October 3, 2022

If This Field Report on the Talent Shortage is Remotely True Public Accounting is Screwed

The below comment was left on a post about public accounting salaries published Monday and we thought it worth sharing because if true, it signals a collapse of the public accounting ladder as we know it. Didn’t think we were at full-on collapse yet, just a little bump in the road until firms can talk partners into coughing up a little extra for operating expenses.

a screenshot of a comment about a shortage of public accountants

Has this been anyone else’s experience? And if so, why aren’t we hearing more partners complaining about it?

Related: Are Accounting Firms Really Sending 30% of Their Work Offshore?

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14 Comments

  1. It’s 100% true and also applies to the mid tier that aren’t shipping work offshore. I worked at one of the larger Midwest offices for a certain forward thinking firm and their tax department literally hasn’t promoted any homegrown staff or interns to manager since 2015. Most are gone by year 3 and everyone is gone by year 4.

  2. It’s very rough. I left earlier in the year after 8 years. Before leaving they were discussing having interns “in charge” summer projects. They’ve been trying since probably mid to late last year to find experienced senior talent and I think they hired one for the region? Like other firms, they were bleeding senior through senior manage talent rapidly. That’s a ton of institutional (and client) knowledge that is getting lost and that’s hard to replace. The old partner carrot just doesn’t carry the same weight and that 10-20% you typically retain higher up just doesn’t stick. There is just too much work out there and eventually people throw their hands up and say enough.
    You aren’t hearing partners complaining for a few reasons. First, if you admit you’ve bled out your entire mid core, good luck recruiting people to come work in your “fast paced, learning opportunities galore” environment. Second, some don’t even realize how major an issue it is until they do have to run something. I had a partner struggle with setting up a report because the senior manager had always done it for her, and it wasn’t until that event happened that reality set in of how much next busy season could suck. Lastly, most are convinced the great layoff is coming and all these people will be back, they just have to hold the line. Will they be right? To be seen.

  3. Senior Manager here at a top 10 firm. I just found out I’ll be preparing the file on a public company interim review. Wtf, are there really no seniors here that can do a review? Really not ok.

  4. It’s completely accurate. I’m a senior manager at a large international firm (non-big 4) and in the past 12 months I’ve had 4 engagements where I had contractors (temps) serve as the in-charge. Prior to that I had never had an engagement with a contractor as an in-charge. I have two current engagements where I wasn’t able to get an associate, just interns or staff from India and we’re not even in busy season yet. I’ve had multiple instances where I’ve had to prepare workpapers for multiple cycles myself because there was just no one available. We’re about to bring in a new class of associates that is maybe a third the size of what we used to bring in just 4-5 years ago, and that’s not by choice, the talent pipeline has just run dry. My thought process has completely shifted from whether I think I can make partner to whether I would even want it if offered. If things don’t start to improve in the next 12 months, the answer to that is no.

    1. “My thought process has completely shifted from whether I think I can make partner to whether I would even want it if offered”

      While not at the same level you are, this completely rings true for me. I am the only non-manager CPA in my area; I came in with it and everyone else is simply too busy to attempt to start studying. My higher ups talk about me being a future leader and partner (I know they are just so afraid of me leaving and are just blowing smoke up my ass). All I see is a sinking ship I don’t wanna be on anymore.

  5. Welcome to the club. I have been doing the same for long time until I got worst than burnout (literally 6 mo of medical leave. Join the the great resignation!

  6. It is the senior leadership that perpetuates this problem. New generation’s eyes are open to the health issues accruing from traditional accounting. Hmm …offshore. In case, you haven’t heard even those they are hiring off shore are burnout!

  7. The competence of managers today is so poor, most couldn’t have been seniors say 30 years ago.
    How does the PCAOB recruit “inspectors”? Who does it hire? Do you believe PCAOB personnel are competent? Huh!

  8. The competence of partners today are so poor. I laugh because who trained them Before you downplay managers, look at yourself – who does your dirty work?

  9. I recently passed all four sections of the CPA exam. I have 6 years of telecom billing analysis, data analysis, and some budget forecasting experience. It’s been difficult to find a job. It’s ridiculous to have the long list of job qualifications, which usually includes specific accounting experience, and there not being any entry level staff accountant jobs out there. I’m tired of hearing on forums that the reason people can’t find an accounting job is because the person didn’t interview correctly. The problem is, that employers are too picky on who they are willing to hire and are not willing to see a strong candidate with transferable skills. If a person worked hard and got there Master’s degree and passed the CPA exam, they sure as heck will work hard to get up to speed as fast as possible. In my opinion the system is broken. There’s talent out there, employers just have blinders on and can’t see it.

    1. The system is most definitely broken. I had accounting experience when I started in public accounting. I had thought it would be a point in my favor, but it was actually a detriment. Firms, Big 4 at least, want people with no experience for entry level positions, so they can train them and mold them into exactly what they want. I also remember not getting an interview with a large local firm because they had a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement. I’m not sure why they thought my 3.2 GPA in English Literature was a better indicator of my success than my 3.8 GPA in my Master’s in Accounting program.

      While I think a part of the pipeline program is the 150-hour requirement, I think retiring and recently retired partners are mostly to blame for this problem. Bottom line, they got greedy. They failed to realize that the mere opportunity of possibly making partner one day was no longer enough to entice people to stay. The wages they offered for the hours of work they expected and the education they required just wasn’t competitive enough. A lot of firms in my area have and are selling to bigger firms because they weren’t admitting new partners, so when they wanted to retire, there was no one left to take over, so they had no choice but to sell. Then the seniors and managers who were there because they didn’t want to work for a large firm left.

      I recently left a large regional firm as a Senior Manager because after five years of hearing that partner was just two or three years away. I found I was working myself to death for something that increasingly looked like it would never happen. About a year ago, I took a job at a smaller firm as a Manager on a reduced schedule. Life changing. I don’t make the same kind of money, but I am way happier than I’ve been in probably 15 years.

      1. “I found I was working myself to death for something that increasingly looked like it would never happen.”

        This is my biggest fear, career wise.

    2. We’ve definitely hired people with transferable skills. The problem is that people who don’t start in public accounting find it hard to get used to the busy season schedule and independently look for work when they are not busy. 90% of the time those experienced hired leave within a year or two. I’m in international tax in a big 4 so the culture may be different in other service lines or firms.

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