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At This Rate, Accountants Will Soon Be More in Demand Than Diamonds and Rolling Stones Tickets

PAY ATTENTION, people. This isn't just another fluff piece from Yahoo! about how amazing accounting is as a career and how accountants are more popular than both the Beatles and Jesus Christ combined. This is the AICPA.

According to the 2013 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report released this week, a record 40,350 accounting graduates were hired in 2012 and 89 percent of public accounting firms are forecasting the same or increased hiring of graduates this year. Did you read that? RECORD-BREAKING:

And for the companies and firms who need newly minted accountants, the report found record numbers of accounting graduates, as well as the highest number of enrollments in undergraduate and graduate accounting programs on record, indicating a thriving pipeline of accounting talent.

“A strong supply of accounting graduates is essential to serve the complex demands of a rapidly changing business environment and meet the needs of CPA firms of all sizes for top quality talent. It’s well known that the U.S. capital markets also rely on the work of CPAs to ensure that investors have access to reliable and transparent financial statements,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president, academics, professional pathways and inclusion. “The historic growth in enrollments and degrees is a testament to the attractiveness of the accounting profession and the career opportunities it provides for students.”

Overall, the Trends report showed a 19.7 percent increase in accounting graduates over the previous survey, with 82,177 accounting degrees awarded in the 2011-2012 school year. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees are at their highest level in the 40 years the AICPA has been conducting the survey. In addition, the 240,380 accounting enrollments for the 2011-2012 school year in both Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs represent an all-time high and demonstrate a continued strong interest in the accounting profession as a career choice.

Notice the uptick right around the time the economy went swirling down the crapper. Despite folks flocking to the safety of public accounting in record-smashing droves, it appears there's still plenty of room for more qualified professionals in the industry.

The results of the Trends report are consistent with the findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2012-2013 Occupational Outlook Handbook, which found that employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, representing an additional 190,700 jobs. The BLS Handbook notes that candidates with professional recognition, such as a CPA, as well as those with Master's degree in accounting have an advantage in the job market. The Trends report found that the number of accounting students graduating with  Master’s degrees has more than doubled in the last ten years, and that 41 percent of accounting graduates hired by public accounting firms in 2012 had graduate degrees, echoing the BLS findings.

“Employers are increasingly looking to hire CPAs with advanced degrees, as they have the education and skills necessary to work in an increasingly complex, global business environment,” said Patton. “The best way to ensure that the profession has the necessary talent to fill these positions is to recruit the best and brightest young minds from the entire talent base available and make certain we work to retain them.”

Thank goodness for the BLS analysis or we wouldn't know that having a Master's and/or a CPA makes you more desireable to employers.

Anyhoo, there's even more good news in the report. All that talk about diversity appears to be more than just chatter:

The percentage of enrollments by ethnicity in the 2011-2012 academic year saw increases across the board compared to 2009-2010, the last time AICPA conducted the survey. Minority enrollment reached 33 percent at the BA level, up from 23.4 percent. Minorities comprised 38 percent of enrollments in Master’s programs, an increase from 21.6, and minority enrollment in Ph.D. programs totaled 34.4 percent, greater than the 27.8 percent in the previous report. In addition, the 2013 Trends report found that minorities comprised 25 percent of employees at public accounting firms, up from 21 percent during the previous survey. Minority representation at the partner level increased to 10 percent, up from the 6 percent reported in the last survey.

“While gains in the percentage of minority enrollments, graduates, employees and partners since the last survey are encouraging, the National Commission on Diversity and Inclusion will continue to work to find solutions to the declining trajectory of minorities in the accounting profession by focusing on retention and advancement,” said Kim Drumgo, director of diversity and inclusion at the AICPA.

All in all, though the numbers are higher than ever, none of this is at all surprising. The economy still blows in a lot of areas (head over to Above the Law and see how things are working out for law grads these days if you didn't know already) and obviously no one wants to go to school for 4 or 5 years to not have a job at the end of it. So why not go into public accounting? Beats working at Starbucks or living with your parents until you're 40, I suppose.

There's just one question I have having read these glowing reports year after year after year: is there a point when the industry can no longer accommodate record-breaking growth?