Need a Career Change? Try Accounting

Sometimes, I think society looks at accounting like they do mortuary science; something that’s necessary for society to function but everyone is  happy that someone else is available to do it!    Afterall, paying taxes and contemplating death aren’t exactly the sort of things that get most people very excited. 

I ran across this article and I thought I’d share especially given the poor job outlook.  Fortunately, the job outlook does not impact every profession evenly and here’s one where demand is actually up.    Anyone looking  to retool for a second career or who wants to push their kids toward a degree that will pay off should definitely consider accounting as a career choice.

Having been in the profession for over 30 years, I’ve seen the ups and downs, but now we’re entering the golden age of the profession largely due to increasingly  complex accounting and tax regulations and a distinct shortage of people.  This shortage has been a problem over the last 10-15 years or so as younger people chose other careers due to the rigors of meeting the 150 credit hour requirement to get an accounting degree and dealing with  passing the uniform certified public accountant’s examination.  The CPA examination is an extremely challenging professional examination and less than 10% of those who sit  pass all parts at the first sitting.   However, passing that exam is a must if one wants to have maximum flexibility with this career choice.  There’s about an eight year commitment to meet the educational, testing and experience requirements to be a CPA if you don’t have a degree already.  If you do have a degree, you can probably decrease that time by half.  I guess the time commitment is a downside on the one hand, but on the other, it represents a barrier to entry as everyone is not going to have the wherewithal to slog through. 

The shortage of CPA’s is going to be exacerbated by the looming retirement of baby boomers from the profession as those coming up to replace us aren’t as numerous as those who are retiring.  Some project that this event will be a crisis of sorts for the public as it will become increasingly difficult to secure the services of a CPA.  Even now, many CPA’s  simply turn down work because they either lack the time or resources to take projects on.

One of the biggest changes in the profession is the number of women who have entered it.  Currently, over half of all CPA’s are women and this often dovetails nicely with balancing family and work commitments as many firms are open to part-time workers who prefer to work from home.  Nowadays, technology is such that most accounting work can be done by people working remotely from home.  As a matter of fact, I hired two women CPA’s, one of whom is a full time at home mom,  this past year who work remotely for me and all of us absolutely love the situation.  For them there’s no commute and for me I have access to well experienced competent help without the limitation of  my immediate location which has helped me address the shortage of help problem.

The main skills you need to pursue an accounting career are strong math/ logic skills and  effective communication skills, both verbal and written.      

Just something to put on your short list of careers to consider if you need to retool.

Demand for Accountants to Remain Strong in 2009

Despite the current recession, demand for accountants remains strong. Although a number of industries are cutting back, the accounting industry projects jobs to maintain at their current rate or possibly increase. In fact, the 2008 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), 91% percent of accounting firms expect hiring to remain steady or increase. And as the New Year begins, the role of accountants continues to expand along with employment opportunities. Today accountants and their clients are facing increasing regulatory complexity, the need for specialization, the globalization of businesses and shifting demographics. According to, “Given the heightened regulatory environment in which we operate, mastery over the hard skills of being a Certified Public Accountant is more important than ever before.”

Executive search firm, A.E. Feldman says today’s accountants are emerging as financial managers and leaders within their organizations. Right now as companies look to cut costs and continue to be confronted by the increasing complexities of changing tax laws and regulations there is a heightened focus on hiring qualified accountants. A. E. Feldman reports that firms are showing strong interest in professionals who can help their companies reduce inefficiencies and enhance profitability as well as those who have a familiarity with enterprise risk management applications. The positions currently in demand include staff and senior accountants and credit and collections specialists. Existing opportunities include, tax manager jobs, audit jobs, international tax jobs, and business valuation jobs.

Amid recession, CPA firms are thriving. They are not only gearing up for tax season, but companies attempting to cut costs and struggle through the recession are realizing the importance of good financial controls which requires the expertise of accountants. One example of this growth is certified public accounting and business advisory firm, Plante & Moran, which says it is flourishing despite the turbulence. The Detroit News reports the firm has expanded or opened four offices, hired more than 100 people, invested more than $4 million in technology upgrades and celebrated its 25th year of increased earnings.

Plante & Moran is not alone. A large majority of CPA firms report two years of continuing strong growth, according to the 2008 National Management of Accounting Practice survey by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants. Although the ongoing financial crisis will undoubtedly change the marketplace conditions facing CPAs, the AICPA study released in November 2008, finds the vast majority, 75%, of the 2,722 CPA firms surveyed reported growth of up to 19% over the past two years – a significant 40% increase from the previous 2006 survey.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow a significant 18% between 2006 and 2016 – faster than the average of all occupations. In keeping with this projection, a recent report on argues that as Baby Boomers retire, the industry is on the verge of the greatest “candidate markets” of all time – especially as it relates to financial professionals. The report states, “Consider this: corporations have to hire added CPAs for SOX maintenance and internal audit roles at the same time Big Four firms are projected to increase staffing levels for similar functions by as much as 20 percent!” AccountingWeb goes on to say that CPAs who master the requisite skills and build out complementary new ones will find themselves well positioned to benefit both personally and financially from expanded career options in the coming years.

Demands on the accounting profession, however, continue to change in unexpected ways, according to a nationwide CCH survey. Specifically, increasing regulatory complexity, the need for specialization and the globalization of businesses are complicating matters for a number of firms. According to, “Given the heightened regulatory environment in which we operate, mastery over the hard skills of being a Certified Public Accountant is more important than ever before.” These “hard skills” include: creating efficiencies across all accounting and finance functions, managing budgets, costs, and assets, maintaining accurate records and verifying financial results.

The report adds however that “soft skills” such as communication and diplomacy are increasingly playing a key role in distinguishing the truly high-functioning CPAs. “To be a top CPA in today’s business environment, you must have more than just great analytical skills. Possessing polished skills in four areas will be a key differentiator: teamwork, patience, problem solving and listening,” states

Looking ahead, accountants who take on a mentorship role within their organizations will help position themselves as a top CPA today and into the future, says

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