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The Profession Desperately Needs to Rebrand As ‘Cool’ Before There’s No One Left to Do the Work

Earlier this month, we shared an article from The Korea Times that outlined a critical surplus of accountants with Big 4 firms in that country stating they would be unable to extend offers to 330 of 1,100 new incoming professionals, whereas last year, firms offered jobs to all 1,009 new CPAs.

This situation stands in stark contrast to the “pipeline” issue we’re having in the United States. Last we heard via the AICPA Trends report [PDF], new CPA exam candidate numbers were the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade. This probably wouldn’t be as concerning as it is if the profession weren’t also dealing with a mass exodus of retirement-age Boomers (in 2015, the AICPA estimated that approximately 75% of its members will be eligible to retire by 2020).

Well it seems we’re not the only country struggling to keep the pipeline full. Much like millennials’ hopes and dreams, it seems the pool of qualified accountants in Ireland took a bad hit in the 2008 recession, never quite recovered, and ended up getting the last little shred of hope beaten out of it by the ‘Rona. At least according to this article from The Irish Times:

Ireland will struggle with a shortage of qualified accountants within the next few years unless there is an increased uptake of remote training across the sector, according to professional body CPA Ireland.

This shortage could have a profound impact on the wider economy if it is not addressed, in part because it will exacerbate an existing shortfall of almost 15,000 trainee accountants, it warned.

“During the last recession the number of trainee accountants fell off a cliff and this number has never fully recovered. The decade from 2008 witnessed the number of new accountancy students fall by 27 per cent,” said CPA Ireland president John Devaney.

Much like our own beloved protectors of the brand at the AICPA on this side of the pond, CPA Ireland has been warning of talent shortages for years. Two years ago, they said prior to 2008 more than 4,800 students were registered in accounting programs across the country. By 2012, that number shrank to just 2,970. The trend left the profession with an estimated shortage of 15,000 entry-level accountants to fill jobs over a decade.

To our esteemed friends in Ireland: keep this in mind next time you’re suffering through yet another busy season asking yourself why on Earth you have done this to yourself. Talent shortage = leverage for said talent.

9 thoughts on “The Profession Desperately Needs to Rebrand As ‘Cool’ Before There’s No One Left to Do the Work

  1. The fact that EY feels they can take away everyone’s PTO at the end of this year and get away with it tells me we don’t have a talent shortage.

  2. The firms and the AICPA are surprised there are a shortage of folks signing up for long hours and low wages? Maybe start by fixing those two problems, just a thought.

  3. Literally just raise salaries and the problem will go away. Totally nuts that in an age where more people are going to college and majoring in business, stem etc the accounting profession should have a hard time hiring people.

    1. It’s not just comp, its benefits and work life balance too. B4 and national/regional firms have a lot of flexibility as long as you get your 70 charge hours in a week, but to my generation that’s not gonna cut it. Why kill yourself working 70+ hour weeks when you could do 40 and earn about the the same in another field?

      I ask myself this all the time.

  4. Don’t all accountants have to take economics courses which talk about supply and demand? Same simple enough ask for more money.

  5. I’m surprised to hear this – despite the recent layoffs in public, I still think accounting and finance are stable professions. I’m also surprised when some public accounting firms still have no problem running their staff into the ground. Besides better work life balance, I think our profession needs to do a better job of articulating the role of technology and providing upskilling to their current staff. Technology doesn’t scare me as I’ve been in my field over 10 years but I could see being a student or fresh grad and being scared that a software is going to wind up doing my job.

  6. Our academic curriculum needs to keep up
    with the ever changing landscape of technology. Work life balance also has to change to attract younger generations because it has been an issue since I joined Big 4 over 20 years ago. The profession needs address the obstacles to entry and retention.

  7. Work life balance is the key. There is absolutely NO REASON that this cannot be accomplished with proper firm management.

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