The field of accounting and auditing has undergone a massive shift in recent years, and continues to evolve at a pace that makes tomorrow’s accountants one of today’s most sought-after investments. As the modern workplace changes, so too must the responsibilities of those tasked with managing the finances of companies, consumers and everyone who keeps the wheels of the economy in motion.
According to the most recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, accountants, auditors, financial bookkeepers and clerks rank among the top 25 occupations in the nation by sheer employment numbers. Recent reports indicate that the demand for accountants has been on the rise since 2008, and we will see 22 percent job growth in this field by 2018.
Want to learn more? Here’s a cheat sheet detailing the industries that are most actively employing accountants now, the segments that tend to pay the highest salaries, and a guide to where the opportunities for growth lie.
Emerging Sectors: Accountants Needed!
There’s a lot of information we can glean from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report on accounting and auditing jobs in the U.S. The first thing that stands out is the presence of scientific and technical services at the top of the employment rankings, ahead of the more traditional tax preparation and bookkeeping.
As technology advances and the collection and number-crunching of financial data becomes even more automated, the demand for accountants with more specialized, technical skills also grows. Along with balancing a client’s books, today’s accountants are becoming increasingly involved in the IT architecture that stores and protects financial data, and are taking a more comprehensive, forward-looking approach to their clients’ finances. The growing demand for environmental, or “green,” accounting—which weighs elements like resource management and environmental impact alongside a company’s revenue and expenses—is one example of the shifting focus for tomorrow’s accountants.
Although state and local governments are a major employer for today’s accountants and will likely continue to occupy a top spot in lists like this for years to come, the presence of the health-care and social assistance industries is indicative of another trend likely to affect the future of the profession. With the baby boomer generation entering its twilight years, the demand for accountants capable of tackling an aging generation’s needs—and the businesses that service them—is increasing rapidly. Experience in the medical and social support industries could become highly sought-after qualities among the next generation of accountants.
As more companies go global with their products, services and business dealings, accountants with some international savvy could play a big role in the various manufacturing, securities and commodities, and trade- and service-based industries represented in both of the lists mentioned here. An understanding of international finance laws and practices, as well as the ability to perform in a mobile, global workplace, could give tomorrow’s accountants a comfortable home in any of these industries. Advances in technology that make it possible to serve an international client base from your home office have made the need for global awareness even greater in these and other border-crossing industries.
Finally, it’s worth noting—and perhaps reiterating—the shift away from traditional bookkeeping toward forward-looking investment responsibilities for the accountants of the future. The automation of various bookkeeping services once performed by accountants has allowed them to spend more time serving their clients’ financial futures instead of always looking backward. Accountants with a healthy grasp on the world of investment have found no shortage of opportunities to broaden their client base in recent years—and, given the data reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, improve their own financial standing in the process.
The Final Word
DeVry adjunct accounting professor Barbara Davies elaborates: “Just consider the diverse opportunities that await tomorrow’s accountants. Accountants will need to be more than ‘number crunchers’ as they combine solid accounting skills with IT knowledge, financial management, risk assessment and financial-planning capabilities. Tomorrow’s accountants will be valued members of the management team, trusted for their analytical skills and sound judgment. Accounting jobs of tomorrow will demand many varied skills, and accountants’ compensation will likely reflect the multiplicity of skills required. Expect interesting, challenging work and you will not be disappointed.”
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Accountants and Auditors (13-2011): http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm#top
3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011, Accountants and Auditors (13-2011): http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes132011.htm#top
Tags: accounting careers, accounting jobs, auditing careers, bachelor's degree in accounting, emerging careers