Brendan Courtney

Accounting and Finance 2009 Employment Outlook

The accounting/finance profession may just be a silver lining in today’s economic environment. As workers look towards 2009 career planning, several areas within the accounting/finance profession are expected to be in high demand.

December 18, 2008
Sponsored by The Mergis Group

by Brendan Courtney, senior vice president and group executive, The Mergis Group

Economic doom and gloom has many finance and accounting professionals wondering if now is the right time to be in the market for a job change. The good news is: If you've got the right skills, the finance world is your oyster. Expertise in accounting and finance and the ability to develop strategies and implement long-term financial plans will bolster your chances of career success.

Even in the current economy, certain skill sets remain invaluable. Accounting and finance professionals with the right expertise, experience and training have career opportunities, even in times of economic hardship. Here are five accounting and finance career paths that are expected to be in demand:

  1. Public Accountants
  2. Regardless of what happens with the economy, companies will always need Accountants, to ensure the business runs efficiently, its public records are kept accurately and its taxes are paid properly and on time. Preparing, analyzing and verifying financial documents are crucial for businesses and individuals alike.

    Therefore, public accounting firms will continue to look for highly-skilled professionals to help clients address fundamental accounting, tax and audit issues.

    As a result, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that employment of Accountants to grow by as much as 18 percent through 2016. The Bureau projects 226,000 new Accounting jobs will be created during that period.

  3. Budget Analysts
  4. Budget Analysts usually tend to be less vulnerable to layoffs than other types of professions. There is a certain amount of job security built into the profession, since financial and budget reports must be completed during all phases of the business cycle. The ability to maintain a sound budget while closely examining financial practices is a specialized skill that employers of all sizes, in all industries, seek. Thus, employment growth and continuing demand in both the private and public sectors is expected.

    In fact, in some instances, Budget Analysts’ responsibilities are increasing. Today’s businesses are becoming more complex and many are moving towards specialization, which means that budget planning and financial control will demand greater attention. Advancements in technology used for budgeting are also becoming more and more sophisticated. More data can be processed in a shorter amount of time. Although the computer programs eliminate some of the processing work, there is now more data that must be analyzed. As a result, Budget Analysts have seen their workload increase and oftentimes, they are expected to produce more than in years past.

  5. Auditors
  6. Businesses’ finances are under increased scrutiny as a result of accounting scandals at several large corporations in recent years. To curb corporate accounting fraud, the government has passed regulations requiring public companies to maintain internal controls and to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their financial reporting. Stricter accounting and auditing regulations, changing financial laws, corporate governance regulations and increased fiscal accountability will drive demand for experienced Auditors.

    Changes in tax legislation, business investments, mergers and other financial events also boost the need for experienced Auditors. Businesses seek finance professionals to ensure important processes and procedures are documented accurately and thoroughly and to maintain integrity in financial reporting.

    Another area in which Auditors are in demand is the Government sector. As government agencies search for ways to become more efficient and accountable, the demand for government Accountants and Auditors grows.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of Auditors will grow by nearly 20 percent between 2008 and 2016.

  7. Forensic Accountants
  8. Scandals at large corporations have created a need for more Forensic Accountants. A focus on financial crimes such as embezzlement, bribery and securities fraud increased the demand for Forensic Accountants to detect illegal financial activity by individuals and companies. Advances in computer technology have made these crimes easier to commit and the number of instances continues to rise. But computer technology has also helped “the good guys.” Electronic surveillance technology has made tracking down financial criminals easier. As the success rates of investigations grow, demand for Forensic Accountants will increase.

    These scandals have impacted the financial profession in another way. Professional certification and licensing is more important than ever, so that the business ensures that the accountant’s credentials and knowledge of ethics are sound.

  9. Credit and Collections Specialists
  10. The current credit crunch has made businesses take a closer look at the role of their credit and collections functions. Organizations in many sectors seek specialists to manage credit risk and collect from delinquent accounts.

    Lenders in particular are seeing an increase in delinquent dollars and customer attrition. This trend makes it critical that companies become innovative in their approach to collections and recovery. Therefore organizations are hiring professionals who can help reduce inefficiencies and enhance profitability.

The bottom line is: Despite a weak employment market, there are opportunities for skilled Accounting and Finance professionals in some sectors of the industry. However, there may be increased competition for the available jobs, so having specialized expertise can certainly enhance your marketability and give you an edge.

Brendan A.J. Courtney serves as senior vice president and group executive of The Mergis Group, a division of Spherion Corporation (NYSE:SFN).pers.