Jobs in the accounting field are expected to see a growth rate of 10 to 19 per cent during the decade ending in 2020, according to O-Net Online. The accounting department, accountant or bookkeeper is responsible for producing the financial reports needed to determine the profitability of a business. With the introduction of computers that small businesses could afford, the accounting industry began requiring greater computer literacy and improved computer skills for its workers.
Accountants once spent their time doing manual entries and searching for mistakes, but that changed with the development of computer technology. In the digital era, accounting professionals can accomplish much more in much less time, and their focus has shifted toward analysis and consultation.
For employers in an improving hiring landscape, this places a premium on recruiting and retaining accountants with advanced technology skills. Among chief financial officers in the United States, 41% cite “keeping pace with changing technology” as the biggest pressure facing their accounting and finance departments, according to a 2015 survey by staffing firm Robert Half Management Resources.
“Businesses seek technology expertise as more finance departments move from a reporting-focused to an analytics-centric function,” Robert Half has also noted.
If you’re entering a career in computerized accounting, you’ll need to know your way around a few of the basics of working with computers. Basic computer skills can help you gather information, create written documents, and even deal with the occasional issue that pops up when using technology. These are all valuable skills that can help you get through both accounting responsibilities and the day-to-day office tasks that you might need to engage in on the job.
If you’re not already comfortable working with computers, completing an in-depth accounting training program will help get you up to speed. Here are some of the essential skills you can learn.
Preparing spreadsheets is a common task in the accounting field. A good grasp of spreadsheet software, such as Lotus 1-2-3 or Microsoft Excel, is desirable. Familiarity with the more advanced formulas contained within the software can help make spreadsheet preparation easier. For example, there are formulas to calculate the monthly payment on a loan if you know the principal, interest rate and loan term. Spreadsheet formulas allow accounting staff members to produce “what-if” scenarios to see the effect of a given change, such as how much would the payment increase if the interest rate is 1 per cent higher or the loan term is one year less.
An important part of an accounting job is typically to provide management with accurate, timely information to use in making decisions. Information might be conveyed through reports generated by a software package, or it might be necessary to condense, consolidate or organize the information into a report. Most accounting jobs also require the preparation of letters and memos to vendors, customers, managers or co-workers.
A company might use an off-the-shelf accounting software package to record its financial transactions. Programs such as Quickbooks, Peachtree and AccountAbility allow clerical personnel to prepare invoices for customers, enter invoices received from vendors and print checks. Depending on the package purchased, a payroll, fixed asset or inventory module may be included. At month-end, financial statements can be printed quickly. Knowing your way around one or more of the common accounting software programs can be advantageous.
Companies may use an outside payroll preparation service to print paychecks and prepare payroll tax returns. Two well-known payroll-processing companies are ADP and Paychex. Each uses proprietary software to enable clients to enter the data needed to prepare the payroll. Alternatively, a company might use the payroll module attached to its accounting software to prepare paychecks. Either way, knowing the fundamentals of computerized payroll systems can be beneficial.
As responsibilities increase in the accounting world, additional software skills might be needed. There are software programs to manage projects, conduct audits, track depreciation on fixed assets and prepare tax returns. In addition, a number of software programs exist that are specific to a particular industry, such as American HealthTech Financial.
In addition to software packages that are geared toward the accounting field, jobs typically require proficiency in basic computer operations. Managing email accounts, saving and printing files and performing data backups are common tasks. Because of the typically high amount of data entry required, proficiency with the 10-key number pad on a computer keyboard is desirable.
Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, define the set of standards that govern the practice of accounting in the United States. They’re meant to standardize accounting practices across organizations and industries and ensure that a company’s financial statements are clear and complete.
GAAP is a best practice for anyone working in accounting, but if you’re working for a publicly-traded company, they’re a requirement. Organizations that trade on public exchanges are mandated to file GAAP-compliant financial statements regularly. Even for private companies, GAAP compliance is viewed favourably in the eyes of lenders and creditors.
Trying to get an accounting job without knowing Microsoft Excel is like trying to become a bus driver without a driver’s license. It’s a basic job requirement. While not all accounting or finance professionals will work in Excel on a daily basis, spreadsheets are standard fare in the field, so it’s still essential to be able to read and analyze the data in them.
At a minimum, accounting and finance candidates should have a solid footing with Excel’s basic features like formulas, sorting and filtering. For roles that will use the platform as part of their primary job duties, candidates should be proficient with advanced features like pivot tables, VLOOKUP, and what-if scenarios.
As the size of an organization grows, so does the volume of data you’ll be dealing with, making these technical skills even more valuable for jobs with enterprise-level organizations.
Quickbooks is one of the most widely used pieces of accounting software among small businesses, with the online version alone boasting some 4.2 million subscribers. The software offers a suite of financial features that are useful for growing organizations, like expense tracking, invoicing, and payroll.
If you’re going to be working for a small or medium-sized organization or doing business with them, it’s highly likely you’ll be working in Quickbooks, so knowledge of this platform is definitely a technical accounting skill you want on your resume.
Accounting and finance professionals do much more than just track money in and money out. They play a crucial role in guiding the financial direction of the organization. This requires the ability to make accurate predictions about what the future holds in terms of sales, inventory and labour, and use that data to make recommendations to the board of directors or c-suite.
Experience with ERP, or enterprise resource planning software, is one of the core skills required for accounting and finance jobs, especially higher-level jobs like senior accountants and financial analysts. You’ll need to use ERP software like SAP and Oracle to plan the purchase of raw materials, control inventory, facilitate distribution, allocate labour hours and more.
Additionally, you might need to work with popular business analytics and reporting software like Tableau or Zoho Analytics. These platforms help organizations take raw data and turn it into visualizations and other meaningful forms of information that can be used to make decisions.
There’s an entire segment of the accounting and finance industry dedicated to tax. If you work in this part of the field, you’ll obviously need deep knowledge of the software your organization uses for tax preparation.
But even if you don’t work specifically in tax, you’ll likely be keeping records and preparing documents for colleagues who do. So, having a working understanding of the platform your company uses for tax preparation is helpful. Lacerte, ProConnect, and Drake are a few of these commonly used programs.
Financial statements are the on-paper records of an organization’s business activities and financial position. They’re used by many entities, including but not limited to the business itself, employees, shareholders, potential investors, and financial institutions, so these statements must be clear and easy to understand.
There are three main documents you’ll need to be familiar with: the income statement, the cash flow statement, and the balance sheet.
An income statement also called a profit and loss or P&L report details the company’s earnings and various expenditures over a given period of time. A cash flow statement reports on the movement of a company’s cash, which should include operating costs, investment activities and financing activities. A balance sheet is a moment-in-time breakdown of a company’s assets, liabilities, and owners’ equity.
Taken together or independently, these statements serve as an at-a-glance-indicator of a company’s financial health. It’s up to you as a finance professional to ensure they’re prepared accurately.
The amount of raw data in the world is growing exponentially, and that includes the financial data of organizations. One of the most relevant technical accounting skills for a competitive candidate is the ability to help a company manage and employ said data to its advantage.
One way of doing this is through data query skills, and one such data query language is SQL. SQL stands for the structured query language. In layman’s terms, it’s a programming language used to pull the information you need from large volumes of data.
Imagine an order database for a major company like Target or Amazon. Let’s say that for sales tax purposes, the company needs to be able to easily tell which state a customer lives in based on their order number, and they need to be able to find that information with the touch of a button.
Now, all those orders and the corresponding customer information are of course stored somewhere, but with a company so large, the number of records is in the millions. Finding this information manually is possible, but it isn’t efficient or realistic on a large scale. Instead, an accountant with knowledge of SQL could create a function so that as soon as they input an order number, the customer’s state and corresponding sales tax information is instantly displayed.
In a similar fashion, data query skills can be useful in identifying business patterns in a set of data and even catching fraud. Once you’ve determined what data you need to access, data query skills help you take the next step and get that data.
The last item on our list of skills required for accounting and finance is the ability to conduct independent research. No matter how strong your finance skills, you’re bound to run into scenarios where you don’t have the answer. When that happens, how will you find the answer?
Top candidates should know where to turn to find the information they need, be it by searching accounting databases, poring through pieces of government legislation or searching online forums. The best finance professionals don’t necessarily have a comprehensive knowledge of financial rules and regulations, but you can bet they know where to find them.
Web browsing is one of the essentials of both the modern workplace and, for many, modern life. Common activities people engage in when browsing the web include navigating to specific websites to access their services or information, and searching for specific information on various web services, to name just a couple.
As part of your accounting training at Academy of Learning Career College, you will master some of the activities associated with browsing the internet. Whether you’re a computer veteran or relatively unfamiliar with using a computer web browser, this component of your education will let you practice a useful skill that can help you access a wealth of information online.
All students enrolled in an accounting diploma program at our school spend time familiarizing themselves with one of the most commonly used and essential pieces of software in the world: Microsoft Word. MS Word is primarily used for creating text documents such as letters, memos, articles, and more. If a task involves typing or writing a large amount of text, the odds are good that Microsoft Word will be an appropriate program for completing it.
In your classes, you will learn to edit text, format documents, use proofing tools, and explore other useful capabilities in Word. If your future career requires that you write documents, your training in the use of MS Word will come in handy.
An operating system is an underlying program that runs on a computer and allows you to access basic services and other programs. The programs at our school include a section dedicated to teaching you how to work within one computer operating system used by many with careers in accounting around the world: Windows 8.1.
Your training will teach you about fundamentals like how to retrieve important system information, create and manage user accounts within the operating system, and how to navigate between folders and drives to find and organize files on your computer. If you are not especially familiar with using these features, this training will help you gain more confidence in working on a Windows 8.1 machine. In addition, since other Windows operating systems are quite similar to Windows 8.1, this training can also help you adapt to different sorts of Windows computers you might encounter in your future workplace.
The minimum qualification required is a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Finance. But other important accounting qualifications bring great value to your competencies and knowledge. The more accountant qualifications and knowledge you have, the more opportunities for high-paid jobs. Here is a list of qualifications and knowledge you need:
Technology has the potential to boost the productivity and efficiency of accountants, which, in turn, can bring improved results for employers and clients. As a result, there is set to be growing demand for accounting professionals who possess a combination of educational qualifications, professional credentials and skill-sets that include data analysis and business intelligence.
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