AICPA Report Finds Record Hiring for Accounting Grads
The AICPA recently released the results of the Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, which showed a record 40,350 accounting graduates hired by public accounting firms in 2012 and 89 percent of those firms forecasting the same or increased hiring of graduates this year.
In addition to promising demand, the pipeline of future accountants is stronger than ever, with historic levels of student enrollments in accounting programs and record numbers of accounting graduates in 2012.
To gain insight into why accounting is more popular than ever, and to better understand the content of the Trends report, I sat down with Scott Moore – AICPA Director of Students and Professional Pathways, who led the effort to compile the Trends report.
James Schiavone: One of the things that really struck me about the report is that the number of students who are earning their master’s degree in accounting has doubled in the last ten years. Can you explain why we’ve seen such a sharp increase?
Scott Moore: The 150 hour rule has had a big impact on students obtaining master’s degrees. A master’s in accounting program is typically a 45 hour credit program. A student can graduate with a bachelor’s degree and, if they earn another 30 hours in order to sit for the CPA exam, they can obtain their masters with just an additional 15 hours. In addition, there has been a gradual shift to dual degree programs, which allows students to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s simultaneously. This serves a dual purpose of keeping their tuition costs down, while saving time, as many students complete the program in 5 years.
JS: For someone who is just starting college and majoring in accounting, what sort of job market should they anticipate four or five years from now?
SM: All indicators in the Trends report point to a higher level of demand, and this is backed up by research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS 2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook, states that employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow by an additional 190,700 jobs by 2020, representing a 16 percent increase in jobs.
JS: If an accounting major wanted to differentiate themselves from their peers in order to be more attractive to a future employer, what are some of the things they should do now?
SM: Taking non-accounting classes and selecting a minor in a non-business discipline is a great way to stand out from the crowd. A student could minor in either a technical field like biology or a discipline like communications to show they are well-rounded and have developed additional skills outside of accounting and finance. Since all industries employ accountants, if a student has an idea of what field they would like to work in when they graduate, they could select a related minor. For example, an accounting major who is interested in working for a pharmaceutical company might consider a biology minor, to demonstrate some familiarity with the industry to a potential employer.
Getting involved early in both student and professional organizations demonstrates that a job candidate is committed to a career in accounting. The AICPA has a great student affiliate membership option and the best part is that students get a ton of benefits, and the membership is free.
JS: I saw a statistic in the report that showed a small percentage of universities turned away qualified applicants to their accounting programs. Can you talk about why that might be and what the profession can do to address it?
SM: Enrollment numbers in PhD programs over the past ten years have increased somewhat, while enrollments in BA and MA have gone way up dramatically. As more students pursue their bachelor’s and master’s in accounting, the profession needs to increase the number of professors who can teach these classes to meet the demand of students who wish to enter the profession, which will ensure that all qualified applicants are able to enroll in accounting programs.
Through programs like Accounting Doctoral Scholars, which addresses the need for more PhDs in the classroom, the profession is taking steps to ensure that CPAs are aware of the benefits of a career in education while helping create more accounting PhD’s.
Nine participants who have recently completed the program were actually placed in good jobs before they finished their programs. I encourage more CPAs to visit the ADS website and consider a career in education.
JS: Finally, is there anything about the report that took you by surprise?
SM: There is one statistic in the report which shows that almost 6,000 full time employees at firms are currently taking courses to become eligible to sit for the CPA exam - and I was surprised by how high the number was. In my opinion, if students plan on becoming CPAs they should take the extra course hours right after they graduate, if it is at all possible. Once they complete their course work, they should aim to take the exam as soon as they can. I understand that this approach doesn’t work for everyone, but in my opinion it makes the entire process easier for candidates.
James Schiavone, AICPA Staff.