Accounting is often viewed as a number cruncher's job, but other skills and qualities beyond math abilities are critical to success. To become an accountant, you normally need a bachelor's degree in accounting. Many accountants also become certified public accountants, or CPAs, by completing a licensing exam.
Accounting definitely begins with strong math abilities. However, accountants do much more than add and subtract. They must analyze financial transactions; decide how to properly record them in financial accounts; and apply generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP, when preparing financial statements and reports. Accountants who do tax preparation and prepare management accounting reports must also analyze financial records and determine the best treatment for various revenues and expenses.
Well-Organized and Detail-Oriented
Maintaining copies of receipts, statements and other financial records for easy retrieval later on requires a high degree of organization. For tax preparation, for instance, accountants often have to go through messy files for clients or employers, and organize them in a way that allows for tax filing and record maintenance in the event of an audit. Attention to detail is crucial, because errors in recording accounting transactions can affect financial reports or taxes. Misstated financial information can affect a company's investors, cause managers to make faulty financial decisions and lead to inaccurate tax filings.
Despite the perception that accountants work completely autonomously and are typically reserved individuals, accountants need a strong ability to communicate. They must listen to directives from employers or clients before preparing financial records or taxes. They must also ask effective questions and offer insights and advice on the best ways to record transactions or file taxes. Ultimately, the employer, business or tax client -- along with the accountant -- suffer if an accountant messes up records or filings.
Increasingly, employers want accountants that have a high level of business acumen to go along with accounting skills, according to a June 2008 article in the "Accounting & Finance" journal. Accountants often participate in executive meetings and represent the company in financial matters, which requires professionalism and proper etiquette. Because accounting fits into the broader company system, accounting processes must coincide with other business functions. This is especially true with accounting software, which often aligns with company purchasing activities, and billing and payment processes.