills as an accountant:

1. Obtain a degree

Gaining a degree in finance or accountant is a good start when looking to develop professional skills. Typically, universities prepare students with the baseline skills required for entry-level accountancy roles, giving them an opportunity for further development during employment. Study gives candidates the chance to explore what skills they naturally excel at and which skills require improvement. This self-awareness is critical for this profession and provides candidates with enough time to begin their professional development.

Studying for a formal qualification, such as a bachelor's degree, is also the minimum requirement to seek certification and become an accountant. So, this is a critical step in a candidate's career and skills development.

2. Seek certification

Gaining professional certification, such as studying for a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification, is a good way to develop professional skills. These courses provide candidates with the opportunity to further develop the skills gained in their degree and develop them to an expert level. Some accountancy careers require expert certification, as it assures an employer that the candidate can operate to a high industry standard and offer clients the best financial service possible. Firms internationally recognise some accountancy certifications, like chartered financial analyst, meaning that these skills may be in demand across the world.

This vastly improves a candidate's job prospects and demonstrates high skills proficiency to many accountancy firms.

Related: CPA vs. CA: Choosing an Accounting Career For You

3. Get an internship

During or after study, a candidate can progress in their skills development by seeking an internship. An internship is a great opportunity to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how the accountancy profession operates and what a typical day looks like for an accountant. They can develop their skills by shadowing and assisting a fully qualified accountant. Their supervisor may also issue them with feedback on their skills and what areas they can develop for career success.

Internships demonstrate a drive to succeed and progress, potentially improving a candidate's chance of gaining an accountancy role after certification.

4. Find a mentor

While working at an accountancy firm, candidates may choose to develop their professional skills by working with a mentor. Mentors are typically figures in more senior roles that help guide candidates with everyday tasks. They do this hoping the candidate develops useful skills and experience from them. Mentoring is a good option for candidates who learn by physically performing the task, as they can receive immediate feedback.

Enlisting a mentor is also a good way to build on professional relationships and nurture excellent communication skills, which is another critical accounting skill when interacting with clients.

Related: How to Find a Mentor: A Step-by-Step Guide With Tips

5. Practise accounting tasks

Candidates may not know that they are making a mistake until they physically perform the task, so it's important that candidates develop their skills by performing accounting responsibilities. Practising accountancy gives candidates the opportunity to formulate solutions and deliver a high-quality service to their clients. They can also spot areas of improvement when physically practising by identifying areas of accountancy that require more experience or confidence. Performing accountancy tasks also gives mentors and supervisors the opportunity to assess their work and provide feedback on areas of skills development.

Practising also helps accountants build confidence when interacting with clients and allows them to get used to collaborative working, as this is a crucial accounting skill for career success.

6. Get feedback

Receiving feedback from colleagues and superiors is an important element of improving a candidate's skills. When candidates assess their own performance, they may only notice a certain number of areas of development and neglect other areas of improvement. Gaining an outside opinion is a good way to understand areas of development that the candidate may not notice or have considered a priority in their professional development. Feedback is also a great opportunity to understand what accountancy skills candidates excel at, which can significantly improve motivation, confidence and overall job satisfaction.

Consider gaining feedback from clients as well, to understand how your skills may impact customers and their personal and business success and growth.

Explore more articles