Accounting Skills: Key Duties, Roles and Responsibilities

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  1. What are accountants and accounting skills?
  2. Right from the start: accounting skills
  3. Key duties, roles and responsibilities
  4. Types of accountants
  5. FAQs about accounting skills

Companies almost always need a person or team to handle complex financial responsibilities. Many companies hire accountants to handle these duties. Particular skills qualify accountants to perform the necessary tasks on the job. If your company is in need of a qualified accountant, it’s important to first gain a thorough understanding of their main duties and specializations.


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What are accountants and accounting skills?

Accountants, also called Certified Public Accountants or CPAs, are trained professionals who handle financial information for a company. Accountants can work in-house for a company or for an accounting firm that takes on outside clients. Most accountants perform financial analysis, ensure that the company is handling its money legally and manage tax forms and documents. 


Accountants must have certain skills to perform their jobs well. These skills include hard skills, or learned knowledge about the job, and soft skills, or character attributes not specifically related to the job. Both hard and soft skills are necessary to be an excellent accountant. Some examples of useful skills for accountants include time management, attention to detail, organization and interpersonal skills.


Accountants acquire the majority of their skills from education, although some soft skills come from experience. To become an accountant you must attend an accredited college or university and earn a degree in accounting. From there, some accountants pursue further skills through graduate school while others take the CPA exam and begin practicing immediately. 


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Right from the start: accounting skills

Accountants should develop a combination of hard skills and soft skills to perform their job well. Here are the specific skills you should look for in potential accountants at your organization.


Hard skills

These skills are directly related to the job and can be learned either on the job or by taking classes specific to accounting. 

  • Competency with numbers
  • Corporate finance
  • Research
  • Management
  • Data entry
  • Analysis
  • Problem-solving
  • Computer proficiency  


Soft skills

These skills, while focused more on communication and interactions with others, are still useful for the duties and responsibilities of an accountant. 

  • Attention to detail
  • Confidentiality
  • Strong time management
  • Accuracy
  • Organization
  • Planning skills
  • Communication
  • Ability to self-motivate
  • Teamwork

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Key duties, roles and responsibilities

Accountants are responsible for managing and evaluating a variety of financial information. The specific duties, roles and responsibilities an accountant may perform will depend on the industry in which they work, the size of your company and the type of accounting they’re performing. Here are some of the most common duties, roles and responsibilities of an accountant: 


  • Manage tax returns
  • Prepare financial documents like income statements and balance sheets
  • Work with auditors both within and outside of the company to ensure legal compliance 
  • Make sure all bookkeeping is accurate and adheres to state and federal law
  • Create budgets or advise on the creation of budgets
  • Properly store and manage financial data
  • Regularly review bookkeeping for accuracy 
  • Review and update accounting processes and procedures as needed 
  • Make financial recommendations 
  • Manage or work on an accounting team 
  • Maintain confidential and secure storage of important financial information
  • Create financial forecasts 
  • Communicate with clients and in-house stakeholders


Types of accountants

Accountants can work in a variety of settings. The skills your accountant will need to perform their job to the best of their ability will depend on the type of accounting the job requires. Here are the most common types of accountants and the environments in which they work: 


  • Public: Public accountants work for an accounting company and take on clients, which could be either individuals or companies. 
  • Private: Private accountants work in-house for a single company or corporation.
  • Fiduciary: Fiduciary accountants work for a trust or estate.
  • Governmental: Governmental accountants work for organizations within the government such as the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Forensic: Forensic accountants prepare financial information for litigation. 
  • Management: Management accountants work with high-level executives to make business decisions.


FAQs about accounting skills

Below are some common questions concerning accounting skills.

  1. How can I gain more accounting skills? 
  2. How should accounting skills be listed on a resume? 
  3. What are management accounting skills? 
  4. What is technical accounting? 
  5. What accounting skills should managers value? 


1. How can an employer support their accountant’s skill development?

Accounting skills can be gained through formal education and experience. If your accountant is already a CPA, they could earn a degree in a specialized area of accounting that would benefit your business. Short-term professional development opportunities can also develop your accountant’s skill set without the time and money constraints presented by traditional schooling.


2. Which accounting skills are important to look for on an applicant’s resume?

Accounting applicants may list their skills in several ways on their resume. Some may list skills as bullet points under their work experience. Others may have an objective in which they describe the skills they have. Some may include a distinct skills section in which skills are listed as bullet points. Generally, you will want to look for skills like math fluency, excellent communication, attention to detail, organization and leadership. 


3. What are management accounting skills? 

Management accounting involves working with a team of high-level executives to make business decisions often regarding investments. In addition to the core math and analysis skills necessary for all accountants, management accountants should also be great communicators, demonstrate proficiency in creating presentations and be comfortable public speaking. 


4. What is technical accounting? 

Technical accounting is the performance of basic accounting practices under the supervision of a senior accountant. Technical accountants are often new to the profession and just beginning to hone their accounting skills. Many technical accountants go on to hold senior accountant positions. Technical accountants work in a variety of work settings. 


5. What accounting skills should managers value? 

The skills managers should pay the most attention to will depend on the industry in which they’re working and the role of the accountant. However, all accountants, regardless of their exact position, should have basic math skills, analysis skills and exceptional attention to detail. 


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