Accounting is an industry in high demand across the United States. Major accounting firms are increasing their recruiting efforts to appeal to top talent, which means other companies may have to adjust their hiring practices to keep up. Changes to financial reporting and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles have made it more critical to find and hire experienced, skilled accountants who can understand the rules and keep companies in compliance.
Importance of Accountants
Accountants play important roles in many aspects of running a successful company. An accountant is responsible for setting up financial controls and systems to track the growth and cash flow of a business. They also keep businesses in compliance with federal, state, and local regulations by performing audits and keeping careful records. When a company plans to go public, the accounting team will provide all financial data as part of that process.
Without a skilled accountant, a business may struggle with growth. The risk of not meeting compliance standards is higher when a company doesn’t have a knowledgeable accountant handling the financials. Some businesses outsource to accounting firms, but many prefer the expertise and quick response times that come with having in-house accounting support. Regulatory experts can also keep track of rule changes and make sure staff and management are in compliance.
In 2016, the unemployment rate for those in the accounting profession was 2.5 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By comparison, the unemployment rate for experienced workers across the country was 4.4 percent. In 2011, when the BLS started adopting new job classifications and separating those in the accounting profession, the unemployment rate in this industry was 4.2 percent, so the increase in demand has been steady over the past five years. With such a low unemployment rate in this industry, competition among companies and accounting firms is high, making it more difficult to fill open positions with talented professionals.
Shift in Culture
In the last few decades, most of the top accounting firms have shifted their focus to improve company culture. For example, PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the Big Four accounting firms, has taken major steps to decrease turnover and make the culture of the company more appealing to attract talent. Associates previously had to work long hours with little to no work-life balance, which led to burnout and frustration in many newcomers to the professional accounting world.
PWC has dropped its turnover rate from 26 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2016 among employees who had been there for three to five years. The company attributes the lower turnover rates in part to flexible work schedules, including the option to work from home, along with in-office perks like Ping-Pong tables, foosball tables, and treadmill desks. Firms and companies simply have to shift their cultures to appeal to candidates in a highly competitive field.
Changes in Regulations
Another reason for the shift in demand among accounting professionals is the changes that have come to the rules of the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Firms must use these new regulations when reporting the value of leases and book revenue. The leasing rules officially go into effect in 2019, and booking revenue rules will go into effect at the end of 2017, but many firms are working to change their processes and become compliant before those deadlines. In the meantime, corporations must also assess and revise past financial reports for the last two years.
In order to meet these new regulations, a company needs a skilled, technical accountant to handle the new requirements. At the global fashion company Ralph Lauren Corp., the average salary for a technical accountant is well over $150,000. The high salaries reflect the need for experience in a variety of accounting tasks.
The BLS reports that the average salary for an accountant or auditor in the U.S. is $67,190 per year. According to a report from CommonWealth magazine, some new graduates earn as much as $53,000 per year in their first positions after graduating. That report also indicated that college placement services are seeing rates of 90 percent or more when placing accounting graduates into related positions.
The increase in retiring accountants also plays a role in the demand for accounting professionals. CommonWealth magazine also reported that up to 75 percent of certified public accountants working in the U.S. will retire within the next 15 years.
Increased Focus on Business Ethics
In the last decade, a number of scandals due to wrongdoing and fraud have plagued the business world. Staff members and executives in companies across many industries have been convicted in legal cases, which have pushed the increase in a focus on ethics in business.
Accountants can take on the important tasks of meticulously scrutinizing financial statements and documents to avoid legal issues and maintain ethical business practices. When corporate leaders and business owners attest to the accuracy of financials, whether taking their companies public or seeking investments, they can feel more confident in doing so when they have skilled accountants who have reviewed all line items.
Growth in a Variety of Job Options
The accounting and auditing industry includes many positions for professionals. According to SelectOne, a professional recruiting company, some of the fastest-growing positions in the industry include staff accountant, budget analyst, auditor, controller, financial analyst, and bookkeeper.
Staff accountants work at businesses of all sizes, and one of the prerequisites for this position typically is a bachelor’s in accounting and a state certified public accounting (CPA) license. Auditors, both internal and external, examine business practices, financial statements, and risk to ensure companies meet regulations. Bookkeepers track accounts payable and receivable to make sure invoices and bills are paid on time.
Learn more about pursuing a bachelors in accounting and joining this growing, dynamic field. This degree can set you up for success with courses designed to improve skills in accounting principles and provide a better foundation for a successful career as an accountant or auditor.