As an accountant why SQL or SAS? Moving on from Excel!


During the late 90’s and throughout the current century, recruitment in the accounting & finance specialty focused on identifying a strong technical qualified-accountant, with sound commercial acumen and excel skills that generally made the up checklist of the ideal candidate. Excel skills ranged from a sound basic knowledge through to building pivot tables. Applying Visual Basic programming in a bid to build strong reporting and reconciliation tools is an extension on this.

Today the world is full of buzz terms; “digital”, “startup”, “fintech”, “data science”,” analytics”, etc. It’s the last word which we can draw a clue from in what the new skill set, for accountants, may be of high value for the future. It is becoming more common now to hear from hiring managers that skills in SQL and SAS are, and increasingly will be, in demand.

SQL (Structured Query Language) is a computer language aimed to store, manipulate, and query data stored in relational databases, while SAS is a vendor driven software focused on high level data analytics solutions and is widely used by large enterprise level organizations. Whichever way you look at it, the fusion of strong accounting skills, with the ability to work with “data”, in this case through SQL or SAS, will become more common. It is keeping with the data driven focus we now live in.

Ultimately your ability to apply the correct accounting treatment of issues across the business will still be key. Applying the abovementioned skills is taking that ability to the next level. It certainly won’t be for everyone working in the accounting framework of a large organization. It could be even debated that accountants prefer to rely on the numbers driving the financials vs. the data from the customer. They are very different worlds! I think the way to look at this though, is that even though learning these new skills in technology, it will always be a case of being focused on the financials.

The typical accountants’ role is evolving towards providing actionable insights beyond the traditional accounting skills and tools. In an age of big data this means being able to use SQL and SAS to get to those same insights. One which will bring the communication of business leaders and their new-found “data” focus in line with the accounting information which drives annual, management and statutory reporting.

Resources to learn SQL or SAS can be found below: