There was an article in the Denver Post last week about the accountant shortage and in it, the Post talks to a professor who suggests that business students once fought over coveted, well-paid positions at accounting firms. This must have been before my time because in 2007 Big 4 firms were paying $50k starting salaries in the Bay Area which won’t even get you a box in the Tenderloin and a single avocado toast.
This is Steve Rock, associate professor of accounting and chair of the Professional Effectiveness Division at Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder:
Rock said students need 150 credit hours to qualify to take the exam to become certified public accountants, or CPAs, a key certification to advance in the field. If they aren’t coming in with college credits completed in high school, that can add an extra year of study. With the wage premium that accounting used to offer shrinking or going away, more students are doing a cost-benefit analysis and choosing other business majors.
“Accounting students typically earned the highest salaries coming out of the business programs. All other programs have been increasing their salaries. There is no longer that salary premium,” Rock said.
Accounting firms also had a reputation for hiring the strongest business school graduates and working them hard to see who would emerge from that “tournament,” Rock said. But those survivors, once they developed expertise in a given company or industry, are highly sought after in the corporate world. A job at an accounting firm often serves as a stepping stone to bigger and better things rather than a career destination.
And we wonder why firms are having trouble hiring.