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What Qualifications Are Needed to Have a Successful Accounting Career?

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Accounting is ranked as one of the top three business jobs on the "U.S. News and World Report" list of the Best Business Jobs of 2013. Students who choose this field of study will enjoy a median annual salary of $62,850, in a stable and thriving industry. However, there are certain qualifications needed to have a successful accounting career.

Types of Accountants

There are four basic types of accountants described by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Public accountants work at public accounting firms or they may be self-employed, while management accountants may be known as cost, managerial, corporate, industrial or private accountants. Government accountants work for federal, state and local governments, while internal auditors investigate financial mismanagement.

Analytical Skills

Accountants must be analytical to methodically examine documents and financial processes. They use critical thinking skills to determine ways to make the organization more financially efficient. Their analytical skills help them develop ways to reduce costs, increase revenues, improve profits and eliminate waste. Accountants also carefully evaluate financial performance and investigate financial investments such as stocks, bonds and real estate.

Communication Skills

Accountants need excellent communication skills -- both written and verbal. They may interact with a variety of people ranging from managers and directors to members of the accounting staff. Accountants must be able to clearly converse or correspond to ask questions and discuss issues or discrepancies. In addition, they offer advice and make recommendations regarding the best financial business decisions.


An attention to detail is an essential qualification for a successful accounting career. The ability to notice one error, discrepancy or inconsistency can often lead to discovering other inaccuracies. On the other hand, missing a small detail can affect the integrity of the organization’s financial records and may cause the company to be audited. In addition, accountants should be detail-oriented to ensure that financial records conform to laws and regulations.

Math Proficiency

Not to overstate the obvious, but math skills are essential in accounting. From computing taxes and accurately preparing tax returns to completing balance sheet statements, accountants should be mathematically proficient. Although the BLS states that complex math skills are not needed, accountants are responsible for keeping track of the company’s spending and buying records, in addition to calculating budget amounts, and these figures must be an accurate depiction of the organization’s finances.

2016 Salary Information for Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $68,150 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, accountants and auditors earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $90,670, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,397,700 people were employed in the U.S. as accountants and auditors.