Understanding the job market for accounting professionals in 2017 requires careful examination of a number of considerations, including projected employment growth, expected salary outlook, and popular and emerging specialties within the field. In general, those within the accounting profession find themselves well positioned this year, with strong employment and salary growth projected across a wide range of accounting jobs. Several factors drive this upward trend within the field such as a relative lack of skilled and trained workers, an increase in the number of professionals retiring, and the demands of growing regulatory requirements. With that in mind, here are the five key factors and their relevant statistics that will define the accounting profession in 2017.
Strong projected employment growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of all accounting professionals is projected to increase by 11 percent between 2014 and 2024 for a total of 142,400 new jobs within the industry. Indeed, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the accounting and bookkeeping sector added 67,400 jobs in January of this year alone. This 11 percent industry growth rate between 2014 and 2024 far outpaces the seven percent average growth across all occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics took into consideration a number of key factors when making their growth projections, including the anticipated growth of the economy overall, the increase in globalization, and an ever more complex regulatory and tax regime.
In general, the demand for accountants is closely aligned with general economic health. Because the U.S. economy is expected to continue to grow over this 10-year period, the accounting field may also expand as the need for financially adept, skilled workers grows. In addition, an increasing number of companies are going public; this trend will call for more public accountants to take care of the required regulatory procedures and financial documentation.
Similarly, an increase in the globalization of businesses tends to lead to an increase in the demand for accountants familiar with the requirements of international transactions, trade, and mergers and acquisitions.
Lastly, a number of new and stricter financial laws and regulations have emerged in the past several years. This new regulatory and tax regime places a compliance burden on many businesses, and these companies will need to turn to experienced accounting professionals to meet the new standards. In addition, new lending regulations will likely lead to a greater demand for auditors to test the creditworthiness of loan applicants.
Robust salary outlook
As of 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the accounting profession’s median annual salary was $67,190. Similar to employment growth, the median salary for accountants was significantly higher than the average of $36,200 across all occupations. Particular specialties within the accounting field tend to be higher paid; these fields include finance and insurance, securities and commodity contracts intermediation and brokerage, and federal government work. In addition, accountants working within certain metropolitan areas demand higher salaries, including those working in New York City and the California cities of San Jose and San Rafael.
In their 2017 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide, Robert Half projected that salaries across all skilled accounting professions will grow by 3.7 percent over the course of the year. This boost in compensation across companies of all sizes and within all industries is driven by a desire to stay competitive with peer firms, a need to bolster business expansion in the face of a growing number of baby boomer retirees, and the requirements of meeting compliance and regulatory demands.
High reported levels of job satisfaction
While job satisfaction is often overlooked as a metric in favor of more objective data such as average salaries and employment rates, finding a career that is enjoyable and fulfilling is extremely important to many Americans, particularly as workers increasingly delay retirement and work deep into their 60s. Luckily for those in the accounting field and those who are considering joining their ranks, the reported job satisfaction in this career path is high. According to a study conducted by the U.S. News & World Report, accountants tend to describe their stress level as average, and those in the industry consider the flexibility associated with their career path to be above average thanks to the work/life balance offered. In addition, the upward mobility offered in the accounting field was judged to be one of the highest thanks to the ample opportunities available for promotions and salary increases.
Wide variety of in-demand accounting roles and skills
One of the biggest draws of the accounting field is the incredible diversity of roles available within the industry. In 2017, a wide range of these accounting positions will see high demand leading to increased employment rates and growing salaries.
Robert Half identified several hot job categories in their annual Accounting & Finance Salary Guide. In the fields of general accounting, compliance and analysis, several positions are poised to experience greater-than-average salary increases regardless of company size. These categories also span experience levels, from relatively entry-level positions to senior management roles.
According to Robert Half, the accounting jobs that are most in demand this year are: accounting manager, compliance officer, business analyst, controller, financial analyst, credit analyst, staff accountant (with three to five years of experience), senior accountant, payroll manager and internal auditor. All of these job categories are projected to see approximately four percent salary growth.
In addition, Robert Half also noted the areas of accounting experience that are most in-demand by employers in 2017; these skill sets are generally associated with higher salaries, but the particular area of expertise in demand vary by company size and industry. For example, small to midsize businesses value accounting professionals with QuickBooks experience, while financial analysts with Hyperion proficiency are prized. Across all firms, certain skills are appreciated, from technical expertise such as data analytics experience and advanced Excel mastery to softer skills such as written and oral communication prowess and leadership abilities.
Professional certifications and degrees
The next step for accountants may be to pursue a graduate degree in the field or to obtain professional accounting certifications (by fulfilling the requirements of the CPA license or other certification). After completing your bachelor’s of accounting, your options for advancing further can be numerous. For example, according to the American Institute of CPAs, an accountant with a CPA license can expect to earn 10 to 15 percent more than their counterparts. This salary boost can add up to a big difference in lifetime earnings over the course of an entire career.
With strong, projected growth across all measures in the industry, obtaining your bachelor’s degree in accounting is the smart first step along the path to success in the accounting field.