Demand for Accountants is Growing, Columnist Says

Demand for Accountants is Growing, Columnist Says

By Kathy R. Kelly, Executive Director, Fort Worth CPAs

The news is full of stories about careers in STEM — science, technology, engineering, math — but there’s another brilliant alternative for those with talent and interest in a technically demanding field: accounting.

Why? Consider growth in demand: Here in Texas, employment in the field is expected to increase by 18.89 percent by 2026. Those who have earned professional recognition, such as certified public accountants, will have the best prospects, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Like other professions, accounting is facing a drain on talent as CPAs in the boomer generation retire and must be replaced.

Although the educational path to licensure is longer than in careers where only a bachelor’s degree is needed, the payoff — in lifetime earnings, security, flexibility, opportunity — greatly exceeds the cost.

Since 1971, the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants has studied the matter; it reports ongoing strong demand for graduates, particularly ones with the 150 academic hours required for licensure as a CPA. In 2017, 50 percent of accounting masters’ students were women.

Anecdotally, here in Fort Worth we observe the same strong demand. Employers of accounting talent — public accounting firms and corporations with accounting and finance needs — routinely vie for graduates from university programs. Talented, experienced professionals — and sometimes recent graduates — are recruited from elsewhere in the country to meet local demand.
In fact, the Fort Worth Chapter TSCPA has, for the last six years, worked extensively with area universities and community college campuses to encourage business students to major in accounting. One of our officers, Mark Rich, has led the effort and received a national award for his efforts.

What distinguishes a career in accounting in his mind? “Business operations and regulation continue to evolve with every growing layer of complexity,” Rich says. “The marketplace is going to value those who can be relied upon to analyze and interpret business complexity. CPAs do that with judgment grounded in professional standards and ongoing education. The result is that CPAs can count on career opportunity and top compensation.”

The value that comes with the CPA isn’t just measured by wages. CPAs are routinely highly rated in opinion polls on trusted professionals. The reason: Rules of conduct for the profession support high standards of competence, integrity and continuous improvement of skills.

Beyond trust and compensation, accounting professionals enjoy great breadth of opportunity in the business world. Accounting is a superb foundation for entrepreneurship. Gary Tonniges, founder of TriQuest Technologies, says his background as a CPA has been key to his company’s flourishing and growth.

“Beyond preparing me for financial analysis, which is of course essential for business planning, accounting has helped me plan and grow my business — in part through the network of fellow professionals I’ve found in accounting. When you meet a fellow CPA, you know you’re dealing with someone you can trust and who can appreciate your skill.”

The strong reputation of the profession, keen demand for those with the credentials and skill set, and broad opportunities mean that there is great security. Marianne Barry, director of finance at Cook Children’s Physician Network, has a career that’s led her through public accounting, financial analysis and now a director-level position at one of the region’s premier health care institutions. “Becoming a CPA was key to the progress of my career,” she says.

Working against these strong economic incentives is a perception that the field is hard to enter, the work unrewarding and hours excessive. The path to becoming a CPA is, of course, longer than that for an unlicensed occupation. Generally, 150 hours of college work are required, along with a formidable examination and a year’s practical experience. However, the perception that the work is dull is false. CPAs in a wide variety of roles provide creative solutions, insightful analysis and high-value consulting to their clients and employers, and enjoy parity with other C-suite officers in corporate life. The image of CPAs putting in long hours during tax season is deserved but not representative of the entire profession.

Finally: Choosing a career as a CPA means taking a path with substantial community support. The accounting profession is among the most well-organized of any in the U.S., with associations active at the international through state and local levels.