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Accountants Are the Referees of Business, Says Guy Who Would Know

referees in a huddle on the field

There’s another article about the accountant shortage today and this time it’s in Insider. There’s nothing in there you don’t already know — enrollments are down, boomers are retiring, the process of becoming a CPA is extra and sucks, kids need to be convinced that accounting is great, blah blah — but they did get an interesting quote from Steven Kachelmeier, accounting department chair at the University of Texas. Kachelmeier has seen accounting majors decline between 20% to 40% over the past few years at his school and like many in the profession he believes that the key to fixing the shortage lies in pitching accounting to young people. “There’s not a lot of high-school students out there who say, ‘I’m going to be an accountant,'” he told Insider. “You have to sell them.”

To put things into perspective for the normies who may not understand that accountants’ work is critical to the entire foundation of our financial system, he likens accountants to referees, the order-keepers of sports:

“We may not always like the referees, but sports is a free-for-all without them,” he said. “Accountants and auditors are to business as those people in the black-and-white-striped shirts are to sports. We’re the referees of business.

“Without accounting and without finance, there are no rules to the game. It’s like playing a game, and you make up your rules as you go along. It keeps the system honest.”

To combat shortages, those in the accounting industry are working to attract more people to the field. Advancing technology in the sector, raising awareness about accounting careers, increasing diversity, and changing the profession’s image are some of the ways they’re tackling the challenge.

Beyond the aggressive PR and outreach campaign already underway, one other way to ease the shortage would be to completely eliminate accounting as a major. Wrote John “Jack” Castonguay, PhD, CPA in the August/September 2021 CPA Journal:

Even though the CPA Evolution Project is aligning the credential with practice, it is also underscoring that the value in the license lays not within the accounting curriculum that has existed for decades; the new value is the technology, the analytics, the systems, and the tax research. But I believe the curriculum realignment anticipated by the CPA Evolution Project will only lead to an even faster decline in enrollments if accounting remains siloed as a stand-alone major.

As the profession gets more specialized, the accounting curriculum is expanding to include more information, more courses, more skills, and more tracks—but students are less skilled at each one. It’s a cycle that can’t be fixed by repackaging existing courses. It can only be fixed by eliminating the accounting major and unlocking accounting’s interdisciplinary value and specialization within finance, information systems, or other departments.

Viewed through this lens, the decline in accounting majors isn’t a crisis at all, rather an opportunity to innovate and redefine what “entry level CPA” looks like. Now if only we can figure out how to make it literally and figuratively worth it to young people.

A shortage of accountants is pushing the industry to reboot its image to win over young talent: ‘You have to sell them’ [Insider]

2 thoughts on “Accountants Are the Referees of Business, Says Guy Who Would Know

  1. “Advancing technology in the sector, raising awareness about accounting careers, increasing diversity, and changing the profession’s image are some of the ways they’re tackling the challenge”.


    No prospective student cares about any of this stuff. Just pay more. Its so simple and they keep throwing the same garbage excuses out there. On top of that, who wants to be a referee? If accountants are the “referees” of the business world than I would rather go for computer science or engineering or law and be an athlete.

    As a quick aside, its always funny when professors at schools are quoted in articles. From my experience, they are the most out of touch when it comes to actually how the profession works in the real world. “Those who can’t do, teach”.

  2. When I was in public accounting, I viewed my role as helping companies issue financial statements that are as close to the line as possible without crossing it.

    Now in private industry, I view my role as being the only department preventing the company from going bankrupt.

    I really don’t think that referees are the right analogy. I don’t know what is though. In both public and private, my job was to help immature, irresponsible, egotistical, rich assholes get even richer despite their own efforts to fuck everything up.

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