10 Essential Accountant Competencies That Employers Seek

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 17, 2022 | Published August 18, 2021

Updated August 17, 2022

Published August 18, 2021

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.

Video: A Day in the Life of an Accountant

In this video, we follow Ektaa, a tax accountant working for a family-owned accounting firm, as she shares the skills and education needed to be a successful accountant.

Many businesses rely on accountants to track their finances and provide accurate information that guides important financial decisions. Being a competent accountant and possessing the skills necessary to perform tasks effectively is important to succeed in this field. If you're considering a career in accounting, knowing the competencies that employers value can help you secure the role that's right for you. In this article, we define accountant competencies, explain their importance and list 10 essential accountant competencies for these roles.

Related: Learn About Being an Accountant

What are accountant competencies?

Accountant competencies are the technical skills and attributes that help professionals succeed in accounting jobs and remain valuable to their businesses. These competencies can help accountants complete their job responsibilities efficiently while maintaining accuracy. Though their duties may vary depending on where they work, accountants typically prepare financial documents, ensure compliance with regulations and evaluate financial operations. Many core accountant competencies focus on the ability to understand and interpret financial information correctly to complete the aforementioned tasks.

Related: What Are the Functions of Accounting?

Why are accountant competencies important?

Accountant competencies highlight to employers that an accountant possesses the skills to maintain accurate financial records and interpret that information appropriately to provide quality advice. Accountants with certain core competencies can help company leaders make important financial decisions related to their business. Successful accountants can also forecast trends based on a company's historical data to help guide their business's future financial path.

10 accountant competencies

There are many competencies accountants may possess that can contribute to a company's financial success. However, there are some common attributes that employers consider closely when hiring accountants. Here are 10 highly valued competencies for accountants:

1. Research skills

Accountants often conduct research to understand economic conditions that may affect a company, such as supply and demand. This research helps accountants gather information and clearly present it to company leaders to help with their decision-making processes. Research can also be valuable for helping accountants understand complex business transactions or learn new techniques as technology advances. Some research skills that can be valuable for accountants include:

  • Data collection: This skill can help accountants gather information to answer client-specific questions. For example, an accountant may collect information on a company's past sales projections to determine how annual sales figures compare with estimates.

  • Analysis: Accountants use analysis in their research to understand a concept more thoroughly. For example, they may employ analysis skills to connect financial metrics, such as earnings before interest and tax, to a company's overall performance.

  • Attention to detail: While researching, accountants may work with large volumes of data. They use attention to detail to identify inconsistencies or discrepancies that can affect the results of their research.

2. Financial reporting

Financial reporting entails preparing statements to summarize a company's financial performance. Accountants prepare these reports to help company leaders make essential financial decisions. There are four types of statements that accountants often prepare to compile a financial report:

  • Balance sheet: This financial document defines a company's assets, liabilities and equity. Assets are items a company owns that have value, and liabilities are payments a company owes. Equity is the money remaining after a company sells its assets and pays its liabilities.

  • Income statement: This statement summarizes a company's revenue, expenses and profit margins.

  • Statement of equity changes: This report reveals the company's changes in equity over time.

  • Cash flow statement: This provides information on a company's cash movement, which includes the business's profits and expenses.

Related: Types of Financial Statements and What They Report

3. Budgeting and forecasting

Accountants usually assist a company's leadership team with both budgeting and forecasting responsibilities. Budgeting determines a company's financial expectations over a short period, which companies typically conduct annually. To compare figures from the start and conclusion of a fiscal year, managers may ask accountants to determine an estimate of important financial metrics, such as revenue and expenses.

Forecasting helps companies predict their financial metrics based on historical data. Company leaders often ask accountants to develop forecasting models that help them make short- and long-term financial decisions. Both budgeting and forecasting are critical tools that help a business plan for future growth, and understanding both concepts can help accountants guide companies effectively.

4. Spreadsheet proficiency

Accountants typically use spreadsheet programs to collect, organize and analyze large amounts of data related to their business. It's important for these professionals to have a comprehensive knowledge of these programs to manage data efficiently. Accountants often use spreadsheet programs to perform mathematical calculations quickly and accurately. Common spreadsheet skills that accountants often possess include:

  • Pivot tables: This is a data processing technique that groups similar values together. Accountants can use pivot tables to analyze a set of data from different perspectives.

  • Formulas: Accountants can use spreadsheets to create formulas, which help professionals conduct equations using data in the cells on a spreadsheet. This can assist accountants in performing complex mathematical calculations quickly and effectively.

  • Charts: Accountants can also use spreadsheets to create charts, which represent numerical information graphically. They can use these charts to communicate key financial information in a simple and concise way.

5. Accuracy

It's important for accountants to complete financial documents accurately because they create a record of a company's financial performance. This information can help businesses fulfill their tax requirements, make payments on time and control cash flow effectively. To demonstrate accuracy in their work, accountants can complete tasks in a timely manner, remain attentive when analyzing data and double-check their mathematical calculations frequently.

6. Time management

Accountants often perform tasks, such as annual tax reports, in adherence with a specific deadline. Some accounting firms may charge clients hourly, and accountants help create an accurate record of the time they spend working on each account. Effective time management skills help accountants meet their deadlines while balancing other priorities simultaneously. Some aspects of good time management include:

  • Organization

  • Prioritization

  • Planning

  • Delegation

  • Problem-solving

Related: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples

7. Business acumen

Business acumen is the understanding of how a business operates. While accounting is one component of comprehensive business acumen, accountants can also benefit from understanding other business concepts, such as marketing, human resources and operations. Possessing general knowledge of areas external to accounting can help accountants collaborate with managers or company executives to identify opportunities for growth and maximize profits. Some skills that can help professionals develop business acumen include:

  • Strategic thinking

  • Technology skills

  • Negotiation

  • Team-building

  • Creativity

Related: Business Acumen Skills: Definition and Examples

8. Mathematical skills

Many accounting responsibilities require formulas to calculate metrics and analyze data. While many companies have software programs that can automate some of those processes, accountants may still benefit from understanding calculations in case technology falters. Some accountants may even find it easier to conduct some mathematical calculations manually to improve their own efficiency. Specific mathematical skills that can be beneficial for accountants include:

  • Basic arithmetic

  • Statistics

  • Algebra

  • Mathematical modeling

  • Calculus

9. Communication

Accountants communicate with many individuals daily, such as clients, peers, managers, stakeholders or financial institutions. Effective communication skills can help accountants explain financial terminology and complex concepts to those whose of expertise lie outside of accounting. They may also use written communication skills when preparing financial reports. Other communication skills that can benefit accountants include:

  • Confident speaking voice and non-verbal cues

  • Presentation skills

  • Clear and concise language

10. Teamwork

Many accountants work as part of a team to accomplish the financial objectives of an organization. They use teamwork skills to collaborate productively with others on common tasks or shared goals. Accountants may work with their team to ensure accurate data, improve operational processes and help business leaders make informed decisions. Successful accountants help their team members solve problems and offer feedback to recognize their colleagues for productive work. Accountants often use these teamwork skills:

  • Leadership

  • Collaboration

  • Listening

  • Empathy

  • Conflict resolution

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