Top 10 Skills You Have to Have as an Accountant in Australia

This article is sponsored by PTE Academic

Accounting roles in Australia are exciting, diverse, and in-demand in our efficiency-focused post-COVID-19 world.

Once you land a graduate accounting role, you will need to develop a broad range of hard and soft skills to become successful in your new career. We were lucky enough to speak with Big 4 Audit Manager, Daniel Lever, who shares the skills he finds most important for accountants in Australia.

A student mindset

Your development journey does not end after graduation! As well as your university degree, expect continued learning and upskilling to remain compliant and relevant as an accountant. Daniel explains that, post-graduation, you may choose to undertake further accounting qualifications with professional accounting bodies, including CPA Australia,  Chartered Accountants Australia & New Zealand (CA ANZ), and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

As an accountant, you will be working in a constantly changing business and regulatory environment. This requires continuous professional development to maintain up-to-date skills and remain competitive in your field.

Platform and software literacy

Accountants use a broad range of software in their day-to-day jobs. Daniel explains the key platforms you will need to understand when working in the accounting industry are:

  • Data analytics software: Perform analytics on large data sets to aid financial decision-making
  • Data visualisation: Visually display results from data analytics or other data sets, which is key for monitoring and reporting financial results to non-financial users
  • Financial general ledgers (ERPs): Maintain financial books and records to a high standard — the foundation of any accountant’s role

Memo and report writing

Once you extract the required data from the relevant accounting software, you will often need to present that information to your team or wider company in memos and reports. Key skills that Daniel relies on daily include:

  • Technical memo writing – to assess and evaluate transactions and their accounting consequences
  • Professional reporting writing – to prepare planning reports, both at the commencement and completion of projects

Implementation of industry best practice

Most significant business decisions in major companies are made using financial information processed, prepared, and presented by accountants. Therefore, adherence to a standard of quality is vital to a business’s success.

Daniel explains that it’s every accountant’s responsibility to adhere to industry standards.

“Keeping up to date with your professional development program, maintaining a questioning and inquisitive mind in the role, and subscribing to industry-specific accounting forums or newsletters can help you stay aware of key information,” he says.

Excellent written and verbal communication skills

The ability to translate complex accounting concepts and decisions into simple, digestible language can be an unseen soft skill that is vital to your efficiency as an accountant. As an example, Daniel often presents periodic financial information to management who do not have a financial background.

“Communication skills are vital in an accounting role – we do more than just numbers!” he says.

The key to success is communicating the results and insights in simple yet effective language that your clients and colleagues will understand.

Time management

Daniel believes the key to success in the accounting profession is effective prioritisation.

“Given the number of stakeholders relying on our skillset, we often find ourselves with various tasks and projects all running concurrently. Learning how to prioritise these tasks based on deadlines and reporting timelines is critical to ensure we deliver in our roles,” he says.

Commercial awareness

Keeping up to date with current affairs is crucial to work effectively in this industry. Daniel stays across both general and industry-specific news through subscriptions to publications such as the Australian Financial Review (AFR) and The Economist and is also involved with focus groups through the ICAEW. However, Daniel believes nothing compares to real-world work experience. Being directly exposed to client issues will help you learn about the wide range of opportunities in the industry.

Customer service orientation

On any one day, Daniel speaks to several internal and external teams and areas of his company. Each of these stakeholders requires different levels of communication and collaboration. The skills required to deal with each stakeholder often vary, so understanding how to interact and work with different types of stakeholders is important.

“Being able to perform high-quality work whilst adjusting to the needs of your clients and other stakeholders will position you well in your role,” Daniel says.

Resilience

Accountants will generally start their career in an entry-level position, then work their way up the career ladder, so a good work ethic is essential to success. Daniel recommends that graduate accountants start their careers in a company that affords you the time to study and work at the same time to help build your skills.

“Starting at an accountancy firm also gives you early access to such a broad and diverse range of clients and industries that it can assist you in understanding what you enjoy doing, and what you don’t enjoy so much, to help steer your career in the future,” he says.

Teamwork

Daniel tells us he works best in a team environment.

“Being able to collaborate and bounce ideas, concepts, and analyses off of your highly intelligent peers is invaluable! There is usually more than one answer in accounting – working with a team to understand the most appropriate solution is beneficial,” he says.

Effectively operating in a team, but also ensuring sufficient independence to work on your own, is a great skill to work towards in the accounting profession.

Interested in studying accounting or starting your career as an accountant in Australia? You might need to provide proof of your English ability as part of your visa application or as part of a skills assessment for professional registration. PTE Academic is accepted by the Australian Government as well as by the Certified Practicing Accountants Australia (CPA Australia) and the Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) as proof of English ability. With results typically available within 48 hours, you can get your application started sooner!