September 24, 2022

Letters to the Editor: CPAs Give Their Perspectives on Why No One Wants to Be an Accountant Anymore

Last week, we published a letter written to Fortune by a former CPA who pivoted to driving 18-wheelers and found far more career happiness than he ever would have in accounting (good for him). It seems his words resonated with a few people who felt compelled to reach out and offer their own perspectives. Here are two of the emails we received in response to that article.

Accounting and being a CPA have been the worst personal decision and professional organization I’ve been a part since passing.

It’s all low pay, nepotism, good ol boy, white dominated pile of c***p.

We won’t argue with you there, dear reader. The numbers don’t lie: of 658,267 actively licensed CPAs in 53 of the 55 licensing jurisdictions, less than 1% are Black (2020 data), a number that has remained largely unchanged in 40 years. It wasn’t until 2015 that a woman became CEO of a Big 4 accounting firm for the first time. 65% of new graduate new hires hired into accounting/finance functions of U.S. CPA firms are white. And check out this chart from the 2021 AICPA Trends report on accounting firm demographics:

via 2021 AICPA Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report

Moving on. This next reader bangs the same old drum: the pay sucks and the work sucks.

Hi,

I am a CPA & CMA- I find that being an older student ( accounting at 32 bc SEC audit of company left me without real estate leasing job) I have struggled to find a good fit. Most companies want a controller + level employee with Big 4 experience. Starting I couldn’t take the kind of paycut to be a entry level field auditor or tax. Accounting is miserable. Manual processes that suck away time. Companies pay more for “finance” employees who do more budgeting & analysis. It seems accounting doesn’t pay for as much knowledge as you need when compared to a person in finance.

This is why no one really wants to be an accountant – not enough pay or perks. All the tedious, monotonous work has to be done so give it to the people that rarely complain and just do the work because no one else will do it.

Just FYI, dear reader, some people enjoy tedious, monotonous work and that’s what draws them to accounting. No really.

Anyone else want to bitch? Our inbox is always open.

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14 Comments

  1. If you don’t want to enter a certain career field because that career field “lacks diversity” you need to reevaluate your lift.

  2. I dunno man. Where I’m at currently, it’s pretty much all Asian females that run the shop. Almost every job I’ve had there’s been 50-75 percent Asian women.

    Every manager I’ve had in the past 8 years has been a loud, overbearing, insufferable, narcissistic Asian woman. One was a 4 foot nothing vietnamese woman who I was scared shitless of. She once told me she was going to kill me over some stupid typo I made.

    In my experience, Asian women are by far th worst people to have as bosses. The power goes to their head, they LOVE to order people around.

    But anyways…..

    I feel like the token white guy here sometimes. The guy they keep to leave the appearance of diversity. It’s like two thirds Asian women in the accounting and finance department. No black people, a handful of ancient white guys that are either going to retire soon or die, and some Latino spice, like probably 10-15 percent.

  3. I am a retired CPA. I have had a wonderful career. Met lots of people and, as an auditor learned a lot about my community and how businesses work. I am proud of my accomplishments and my hard work. No one will take that away from me.

  4. Accountant here.. the pay does suck, especially in public. 20 years, constant CPE and new knowledge needed.. work harder then most.. tracks and monitors billions of dollars.. gets paid lower middle class pay and struggles to survive. We are in a dying field. Unless major changes come through, the field will struggle to replace retiring employees.

    1. I feel the same way. The pay is not worth the stress, deadlines, and dysfunctional hours you have to work. I even have to pay for my cpe, cpa license, health insurance, etc. out-of-pocket. I wouldn’t encourage anyone who wants a family life to choose public accounting. People who love public accounting are all about business, business comes first, before family. I see it everyday.

  5. I have been on my CPA journey for over 15 years. Ive worked in various business sectors trying to gain knowledge and figure out what works best for me. Ive been passed over for promotions because the jobs required a CPA license. Two years ago, I finally focused on the exam only to pass 3 within 6 months and then receive a 74 on the final exam. I’ve lost credit on 2 parts now. I’m over it! I’m moving on to something else. I’m tired of no vacation during the first week and last week of the month. No vacation during year end. Signed ready to live my best life.

  6. I am a CPA and a Controller of a public company. The unfortunate reality is the accounting field is changing, quite quickly in fact, and those who can’t keep up will be left behind. Process oriented operational accounting tasks will be replaced by automated software. The two areas that are in high demand are technical accounting and SEC reporting, with many great opportunities for higher pay.

      1. Big 4 hires from everywhere due to the staffing shortage. Doesn’t matter where you went to school, frankly you just need a pulse to get in the door.

  7. “We won’t argue with you there, dear reader. The numbers don’t lie: of 658,267 actively licensed CPAs in 53 of the 55 licensing jurisdictions, less than 1% are Black (2020 data)…”

    Oh no! Much sadness, CPA is the worst only 1% black, wow! Numbers don’t lie? Numbers don’t say anything’s it’s just numbers. Worst article written ever.

  8. Accounting is hard. Even the mindless drudge work requires knowledge that most of the people in the world don’t have. If you are a mediocre accountant the work is hard. If you are a pretty good accountant, guess what? It gets harder, because they take the hard work away from the mediocre accountant and give it to you. If you get really good, they give you even harder work and also make you supervise the pretty good and the mediocre.

    Having said all that, I had a wonderful career, made good money, and retired early. Also had a good family life and raised two kids. It is possible, but it isn’t easy, because, like I said, “Accounting is hard.”

  9. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Reminds me when I worked at a CPA firm as a Staff Accountant. Working among CPAs, when I mentioned continuing my education to become a CPA, they said “why do you want to be a CPA?”. So I listened. I agree with comments above. Accounting is hard and not many want to do it.

  10. “Nobody” (above) is correct about the Big 4. The woman who was the office manager in our firm somehow got a job offer from Deloitte as a “remote auditor” last year. She struggled to do bank reconciliations for our clients. I’ve been in public accounting for more than 30 years. It is stressful and demanding. The changes in the profession are driving sole practitioners and smaller firms out of the profession. The AICPA is a driving force behind much of this. Totally out of touch with individual and small firms. (Love to see Barry Melacon retire and some fresh blood take over!) I make good money, but it requires a tremendous sacrifice. Would really not recommend the CPA path to young people considering it as career path. I know a number of really good bookkeepers with little to no formal education who are mathematically inclined and can use QuickBooks who make a good living on their own terms without the cost (dues, CPE, etc.) and the liability.

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