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10 Skills Every Certified Public Accountant Must Have

Becoming a certified public accountant will change your career and your life. It will open so many doors and opportunities for you that you wouldn’t have had access to without a professional certification. In fact, for many career paths a certification is required.

Even with all of that, you will still need to have some basic skills that college won’t teach you. No matter how much you memorize your CPA prep course study materials to pass the CPA exam, you will still need to learn a few more skills in order to become a successful certified public accountant. Not all of them are accounting based.

In this article, we will review 10 of the most important skills you need to learn to further your CPA career.

#1 Networking

Most accountants tend to be reserved, analytical people. This doesn’t lend itself well to the idea of networking, but it is extremely important.

Knowing different people in the industry can lead to career opportunities at other firms or businesses. It can also lead to acquiring new clients and growing your existing firm.

Networking is a skill that some struggle with, while others are more natural. Whichever you are, make it a point to focus on meeting new people and developing your professional network.

#2 Personality

One of the best ways to network with your colleagues is to have a personality and not to be boring. No one wants to hang out with a boring person, so try to be yourself.

Don’t hold back in public situations or try to become someone you aren’t. It will most likely just turn out being awkward. Instead just have a personality. A sense of humor will go a long way when you are meeting new people for the first time.

#3 Client Communication

Accounting has become a people business. As much as you’d like to think it’s all about the numbers, it’s really about the people. As a CPA, you will have to communicate with your clients on their needs, tax planning strategies, and business decisions.

Thus, you need to develop your communication skills if you want to be successful in the world of public accounting. This includes both verbal and written skills. You need to be able to effectively talk with clients and explain to them different tax strategies and how decisions will affect their businesses.

Without good communication skills, they might make a mistake and blame you for miscommunicating something that cost them extra money.

#4 Email Writing

Since most communication in the modern professional world centers around emails, it’s important to learn how to properly and professionally write an email.

In fact, the BEC section of the CPA exam tests your writing skills. Thus, before you can become a CPA, you will need to have a good understanding of written communication.

It’s a good idea to practice writing even before you get your CPA certificate.

Nothing screams inept more than poorly punctuated sentences and misspelled words, so work on your writing. Be professional, polite, and concise for your reader. Most likely your client doesn’t have much time to read pages of emails, so get to the point.

Learning email etiquette might make the difference between getting your emails returned from clients and never hearing back from them.

#5 Punctuality

Punctuality is extremely important for any profession, but it’s particularly important for certified public accountants. Since CPAs have the reputation of being uptight to the books, it’s important to make sure your clients don’t think poorly of you.

By showing up to your client meeting late, it shows that you don’t care about your client and are willing to make them wait. This is never a good look. Always be on time for meeting and if at all possible be early.

#6 Excel

Probably the most important computer skill for a CPA that isn’t taught in an accounting degree program is the art of Excel. Yes, it is an art form.

Learning excel will not only increase your efficiency and ability to understand, create, and analyze financial statements, it will also help you customize your offerings to clients.

Every accountant should have a firm understanding of Excel and know how use it in their financial skillset.

#7 Patience

Patience is important for most professionals, but accountants might need to learn this more than any other profession. Clients don’t always understand complex business strategies or tax concepts, so it’s the CPA’s job to explain them.

Becoming a patient teaching will help you relate to your client and explain the concepts to them without getting frustrated. In turn, you will come away looking like a great teacher instead of an impersonal professional.

#8 Diverse Accounting Skills

Certified public accountants are expected to know all areas of accounting, business, and finance. It isn’t enough to specialize in one specific area of accounting. Instead, you need to be able to help your clients in a wide variety of financial accounting topics.

Work on developing a well rounded understanding of each area of accounting including: financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and business law.

The goal is to be able to answer all of your client’s questions without deferring to other professionals.

#9 Corporate Awareness

One thing that often gets overlooked in accounting careers is the corporate structure of accounting firms and the ladder to the top.

If you want to be successful, you need to have a plan to get to where you want to go. If you want to make CPA partner one day, you should study the corporate steps you need to take in order to get to that point.

Each step will bring you closer to the eventual goal and ensure you have a successful career.

#10 Continual Learning

One of the most underrated skills that accountants should have is an attitude of continual learning. You should be a life long learner who is always looking to grow in knowledge and in skill.

The US Department of Education states that people who commit to continual education throughout their lives are much more likely to succeed and surpass the careers of those who don’t.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a CPA is the start of your career and not the end of it. You still have many skills to learn to achieve your professional goals.

Keep learning new skills everyday and you will have no problem becoming an exceptional accountant.

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