Top Skills, Software and Education Needed to Be the Best Accountant in 2020

While the world continues to change rapidly, so does the workload. In fact, those in the accounting industry already see a shift in their job duties as a result of the sudden innovation expansion. As technology continues to emerge, accountants and CPAs will require additional skills to accommodate the disparate trends. So, what skills and software will be required to be a successful accountant in today’s environment and in the coming years?

Traditional Vs Modernized Accounting Tools and Skillsets

Over the years, we have seen a lot of change. We started off with pencils, then moved on to pens, next came typewriters, then word processors, and now we have speech recognition software where all we have to do is say it and it will be written. Just like when we went from processing math formulas on paper to using a calculator, then an adding machine, and now we have innovative scientific notation built directly into our computers.

The following traditional attributes will still apply to an accountant’s role:

  • Good writing skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Intelligence
  • Typing/word processing
  • Ten key by touch
  • Attention to detail
  • Reliable mathematics
  • Kind demeanor
  • Time management
  • And more

Traditional skills will always be essential qualities in accounting but must be combined with modern elements such as…

  • Social media
  • Text messaging
  • Analytics
  • Email
  • Spreadsheets
  • Web publishing
  • Blog posting
  • Video conferencing
  • Online collaboration
  • And more

Cloud Computing & Mobile Devices

By now, you probably heard the term “the cloud,” however, the cloud being referenced is not in the sky; rather it is one giant network containing a plethora of information shared and accessed by hundreds of thousands of individuals across the globe.

Cloud-based applications are accessible through mobile phones and other devices such as tablets, notebooks, ultra-books, etc. CPA’s rely on cloud computing to integrate technology and fulfill their daily tasks. This is referred to as pervasive computing.

Intacct Corps CPA Programs Leader, also former president of “AV Accounting Services Inc., Amy Vetter (CPA/CITP,) and J. Carlton Collins the owner of ASA Research, who also writes the JofA Technology Q&A column, both agree that a CPAs role is about to become more complex and will require the integration of new skills.

To be more specific, through pervasive computing, CPAs will be more diligent in utilizing strong data analysis tools and business intelligence, with sophisticated algorithms and extremely large databases, to analyze the financial activity of companies as well as identify risks and potential opportunities for improvements.

The Role of Social Media Platforms in Accounting

In the coming years, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter will continue to evolve and become more crucial to accountants and CPAs alike. Therefore, it is imperative to gain insight into all aspects of social media networking in order to engage clients and growing firms.

Remote Access and Virtual Workspace

In general, Remote access and virtual workspace have shattered the need for ground office space in many areas. Accountants no longer have the burden of wasting precious time fighting traffic and paying high fuel prices to commute to work every day. New technology and innovation have ushered in remote access capability that allows them to work from anywhere in their own virtual workspace provided with mobile access. This also helps save the environment.

Some worry about the lack of human contact in this situation. However, who wants to spend time every morning doing their hair, makeup, nails, etc. in order to look “presentable” all day? Women walk around all day in their high heels, men wear their tight neckties. But why, when they can be comfortable at home where they will be able to think more clearly and thereby work more productively without all the pressure. Home workers can still embrace social contact through text and chat. Not to mention that working from home also combats sexual harassment in the workplace.

Applications, Software and other Fundamentals Accountants Should Be Familiar With

It is critical that accountants and CPAs stay up-to-date with modern trends and new technology by gaining at least a basic understanding of new topics, tools, and terms to:

  • Decide which tools are right for you
  • Show your insight should the topic be brought up while communicating with colleagues or clients
  • Share your thoughts on the subject to either endorse or improve it
  • Know what your competitors may be using

Some of the more popular tools, software applications, and terms used today are listed below, which you should be familiar with:

  • MS Office and Excel
  • QuickBooks
  • Systems integrations
  • Adobe PDF
  • Auto-population of data
  • Optical character recognition (OCR)
  • 3-D, 3G, and 4G LTE technology
  • Data Extraction Tools
  • Business intelligence
  • (ERP) Enterprise Resource Planning
  • PowerPoint deck
  • MS Outlook Express
  • Google Docs
  • XML and XBRL tags
  • Data modeling
  • Connectivity and IT Security
  • Data analysis improved reporting and analyzing trends
  • Client portals
  • (BYOD) Bring your own device
  • Mobile device standards
  • (SQL) structured query language
  • (Electronic banking) Real-time information management
  • Information technology
  • Current tax laws and mandates

Ways to get the skills needed (Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, etc.)

If you are interested in joining the accounting industry and furthering your education, there are many programs available and you can learn more from the Discover Accounting Degrees section here.

Associates Degree in Accounting

The associate’s degree is the minimum education level required to work in the field as maybe an accounting clerk or a bookkeeper, anything higher will require a bachelor’s degree or above. If you attend college full-time, you can earn your associate’s in 2 years. To get a CPA you would have to also study for the CPA exam, (please see “The CPA Exam” for more information).

Courses for an associate’s degree may include the following:

  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Financial Accounting
  • Taxation
  • Accounting Theory
  • Marketing
  • Financial Investigation
  • Payroll
  • Financial Markets

Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

After earning your bachelor’s degree in accounting, you will have the status of a full-fledged accountant. You can earn this degree in four years. Courses may consist of the following, this includes business-related courses as well:

  • Financial Statements
  • Auditing
  • Management
  • Business Ethics
  • Taxation
  • Technical Writing
  • Marketing
  • Accounting Information Systems
  • Business Law
  • Corporate Finance
  • Accounting Theory
  • Cost Accounting

Master’s Degree in Accounting

Most employers favor advanced degree’s these days, as technology is on the rise. You can typically complete a Master’s degree in accounting program in two years. Courses may include:

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Financial Decision Making
  • Auditing and Assurance
  • Applied Statistics for Business Decisions
  • Federal Taxation
  • Contemporary Issues in Accounting
  • Financial Accounting
  • Corporate Financial Reporting

The CPA Exam

Most states will require your transcripts to have at least 150 semester hours to qualify for your CPA, where the majority of your courses must be in graduate-level or upper-level undergraduate courses. Therefore, you will still have 30 hours to complete in addition to the 120 you already earned for your bachelor’s.

You can choose to take one of the four exams to be licensed in that field only. For example, if you were to take and pass the “Auditing and Attestation” exam, you can become an Auditor, even if it’s the only test you pass after taking all four. The four exams are:

  • Financial Accounting and Reporting
  • Auditing and Attestation
  • Regulation
  • Business Environment and Concepts

In order to pass a section, you will need at least a score of 75 on that test. Keep in mind that almost half of those who take these tests fail the first time and have to retake it, so be sure to study.