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Do you have the skills to be an accountant?

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Accountancy is a profession that dates back thousands of years, and demand for qualified Accountants who can manage the finances of and help to run businesses remains as strong as ever. The skills developed during Accountancy training are so valuable that over 50% of FTSE 100 CEOs started their careers in finance. Moreover, learning transferable skills that can be applied all over the world, makes Accountancy really a profession that can take you anywhere, both in terms of location and career development.

Naturally therefore, you can expect stiff competition and high standards when you apply for an Accountancy position.

So, how well do you measure up against these five key skills essential to be an accountant and is there room for improvement?

Numeracy Skills

Kaplan's Graduate Recruitment Research Report, demonstrates 64% of employers look for numeracy skills when selecting new accountancy recruits.

Although you won't be expected to perform complex mathematical equations at every level, numeracy skills are a pre-requisite for accountancy roles. The wide-ranging tasks of an accountant means that an adaptable working-knowledge of mathematics is important.

Business Acumen

Considering wider business goals and issues will help you to build valuable relationships between the finance department and other support and operational areas of the business.

Being able to quickly execute smart business decisions is made possible by understanding how to evaluate internal and external factors such as: market analysis, business strategy, process management, business relations, project management, and awareness of regulatory factors or environments.

Teaching business strategy is like leading a horse to water. For strategic business thinking to ensue, it's up to the individual to start drinking in some valuable knowledge. That's not to say there aren't any tips and tricks to bolster this. For example, following key developments in your industry, reading up on emerging practices, successful business strategies and following experts on social media who are keen to foster this kind of strategic thinking are all recommended tactics.

People Skills

Accountants work closely with all departments of an organisation, and you will find being diplomatic and empathetic will help you get closer to the processes and key issues in that area.

An accountant will be required to support other departments in a business and may be reliant on these departments to provide important resources and information. This means that making healthy and respectful professional partnerships is imperative.

Particularly important is an ability to act as a team player, with studies demonstrating this is a skill that 61% of employers look for during the recruitment process. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants' (ACCA) Virtual Learning Centre offers courses in "Communicating Effectively" and "Working Relationships" for students to complete.

Born to Lead

Rising to a senior accounting position necessitates leadership skills. If you're reaching for those dizzy heights it's imperative you're able to drive performance of teams throughout the business, and motivate and inspire colleagues. A senior member of the accountancy team may also be expected to deliver team building, coaching and mentoring.

Studies show that 73% of employers look for effective communication skills at the recruitment stage.

Absolute Dedication

Most professional qualifications require candidates to complete relevant practical experience as well as assessments. The depth and type of work experience varies by Institution, with CIMA and ACCA asking for three years, ACA guidance stipulating a minimum of 450 days and AAT membership requiring certain skills are demonstrated, rather than a quantity of time.

Both preparing for assessments and compiling experience require a significant dedication. If this level of commitment is a concern, or if time management is not your strong point, there is support for a healthy work/life balance and you don't need to look far for it.

Often an accountancy training provider will support you with free masterclasses on effective management of time, stress and studying. Kaplan Financial also work closely with the Institutions to guide on what, when and how to gather their practical experience.

For example, our ACCA Masterclass summarises key points on practical experience requirements (PER), and there's advice for CIMA students to help them get ahead of their career profile, an area frequently neglected until the final CIMA level (T4 Part A).