According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, “Accountants and auditors held about 1.3 million jobs in 2008.” (As of December 17, 2009, these were the latest statistics available.)
As with many other careers, accountants and auditors worked throughout private industry and government. Of these, about 24% worked for payroll service firms, tax preparation, accounting, and bookkeeping firms. Another 8% were self-employed. Among the larger set of management accountants, internal auditors, or government accountants and auditors, there is a subset who are licensed CPAs. Most CPAs work in urban areas because that’s where the jobs are–most corporate regional or central offices and government offices are in urban areas.
A small percent of accounting professionals are employed as full-time college and university faculty; others teach part-time while working as self-employed accountants or as accountants for private industry or government.
Job growth in the accounting sector is expected to grow faster than the average growth rate for all industries during the decade of 2008-2018. Within that group, CPAs should have the best prospects for employment and expected growth rate higher than those accountants and auditors without the CPA professional designation.
Very strong growth (22%) in the number of accountants and auditor jobs (an increase of 279,400 jobs) over the 2008-18 decade is expected because of several factors. We will discuss the factors tomorrow.
1.IF the economy expands, the number of businesses will increase which means that new jobs will be created in the accounting sector to set up the books, prepare taxes, and provide management advice. As these new businesses grow, the quantity and complexity of financial information reviewed by accountants and auditors on the costs, expenditures, taxes and corporate internal controls will increase as well. As the globalization of business accelerates, there will be an increased demand for accounting expertise and services regarding international trade and accounting rules as well as international mergers and acquisitions.
2.Because of financial scandals, investors will be demanding increased accountability for protecting an organization’s stakeholders. The need for these “accounting watchdogs” will spur job growth in the accounting sector.
3.Forensic accountants who can detect illegal financial activity will be even more in demand as the number of financial crimes increases. Crimes such as embezzlement, bribery, and securities fraud by individuals, by corporations, and by organized crime networks are increasing because computer technology has made these crimes even easier to commit and even harder to uncover. But the “good guys” have weapons as well: the development of new computer software and advanced electronic surveillance technology has made detecting financial crimes easier which increases the likelihood of discovery, investigation, prosecution and conviction. As the success rates of the “good guys” rise, the demand for forensic accountants will rise as well.
4.Opportunities for CPAs who are forensic accountants who support the work of attorneys in family law, bankruptcy and business law are increasing as well. For example, the recent high profile divorce of Sir Paul McCartney and Heather Mills included a dispute over how much the former Beatle, Sir Paul, was actually worth. His side claimed he was worth around USD $785 million while the ex-wife thought he was worth around $1.6 billion. Enter her team of forensic accountants who delved into the situation. As of June 2008, the accountants had not found any evidence which would have compelled the judge to award Ms. Mills more moola than her initial divorce settlement.
5.Changes in laws regarding taxes, financial reporting standards, business investments, mergers and other financial matters will lead to an increased need for accountants and auditors.
6.Changes in financial laws to curb corporate accounting fraud will create more jobs in the accounting sector. With the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 (also known as ‘Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act’ in the Senate and ‘Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act’ in the House), a new layer of accounting oversight was created to thwart the tide of corporate financial misfeasance. Prior to passage, there were a multitude of corporate and accounting scandals (e.g., Enron, Tyco International, Adelphia, Peregrine Systems and WorldCom) which cost investors billions of dollars. When the share prices of these corporations collapsed, the confidence of the public was shaken and the US securities markets trembled. The act established new or enhanced standards for all US public company boards, management, and for public accounting firms.
By creating a new public agency, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (or PCAOB), the act created a number of jobs in the accounting sector for overseers, regulators, inspectors, and those who would discipline accounting firms who were auditing public firms. In addition, another government agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) implemented the adoption of dozens of new rules to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. It is estimated that the growth in the accounting sector will be seen in new jobs being created in:
1.Public Company Accounting Oversight Board will expand to hire more accountants and CPAs to provide independent oversight of public accounting firms which audit their corporate clients. The central oversight board will register auditors as well as setting up the procedural framework for compliance audits, inspections and policing conduct, quality control, and enforcing compliance with specific elements of Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX Act).
2.Because the SOX Act prohibits auditing companies from providing services such as consulting and management advice to their clients, it is expected that there will be job growth in accounting companies which provide consulting and other non-auditing advice to their clients.
3.Since Sarbanes-Oxley requires that senior executives of a company (such as the Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer) take individual responsibility for the completeness and accuracy of the corporate financial reports, it is likely that those who are rise to C-level will have to have more familiarity with accounting than a manager’s passing glance. This opens a career path for CPAs into the CEO chair as well as the CFO chair. (Since the CEO is asked to sign the company’s tax return, this is all the more reason for the person to be a CPA as well as a manager.)
7.Since 2002, funding for the SEC has nearly doubled. The SEC hires accountants who can censure or bar from practice stock brokers, advisors, or dealers. In addition, SEC hires CPAs and accountants in Washington, D.C., *Division of Corporation Finance, *Division of Enforcement, and the *Office of the Chief Accountant. For SEC jobs examining financial statements in public filings, resolving controversial accounting issues, and in rule writing, there are openings in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and San Francisco in the offices of: *Division of Trading and Markets, *Division of Investment Management and the *Office of Compliance, Inspections and Examinations.
The SEC prefers to hire experienced CPAs with three to eight years of public accounting experience in the securities industry. Desirable previous experience would include audit work involving SEC financial reporting, complex internal audit work involving multi-national corporations, or mergers and acquisitions related work. Typically, these accountants enter at the mid- and senior staff accountant positions–in the SK-13 through 17 levels. The grade at which the person starts their SEC career is based on a combination of the amount of relevant work experience and of graduate education in accounting, finance, or related fields.
In looking at the entire market, the best job prospects will be for CPAs while the prospects for accountants and auditors who have a college degree or any certification are good.
Wages for Accountants and Auditors May 2008 BLS Statistics: Median Income: $59,430 Top 10%: $102,380+ “According to a salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, bachelor’s degree candidates in accounting received starting offers averaging $48,993 a year in July 2009; master’s degree candidates in accounting were offered $49,786 initially.
Accounting Employment Rate of Change In the decade from 2008 to 2018, employment opportunities for accountants and auditors are expected to grow by 22% (or 279,400 new jobs), which is faster than the average for all occupations. As previously mentioned, job growth will be driven by a projected increase in the number of businesses/expansion of the economy, changing financial laws, and corporate governance regulations, and increased accountability for protecting an organization’s stakeholders.
Opportunities for CPAs should increase markedly because their oversight is needed to focus increased scrutiny on corporate finances and accounting procedures. Those CPAs who are management accountants and internal auditors will be needed to uncover and eliminate fraud before audits and to make sure that critical processes and procedures are documented completely and accurately. The need for CPAs who are government accountants will increase because of an effort to make government agencies more efficient and accountable.
Job opportunities for CPAs will increase rapidly while opportunities for accountants and auditors will increase but at a slower rate than for CPAs. The need for accounting clerks will increase as consumers opt for storefront tax preparers such as Liberty and H & R Block, rather than hiring a CPA firm. The shift to tax preparation software will take some business away from CPAs who handled the uncomplicated returns of individuals. This will make a very minor adjustment in employment opportunities while increasing opportunities for clerks.
Job Prospects Across the public and private sectors, job opportunities for CPAs will be excellent while those who are accountants and auditors will be favorable. (Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics). Enrollment in CPA preparation courses is now growing as more students are attracted to the profession because of its job growth, increased compensation, stability-and in answer to corporate accounting scandals.
In the wake of the Enron and Tyco accounting scandals, the public views professional certification as even more necessary because it ensures that the accountant’s ethics are sound and his/her knowledge and credentials are up-to-date.
Regardless of specialty, accountants and auditors who have earned professional recognition through certification or licensure should have the best job prospects. Applicants with a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting also will have an advantage.
Individuals who are proficient in accounting and auditing computer software or have expertise in specialized areas-such as international business, specific industries, or current legislation-may have an advantage in getting some accounting and auditing jobs. In addition, employers increasingly seek applicants with strong interpersonal and communication skills. Many accountants work on teams with others who have different backgrounds, so they must be able to communicate accounting and financial information clearly and concisely. Regardless of qualifications, however, competition will remain keen for the most prestigious jobs in major accounting and business firms.
In addition to openings from job growth, the need to replace accountants and auditors who retire or transfer to other occupations will produce numerous job openings in this large occupation. —US Bureau of Labor Statistics For accountants, the career path upwards requires that of becoming a CPA, a Certified Public Accountant. Progressing from being an accountant to becoming a CPA offers greater opportunities for promotion to management and higher salaries.
In California, the requirements to sit for the CPA Exam are: *A bachelor’s degree; *24 semester units in accounting-related subjects; *24 semester units in business-related subjects; *150 semester units (or 225 quarter units) of education; *Passing the Uniform CPA Exam; *One year of general accounting experience supervised by a CPA with an active license; and *Passing an ethics course.– Logging 500 hours of attest or auditing experience will allow you to obtain the authority to sign attest reports. In many firms having a CPA license is the only way one is promoted into upper management. Becoming a CPA increases your opportunity for promotions and a higher salary.