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What Characteristics Should an Accountant Have?
Accounting is a good profession for individuals with certain characteristics. Accountants often have bachelor's degrees and work in various industries, such as public companies, CPA firms, small businesses and government. A 2010 U.S. Department of Labor report states that jobs for accountants and auditors are expected to have a much faster than average growth due to increase in the number of businesses, changing laws and greater focus of company finances. The report also indicates that accountants with certifications are the most likely to succeed in the workplace.
Analytical skills are a must to any accountant. It's not just an ability to work with numbers, but to understand what they mean. Accountants, usually detailed-oriented, compare numbers and draw conclusions based on logic, not gut feelings. They also must have great computer skills to be able to analyze data in accounting and spreadsheet programs. It's rare to see accountants working with manual, pencil and pad systems these days.
Research skills are important to accountants who must deal with ever-changing laws and regulations. Many universities require research as part of their accounting programs -- not just knowledge of rules and theories. Accountants must understand the basics of online research and be savvy about Internet publications and reliability of information. To be a good researcher, the accountant should have the traits of curiosity, flexibility and the ability to focus on relevant facts, while ignoring other information.
Accountants often need to make presentations or to explain a financial situation to others and that requires very good communication skills. Accountants are expected to write financial reports, emails and letters that make sense and are well-written. The effectiveness of communication is based on the ability to select the best medium to convey information, so accountants must be savvy about media and methods of sharing financial information. To be a good communicator, an accountant must have the ability to listen to others and to be attuned to social cues.
Accountants often need to work with others. They may need to train and supervise staff or clerical workers and may deal with others to accomplish their goals. For example, rarely will a controller develop a budget by himself. Generally, he needs to have meetings and work as part of a team to get the budget done properly. In order to be a good team member, the accountant must be willing to share information and to accept different opinions.
Sheila Shanker is a certified public accountant based in California. She writes online courses for professionals seeking CPE hours and has also published the book "Guide to Non-profits: From the Trenches." Her articles have been published in national magazines such as the "Journal of Accountancy," "Architecture Business and Economics" and "Veterinary Economics." Shanker holds a Master of Business Administration.