With the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting that accounting jobs are expected to experience faster than average growth for the next ten years, there is little doubt that the field faces a bright future. However, it’s also hard to dispute that the accounting industry has experienced many changes in recent years, and with it, so has the role of an accountant. It is the professional who embraces these trends – especially in regards to the latest technologies – who will have the most marketable skills and be able to take advantage of these new opportunities.
“Various factors ranging from a stricter regulatory environment to a general increase in business have required organizations to upgrade their systems and improve the efficiencies of their reporting processes,” explains Michael Cooke, Executive Vice President of The Execu|Search Group’s Accounting/Finance division. “Today, accounting involves much more than number crunching and to streamline their operations, organizations want their accountants to wear many hats. That’s why the strongest candidate will have the technical skills necessary for not only generating the data, but also understanding and manipulating the reports to analyze the information from various viewpoints and objectives.”
While these advanced skills are something that the new CPA exam seeks to specifically address, more experienced accountants looking to enhance their marketability should also make the effort to familiarize themselves with the following technologies:
Advanced Excel Skills: While most accountants know how to use the standard functions on Excel, those needing to take a deeper dive into the data should possess more advanced knowledge of the program. Whether you need to prepare budget reports or project financials, knowing how to build macros, utilize the VLOOKUP function, and create a data model is key.
SQL: In an effort to improve their efficiencies and increase their productivity, many firms are investing in database management systems such as Access and Oracle that utilize SQL, a programming language that is used to manipulate data. “Our clients who are making the effort to streamline their data management are seeking an individual who can build the process for advanced reporting metrics from the ground up,” notes Michael. “To successfully do this, you really need to possess knowledge of SQL.”
Visual Basic: As accounting and IT become inextricably linked, the demand for accountants with basic programming skills is at an all-time high. Since Visual Basic is a programming language that is often used to manipulate data – particularly within Excel – the ability to write code is something that can set you apart from your competition. “As something that is not regularly taught in school, this is a very rare skillset amongst accounting professionals,” says Michael. “If you take the initiative to learn, you open yourself up to opportunities that not many people are qualified for.”
If you are interested in learning more about any of these skills, there are a variety of online and in-person tutorials that you can choose from. In a today’s technology-driven economy where organizations need to adapt to the latest trends, or risk falling behind, any current or future employer will certainly appreciate any additional skills you can utilize to push the business forward in times of change.