Accountants are essential to every business. However, fewer people want to become accountants in the US. This can be alarming to the industry as it can affect how they handle their accounts and taxes.
This article talks about the declining interest in accounting careers. Our goal is to provide business leaders and employers with ideas they can implement to attract and retain their accountants to work against the shortage.
Shortage of Accountants: What’s Causing the Decline
Fewer people want to become accountants, and some are leaving their accounting careers. According to the Wall Street Journal, over 300,000 accountants and auditors in the US have left their jobs in the last few years.¹ Young and mid-career professionals from ages 25 to 54 have been leaving their jobs since 2019, some being lured into finance and technology-related positions.
The number of accounting graduates is also dwindling. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) found through its 2023 Trends report that only 47,067 individuals graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in 2022 compared to 52,481 in 2020 and 51,031 in 2021.²
Accountants handle financial reporting and other financial processes to ensure a company’s regulatory compliance. If the shortage continues, the integrity and accountability of businesses may be put at risk.
1. Long College Credit Hours
If a person wants to possess a bachelor’s degree in accounting, they would have to accomplish 120 to 150 credit hours, depending on the requirement of their specific state.³ 150 credit hours is equivalent to 5 years in higher education, which can then provide an eligibility for the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination.
An online accounting bachelor’s degree alone can cost at least $300 per credit, according to the US News. That can cost between $36,000 to $45,000.
2. Low Pay and Overwork
Overworking has been normalized in accounting. Taking overtime hours is typical during specific periods of the year due to tax season and quarterly audits, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.⁴
On top of this, what you earn in accounting may be less than what you can make in another field. For example, the 2022 median pay for accountants and auditors is $78,000 annually. On the other hand, the median pay in 2022 for Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers is $124,200 per year.⁵
A survey by the University of Georgia’s Consumer Analytics program and an accounting workflow automation software provider, FloQast, found that 99 percent of responding accountants experienced some burnout, with 24 percent reporting medium to high levels of burnout.⁶
With people now prioritizing good work-life balance, the stress levels in accounting fields can influence professionals to leave their careers for another that can make them feel more fulfilled and satisfied.
4. Less Diverse Representation in the Field
Job seekers and employees are now looking to be a part of a more diverse workforce, possibly influencing their opinion of the company. The truth is that the accounting industry isn’t very diverse and well-represented. In the same AICPA trends report, here’s a tally of the ethnic backgrounds of accounting graduates in 2022:
- 58% White
- 14% Hispanic or Latino
- 9% Asian
- 7% Black or African American
- 5% Nonresident alien
- 3% Did not disclose or unknown
- 3% Multiethnic
- 1% Native American or Alaska Native
Empowering People: What to Do to Attract and Retain Accountants
If you are looking to attract more accountants or retain the ones under your employment, here are several strategies you can implement:
1. Train your accountants in the latest tools and automation.
Multiple studies predict that a considerable percentage of a person’s work hours, including accounting, can be automated in the near future. To help your accountants keep their jobs future-proof, teach them to adapt to the latest technologies. You can introduce them to relevant tech skills such as machine learning, cognitive computing, analytics, and data visualization.
Automating tasks can also help them work faster, lessening the need to take overtime hours.
2. Encourage a better work-life balance.
Allow accountants the time to breathe by encouraging them to have a better work-life balance. If you can, reintroduce them to hybrid work setups to help them work comfortably.
Encourage them to take their time off and set clear expectations on their workloads to help them manage their expectations and work-related stress.
3. Increase pay and improve benefits.
If you have accountants who have been with you for several years, consider increasing their pay or improving their benefits. This can make them more grateful for their jobs, encouraging them to stay longer at your organization.
4. Hire diversely.
Hiring diverse individuals can attract top talent. If you are unsure how to approach this strategy on your own, you can partner with a staffing firm with experience looking for diverse candidates in accounting and finance.
5. Support their educational journey.
To attract more accounting employees, you can support their educational journey by paying for their exam preparation materials and giving them time off to study.
You can also pay new graduates as if they are already CPAs for the first few months to help them study and wait for their CPA exam results.
6. Join or organize accounting-specific job fairs.
To attract more diverse candidates, you can join or organize job fairs focusing on colleges and universities with significant minority populations. This can improve hiring among minority members and raise awareness about accounting.
You can encourage some of your accountants to join your HR representatives in promoting the job to students and applicants.
ADDRESS THE ACCOUNTANT SHORTAGE IN YOUR ORGANIZATION BY PARTNERING WITH FOCUS PEOPLE
Ranked as the top 7 staffing firm in the US, our team of experts can help you find exceptional individuals. We understand what you need, and we can match you with the right candidates through Contract, Contract-to-Hire, and Direct Hire setups.
As a woman-owned company, we know the value of equal opportunity and advocate for diversity. Get in touch with us today.
1. Ellis, Lindsay. “Why So Many Accountants Are Quitting.” Wall Street Journal, 28 Dec. 2022, www.wsj.com/why-so-many-accountants-are-quitting.
2. “2023 Trends Report.” AICPA & CIMA, 12 Oct. 2023, www.aicpa-cima.com/2023-trends-report.
3. Colton, Alyssa. “Online Accounting Bachelor’s Degree.” US News, www.usnews.com/accounting-bachelors-degree. 1 Dec. 2023.
4. “Accountants and Auditors.” US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6 Sept. 2023, www.bls.gov/accountants-and-auditors.
5. “Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and Testers.” US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 6 Sep. 2023, www.bls.gov/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.
6. “FloQast Releases Survey Results Detailing Prevalent Burnout In Accounting Industry.” FloQast, 19 Jul. 2022, floqast.com/floqast-releases-survey-results-detailing-prevalent-burnout-in-accounting-industry.