*Editor’s Note: CC Biz Buzz is a monthly column series that features insightful commentary from a member of the Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business faculty.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the accounting industry was already adapting to rapid change. Growth in technology, work-life dynamics and the types of services offered were all part of this change. Like many other industries, the life of an accountant has changed but most of these changes were already at play.
I’ve heard from many people that they believe accounting careers will soon be eliminated due to automation. This is far from the truth. Companies of all sizes are in dire need of accountants. CPA firms are reaching out to markets they never have before to recruit talent. Salaries are being evaluated and companies are adjusting to allow more flexible environments – not only because of the pandemic, but to align with the desires of prospective employees. What is being automated are the mundane and seemingly “boring” tasks that people think accountants do all day.
CPAs are adding more value than ever because they are spending less time on those easy mundane tasks. They are doing less “number crunching” and more analyzing, advising and giving companies valuable information to make smart decisions. A good accountant knows how to do bookkeeping tasks as well as tell you what those numbers mean and how to make them better. With a good CPA, companies can have larger profits and reduce their tax bill.
In education, we are seeing a decline in students’ interest in the study of accounting. I recently attended a conference and had discussions over the data found in the 2019 Trends report compiled by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. This report tracks the supply and demand of accounting graduates in the U.S.
It showed that in the 2017-18 academic year, only 207,806 students were enrolled in an accounting bachelor’s program, a decline of 4%. In addition, the number of new CPA exam candidates have hit a 10-year low. In 2016, there were 48,004 new CPA candidates; two years later, that number dropped to 36,827. CPAs in the industry need to show the younger generation that a career in accounting has plenty of job security and can also be exhilarating. I discussed many of the exciting things an accounting degree can lead to in the first article I ever wrote for the Tribune, “The Sensational World of Accounting.” All companies need some type of accounting work, so the possibilities are vast.
Gina Singleton is an assistant professor of Accounting at Columbia College teaching a variety of accounting courses. In addition, she works part-time as an accountant in property management with her husband. She received her master’s in accounting (2012) from the University of Missouri. She is a licensed CPA in the state of Missouri and has worked as both a senior auditor for a “big four” accounting firm and as an accountant in the construction industry. As an auditor, she worked in a variety of industries including software, construction, telecommunications and oil & energy.