What skills do you need to be an accountant?

Woman with question mark post-it note stuck to her head

Thinking about a career in accountancy? It’s a great path to consider. It’s a diverse and dynamic sector, which can lead you into almost any industry.

It’s not an easy job, but if you have motivation and the key skills needed to succeed, it can be incredibly rewarding. From business acumen to analytical thought processes, these are the top things employers look out for:

Self motivation

Motivation is what pushes us to achieve our goals, feel more fulfilled and keeps us moving ahead. Understanding and developing your self motivation can be the key to success both personally and professionally and is vital when you work in finance.

Whether you’re working towards your AAT qualification or getting to grips with your first position as a chartered accountant, you’ll need to be self motivated to put the hours in and go above and beyond.

The challenges you go through, when you’re a student and you’re qualified, can sometimes make you doubt yourself. But by always having a goal in sight, you can push forwards and achieve anything you set your mind to.

Integrity

Integrity is a crucial element of working as an accountant. As you’ll learn covering Ethics in AAT’s Level 3, accountants shouldn’t ever benefit personally, or gain an advantage, using confidential information. As part of your job, you are presenting a truthful and accurate assessment of a company’s financial health to the public – so it’s important to be transparent.

Working with integrity as an accountant means upholding objectivity and independence. To try and regulate the industry, there is usually a limit on the number of services that accounting firms and individuals can offer clients. This is to try and avoid conflicting situations, such as when an individual may handle both general accounting functions, as well as auditing. In this case they would essentially be reviewing their own work.

Organisational skills

It’s pretty safe to say that you’ll never have a slow day as an accountant. They’re important people within a business structure as their workload indicates. To keep on top of a busy schedule, organisation is vital.

What’s great is that at the start, you don’t necessarily need specific finance experience to demonstrate your organisational skills. Perhaps you’ve been head of a charity committee in the past, or you’re known as the one in your office who always has the finger on the pulse of running projects.

And if you’re not quite as organised as you’d like? There are plenty of tricks and tools to get you up to scratch. We recommend you try making the most of calendars, alphabetised folders and day planners. If you also want to bring some more colour to your desk, try using bright colour-coded post-it notes and highlighters.
Time management

It’s another skill that goes hand-in-hand with organisation. Working as an accountant, you’re going to have multiple tasks, all with competing priorities. How do you know where to spend your time on and how much?

You’ll get great first hand experience of time management by scheduling your study time in and around the rest of your life. It can help to make lists of everything you want to cover in that time and see if you’re estimating your time accurately.

You’ll also learn a lot in your role as an accountant, but it can be useful to go into a job already armed with some processes. One of our favourites is regularly reprioritising to-do lists, whilst keeping deadlines in sight.

Communication skills

No matter where you work, as an accountant it’s important to have strong communication skills across all mediums. Whether it’s in person, over video call, or instant messaging, colleagues and clients will rely on you. It’ll be your responsibility to provide clear communication on potentially complex and technical financial issues.

Being able to explain something to someone who doesn’t understand financial process, enabling them to clearly understand what you’re talking about, is a real skill.

Adaptability

The finance industry is always changing. Job roles are constantly being created and existing positions are being rethought to ensure they’re supporting businesses as best they can.

Those who can adapt to changes quickly, and even foresee what will be important in the future, will have a great advantage. It can be tough but it will pay off if you can embrace change and be proactive in your learning, so you can be ready for whatever your job might throw at you.

Problem-solving skills

Everyone loves a colleague who can get them out of a sticky situation. Regardless if it was caused by you or nothing to do with you, problem solving skills are a great asset to any team.

Of course there’s no one way that every problem can be solved, but you can hone your strengths to make sure you’re prepared for when they do arise. Good communication will be key to ensure that everyone in your team is on the same page, and then emotional intelligence to manage your relationships as best you can.

Your particular strength might be your ability to quickly recognise the impact of problems on individuals. Or colleagues might look to you for your creative thinking and research, so you can figure out what the best course of action might be. Whichever way you best help with problems, use it to your, and your team’s, advantage.

Level up

Think you’ve got the skills for the job? If you think it’s for you but you’re not quite sure where to start, download our brochure for more information on how to get into the accountancy industry.