Why There is a Scarcity of Accountants and We Ought to Be Fearful

  • There are fewer CPA-certified accountants on the market, and that poses compliance dangers for companies.
  • The trade has lengthy suffered picture issues and hopes to revamp it with new initiatives.
  • Main corporations and schools with accounting packages are investing in upskilling.

There is a nationwide scarcity of accountants, and it is changing into an issue for companies. 

The American Institute of Licensed Public Accountants says fewer individuals are graduating with accounting levels than in years previous, and the variety of folks taking and passing the licensed public accountant examination is dropping. In the meantime, a 2022 Deloitte ballot discovered that 82% of hiring managers for accounting and monetary positions at public corporations and 69% at personal corporations mentioned expertise retention is a problem. 

Accountants handle monetary processes and monetary reporting and guarantee regulatory compliance. If the scarcity of those staff continues, accountability and integrity in enterprise might undergo, Steven Kachelmeier, the chair of the accounting division on the College of Texas, instructed Insider, which might result in an increase in fraud just like the Enron and WorldCom scandals of the early 2000s. 

He mentioned {that a} lack of accountants is like taking part in sports activities with out a referee. 

“We might not all the time just like the referees, however sports activities is a free-for-all with out them,” he mentioned. “Accountants and auditors are to enterprise as these folks within the black-and-white-striped shirts are to sports activities. We are the referees of enterprise. 

“With out accounting and with out finance, there are not any guidelines to the sport. It is like taking part in a sport, and also you make up your guidelines as you go alongside. It retains the system trustworthy.”

To fight shortages, these within the accounting trade are working to draw extra folks to the sphere. Advancing expertise within the sector, elevating consciousness about accounting careers, growing range, and altering the occupation’s picture are a number of the methods they’re tackling the problem.

Why is accounting experiencing a decline?

Many consultants blame the Nice Resignation for the decline in obtainable accountants. And, AICPA notes, 75% of CPAs reached retirement age in 2020. 

Steven Kachelmeier

Steven Kachelmeier says he is seen a decline in accounting majors.

Courtesy of Steven Kachelmeier

However accounting has lengthy had picture issues that is made it tough for the trade to recruit youthful expertise, Kachelmeier mentioned, noting that his accounting program has seen majors decline between 20% to 40% over the previous few years. Considering of the occupation typically conjures up pictures of quantity crunchers with mountains of paperwork and infinite knowledge entry, when in actuality, a lot of those mundane-sounding duties have since been automated.

“There’s not numerous high-school college students on the market who say, ‘I will be an accountant,'” he mentioned. “You need to promote them.” 

Pay is one other concern. Beginning salaries in accounting are usually decrease than different monetary careers — in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for accountants and auditors is $77,250, in comparison with $95,570 for monetary analysts and $131,710 for monetary managers. CPAs usually earn extra, however acquiring a license requires 150 semester hours of schooling (greater than a typical bachelor’s diploma) and passing the CPA examination. 

To draw workers, some corporations are growing salaries and paying for exam-test-prep supplies and time without work to check and take the examination. 

Sandy Torchia

Sandy Torchia says the accountant scarcity is “positively on our radar.”

Courtesy of Sandy Torchia

KPMG, one of many Huge 4 accounting corporations, affords a CPA Kickstart Program, which pays new workers a full-time wage with advantages for 2 months to check to move components of the CPA examination.

Sandy Torchia, the vice chair of expertise and tradition at KPMG, mentioned the corporate hasn’t been impacted by the accountant scarcity but. “However, definitely, now we have it on the horizon as a threat for the longer term,” she mentioned. “It is positively on our radar.”

How a scarcity of accountants might affect companies 

With skilled accountants leaving the sphere and fewer newcomers getting into, it might pose an “rising audit threat,” George Botic, the director of inspectors on the Public Firm Accounting Oversight Board, mentioned at a convention not too long ago. 

Compliance is extra essential than ever, following current high-profile accounting scandals. Final 12 months, the crypto alternate FTX was hit with federal costs and an SEC criticism saying the corporate defrauded clients and traders and improperly used billions of {dollars} price of buyer deposits to fund its founder’s different companies and political actions. Errors may happen when corporations haven’t got sufficient certified employees, and essential accounting checks could also be skipped. 

Accounting errors, each small and huge, may trigger an organization’s inventory value to drop. SEC fines are doable when errors happen or financial-reporting deadlines are missed, however, as an evaluation by Adrian Wooldridge revealed in The Washington Submit discovered, the SEC is dealing with its personal scarcity of accountants. 

“Poorer oversight will increase the probability of one other Enron on the market: An enormous firm that’s taking part in quick and unfastened with its funds and can finally collapse, bringing financial havoc in its wake,” Wooldridge wrote. 

The panorama might change into the “Wild West” with out accounting and auditing to make sure enterprise integrity, Kachelmeier added. “It might harm traders if you happen to spend money on corporations that do not have monetary integrity, and we have seen it,” he mentioned. 

How the accounting trade is addressing the scarcity

Many corporations are shifting to remote-work insurance policies and investing in automation and expertise to draw and retain expertise. Lisa Simpson, AICPA’s vp of agency providers, instructed Insider that frees up employees to give attention to “higher-value work,” like interpretation, evaluation, and compliance. 

Lisa Simpson

Lisa Simpson says the accounting trade wants automation to permit accountants to give attention to “higher-value work.”

Courtesy of Lisa Simpson

KPMG launched an initiative to show groups essential tech expertise like analytics, knowledge visualization, cognitive computing, and machine studying that could possibly be useful in shifting up and round within the accounting area. Smaller corporations which might be unable to spend money on expertise are more and more outsourcing components of their enterprise to bigger corporations that may, Simpson mentioned. “This permits our auditors to give attention to extra strategic, high-level considering,” Torchia from KPMG mentioned. “That is actually one thing that makes this occupation extra engaging.”

The trade can also be specializing in range and inclusion in recruitment. AICPA and main accounting corporations have expanded their presence at traditionally Black schools and universities, establishments that serve minority populations, and group schools to spice up hiring amongst underserved teams and lift consciousness concerning the occupation. 

Universities are additionally reaching out to high-school college students to teach them about accounting careers to extend enrollment, particularly amongst underrepresented teams, Kachelmeier mentioned. His college has additionally revamped its accounting curricula to offer college students extra flexibility to give attention to particular sectors that curiosity them, and has added programs on environmental, social, and governance; knowledge analytics; and accounting within the healthcare and vitality sectors. 

Simpson mentioned the CPA examination can also be altering in 2024 for example how tech-focused the accounting occupation has change into. Candidates can select a self-discipline, like analytics, info methods, or compliance, on high of the core curriculum specializing in accounting, taxes, and auditing.

The objective is to indicate that an accounting profession is not one-size-fits-all, Simpson mentioned. “It is such an fascinating occupation, and we’re actually working arduous to develop that story.”


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