Rick Telberg
Rick Telberg

Good News on Your CPA Career

The accounting profession is proving to be remarkably recession-resilient. Are CPAs ready for busy season? Join the survey; get the results.

October 22, 2009
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

The jobs picture is decidedly mixed these days for finance and accounting professionals, so when good news comes along it’s worth noting.

Despite the bleak economy, accounting remains relatively recession-resilient as a profession, according to a number of fresh reports.

Money magazine, for instance, ranked CPA careers among the top 10 for “great pay and superior growth prospects.” The magazine narrowed down its top 10 list after examining “more than 7,000 jobs that the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects will grow 10 percent or more over the next decade and that require at least a bachelor's degree.”

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“Businesses began stocking payroll with CPAs after major accounting scandals earlier this decade, and a host of new corporate accounting rules going into effect soon should ratchet up demand further,” Money says. “Government agencies are also hiring CPAs to monitor how well companies are complying with the new regs. Add inevitable changes to personal income tax rules and you have a pretty recession-proof profession.”

The big drawback Money cited? As any CPA knows: “Deadlines are nonnegotiable; if you're in tax preparation, kiss your personal life goodbye between mid-February and April 15.” Ouch. That’s harsh, but true enough for many.

Separately, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), which tracks college recruiting, reported that accounting majors hold two of the top 10 spots for in-demand jobs, one listing each for public and private accountants. Add in “financial/treasury analysis” and the finance and accounting sector takes three of the top 10 in the NACE ranking.

The NACE report on accounting careers follows another from NACE showing that hiring may be down seven percent for the graduating class of 2010 and a third NACE report that shows starting salaries in decline.

But for accounting majors, it’s a different story. Accounting salaries are actually up by about one percent, to $48,471, and up two percent, to $49,163, for finance majors.

“Conversely,” NACE said, “business administration and management graduates saw their average offer fall 3.4 percent to $44,607.” Further, the average offer to economics graduates declined 2.8 percent, to $49,628, and management information systems (MIS) grads saw their offers slump 1.8 percent, to $50,573.

Meanwhile, BusinessWeek released its “Best Places to Launch a Career” study, with accounting firms making a strong showing. Deloitte edged out Ernst & Young for the top spot. PricewaterhouseCoopers came in third, followed by KPMG on the entire list. Grant Thornton and RSM MCGladrey also made the list, along with accountant-heavy companies like Protiviti and Accenture.

To be sure, the picture isn’t all pretty. The government reported that the accounting and bookkeeping sector lost about 6,000 jobs last month, erasing some gains in the preceding several months.

But the real test will come in the weeks ahead. Traditionally, accounting firms bring on new staff ahead of busy season. Considering that economists seem ready to pronounce the recession officially over, many accountants could be breathing a sigh of relief.

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Copyright © 2009 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.