Understanding the job market for accounting professionals requires careful examination of several considerations, including projected employment growth, expected salary outlook, and the potential lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, those in the accounting field should find themselves well-positioned in the current marketplace, as the need for financial professionals who understand how to collaborate effectively, in both in-person and virtual environments, remains strong.
Other factors, such as the increasing trend of remote staffing, and the fact that companies no longer face geographic limits when hiring new employees, are also worth noting. This is especially important for professionals interested in maintaining a flexible work environment, as, in many cases, new hires can start working remotely on day one.
With that in mind, here are the five key factors and their relevant statistics that will define the accounting profession.
Projected Growth in the Accounting Job Market
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of all accounting professionals is projected to increase by 7% between 2020 and 2030 for a total of 96,000 new jobs, about as fast a growth rate as projected for all occupations. However, the BLS expects that approximately 135,000 openings for accountants and auditors will emerge each year between now and 2030. Many of these openings are expected to arise from the need to replace workers who retire, exit the labor force for other reasons, or change careers.
The BLS considers certain key factors when making its growth projections, including the anticipated growth of the economy overall, the increase in globalization, and an ever more complex regulatory and tax landscape.
In general, demand in the accounting job market 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 increases. In addition, a rising 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.
Accounting Salary by Industry
As of May 2020, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary of accountants and auditors was $73,560. The median salary for accountants was significantly higher than the average of $41,950 across all occupations. Particular specialties within the accounting field tend to be higher paid; these fields include finance and insurance ($78,600) and management of companies and enterprises ($76,230). In addition, accountants working within certain areas demand higher salaries, including those in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, and Washington, D.C.
In its 2021 Accounting & Finance Salary Guide, Robert Half projected that salaries across all skilled accounting professions will remain stable over the course of the year. Although employees in some industries are experiencing wage cuts due to economic shifts brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent wage cuts in the accounting and finance industries aren’t sustainable for companies that want to retain their strongest performers. According to Robert Half, industries experiencing demand for financial workers include construction, logistics, manufacturing, technology, healthcare, government, and nonprofit organizations.
Benefits of an Accounting Career
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 or considering joining their ranks, the reported job satisfaction in this career path is high.
According to a U.S. News & World Report study, 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. In addition, upward mobility in the accounting field was judged to be one of the highest thanks to the ample opportunities available for promotions and salary increases.
Accounting Job Market Demand
One of the biggest draws of the accounting field is the incredible diversity of roles available in the industry. A wide range of these accounting positions will see high demand leading to increased employment rates.
Robert Half identified several hot job categories in its Accounting & Finance Salary Guide 2021, such as accounting manager, financial analyst, accounts receivable/payable roles, controller, loan administrator, internal auditor, payroll manager, and staff and senior accountant. These categories also span experience levels, from relatively entry-level positions to senior management roles.
In addition, Robert Half noted the areas of accounting experience that were most in demand by employers in 2021; these skill sets are generally associated with higher salaries, but the particular area of expertise in demand varies by company size and industry. For example, small to midsize businesses value accounting professionals with QuickBooks and advanced Excel experience. Some organizations give preference to candidates with experience in cloud-based payroll systems, data analytics, and financial modeling and forecasting. Soft skills, such as the ability to work independently and with virtual teams, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, and adaptability to change, are also highly prized.
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 of Science in Accounting degree, 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 up to 15% more than their counterparts. This salary boost can add up to a big difference in lifetime earnings.
Are you ready to take the first brave step toward a career in accounting? Discover how earning an online bachelor’s degree in accounting from Maryville University can help you toward your goal.