Accountants are always in demand. Whether for businesses that need help managing their books or individuals who just need to get their taxes done, accountants will always be called on for their specialized knowledge.
That’s good news if you’re interested in pursuing a career in accounting — but not everything is so rosy in the accounting industry. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain specialty accountants, such as those serving the restaurant industry, have seen their businesses upended.
Faced with such challenging conditions, then, new accountants need to be prepared to build flexible practices that can respond to economic fluctuations.
Regardless of recent disruptions, one thing we can say for sure about the accounting industry is that it’s growing steadily, though just how fast depends on who you ask. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we should see a 4% growth in accounting jobs between 2019 and 2029, which is about as much growth as other industries are expecting on average. That’s equal to an increase of over 60,000 accounting jobs. Career Explorer, on the other hand, estimates a 10% growth between 2016 and 2026, which would make accountancy one of the fastest growing industries in the country. While these statistics are reporting estimates for both public accountants and accountants in industry, they still give a good sense that the industry as a whole, including the demand for public accountants, will grow.
What’s behind the disparity in growth estimates? One possibility is the current economic slump. Demand for accountants generally correlates with economic strength. During a recession, demand falls, but it certainly doesn’t disappear. Estimates that begin in 2016 are starting from a stronger economic baseline than those set around the start of the current pandemic.
Setting aside debates over growth rates, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in accounting, there are many pathways you can take. First, you can pursue a job in public accounting and work within taxes and auditing. You can also work in an in-house role where you manage accounts payable and similar process. These jobs do not require you to have your CPA license, but certification is typically preferred.
Though many CPAs are happy working in these traditional accounting roles, like being a tax preparer, others may be looking for something a little more exciting. There are a number of little-known CPA jobs that you might consider if you’re looking for a more unique accounting opportunity. These include forensic accounting jobs in which you can participate in solving financial crimes like embezzlement or identity theft, working as a healthcare accountant for medical providers, or serving as a data analytics consultant, evaluating and streamlining costs, products, and processes for businesses.
As noted above, the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted the accounting job market, causing some accountants to lose large segments of their client base. This is particularly true for those working with restaurants and other small businesses, as these operations have faced serious financial challenges over the past several months, and many have been forced to file for bankruptcy. That being said, even as some individual accountants and accounting firms have struggled, many have found ways to pivot their services during this time, either by refocusing their practice or entirely reenvisioning their business model. What does this mean for you as a new accountant, though?
As a new accountant, you have several options, especially if you’re planning to hang out a shingle in the midst of the current pandemic. First, it’s important to consider whether it’s wise for you to try to go it alone. Solo accounting practices can be quite successful, especially if you offer a basic service like tax preparation within a community setting. On the other hand, it’s much harder to attract new business right now. This could be a good opportunity to build additional skills and focus on professional development, rather than on the logistics of opening your own business. Within the framework of “future-proofing,” you may want to learn more about remote operations, employee-first business models, and new accounting technology.
Another factor to consider if you’re just breaking into the accounting industry is looking at how existing employers are handling the pandemic. While professional services, including accounting, saw a serious decline in jobs numbers this past year, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. The fact is, while there was a drop off in job growth, accountants and those in similar positions were actually much more likely to keep their jobs than other professionals. The drop was almost exclusively in new job postings. People weren’t being fired or quitting. And as we near the end of the year — and the start of a new tax season — those listings could easily rebound.
Currently, the CPA exam is only offered in person, which means that some students are opting to delay testing. If you’re in that category, consider this the perfect time to keep building your skills and know that employers are aware of these issues. Because of overall high demand for qualified accounting professionals, many employers are flexible about requirements. You may be able to move into a CPA license optional position as you continue to prepare. Commitment to learning and potential for growth can be enough to get your foot in the door, even in today’s unstable job market.
Whether you’re just beginning to consider a career as an accountant or you’re ready to take your CPA exam, Wiley is here for you. Recognized as one of the top programs in the industry and taught by highly regarded instructors, Wiley CPA helps more students pass their CPA exam than our competitors, with a 90% pass rate.
Think you’re ready to tackle the CPA exam? Sign up for a practice exam to get a better sense of your strengths and weaknesses and how you can better prepare for the real thing. At Wiley, we’re committed to your success, from the first time you crack open a study guide until you’re settled in a satisfying accounting career. Where will your CPA license take you?