What Skills and Responsibilities Should Accountants Expect to Learn On-the-Job?

No matter how much you learn in school – and even how much real-world experience you gain through internships – you should expect to keep learning once you begin your first accounting role. Different accounting firms operate differently, follow unique policies and procedures and even offer distinct services. You will likely undergo at least some on-the-job training when you start at a new accounting agency to understand how to work effectively with the practices already in place at this specific firm. At accounting firms that offer a variety of services, you may even have the opportunity to grow your skills in another area through cross-training.

Adjusting to the Work Environment of a New Accounting Firm

Accounting isn’t a field known for extensive formal on-the-job training. Even among entry-level positions, most accountants already have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. To attain enough semester hours of study to ultimately become a certified public accountant (CPA), some entry-level accounting candidates have double-majored in subjects like business, finance and entrepreneurship or even completed a master’s degree program. Because accounting internships are so important, many new accountants enter the field with at least some work experience with one – and possibly, a few – accounting agencies already.

Though many candidates for beginning accounting roles are well-prepared, employers often still spend time and money training new hires, Accounting Today reported. This training may be more informal than formal. It may show new employees what organizational systems, equipment, policies and protocols the firm uses – all of which can differ from how other accounting firms operate. The right on-the-job training can be crucial to succeeding at a new firm.

Cross-Training within an Accounting Firm

With more accounting agencies than ever now expanding into financial services and other markets to raise revenue, ambitious accountants now have the opportunity to develop new skills on-the-job. Increasingly, firms that offer additional services to their clients are seeking to involve employees in all of the different service areas. Some firms have formal internal training programs that allow accountants to cross-train in certain accounting specialties or services outside the realm of a traditional accounting firm, Accounting Today reported.

By cross-training, these accounting professionals get to try working in different departments, helping clients in different industries and business structures and learning the different accounting specialties, from auditing to business valuation and tax preparation to assurance. These training opportunities allow accountants to discover what niche of accounting they enjoy and excel at and develop the skills to move their career path in that direction – without having to leave the firm where they got their start.

While the actual amount of formal college schooling required to become a CPA is just five years, an accountant’s true education takes a lifetime. Accountants are always learning, whether on-the-job to adjust to new workplaces and develop skills in other services or in the classroom to meet continuing education requirements.