Why You're Struggling to Hire Quality Accountants and What You Can Do About It

Why You're Struggling to Hire Quality Accountants and What You Can Do About It

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If you’ve been struggling to fill a position in your accounting department, you’re not alone. The accounting profession is seeing a dip in qualified workers, for both entry level positions and for experienced roles. What's going on, and what should you do to keep your accounting department filled?

There are fewer accountants in the workforce.

In the past few years, our profession has noted an interesting trend: fewer and fewer college students are majoring in accounting. According to a 2023 report from American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), there was a 6.4% decrease in students completing undergraduate degrees in accounting — and an 8.4% decrease in students completing master’s degrees in accounting — during the 2021-2022 academic year.

Why You're Struggling to Hire Quality Accountants and What You Can Do About It

And it’s not just students who are choosing a different path. Many seasoned accountants are leaving the industry, as well. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than 300,000 accountants and auditors left their jobs during the pandemic.

Where are all the accountants going?

Accounting and auditing have been highly regarded professions for decades. They offer job security, opportunities for advancements and great career longevity. In fact, since 2005, the accounting and auditing industry has boomed. Employment grew from 1.05 million workers in 2005 to over 1.5 million in 2022.

Why You're Struggling to Hire Quality Accountants and What You Can Do About It

Then, the pandemic hit.

When COVID-19 first settled into society, many accountants began to leave the industry or leave the workforce altogether. Kristy Illuzzi, CPA, CGMA, Principal at the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), discussed the “Great Resignation” phenomenon in a June 2022 interview with the Journal of Accountancy. She said, “You were forced to work from home… and I think it caused a lot of people also to just rethink their priorities. They were home, spending more time with family, perhaps caring for ill family members, small children that were home, and priorities shifted.”

But COVID-19 wasn’t the only thing that had an impact on the profession.

Changing perceptions by students.

The accounting profession holds less appeal for students than in years past. According to a recent survey of students at Miami University, many students believe that accounting academic programs were more difficult than programs for other majors.

STEM majors dominate.

College majors in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math are more popular than ever. Jobs in STEM typically have high growth potential, high salaries and ample job opportunities, making those fields more enticing to students.

Workers are demanding more flexibility.

Accountants are infamous for putting in long hours at the office, and the new generation of workers is less interested in choosing accounting careers as a result. Even outside of public accounting, industry accountants are committed to meeting month-end, quarter-end and year-end deadlines, making accounting jobs less flexible than some other careers.

Technology advancements.

New technology has changed job expectations. Some college students believe that accounting functions will soon be further automated, making them want to consider alternate careers. New technology has also been changing the job expectations of existing accountants. When COVID-19 all but required the use of technology to facilitate remote work, some accountants who were at the end of their careers chose to retire early rather than learn a new suite of technology.

What to do when there’s no one to hire.

Finding quality workers is difficult for any business owner, but filling accounting positions may be especially difficult in the coming months and years. Fortunately, there are a few solutions.

Market yourself differently.

How you market yourself matters. If you want to expand your reach to appeal to more candidates, here are a few things you can consider.

  • Find your selling point. What makes your workplace unique? What perks do you offer that keep your current workers invested?
  • Show that you prioritize a healthy work-life balance. Show that you encourage workers to pursue interests outside of the office, and practice what you preach by taking time off when you need it.
  • Be transparent. Be honest with workers about what the job entails and what their growth potential is if they join your team.

Hire differently.

You may need to think about your ideal candidate a bit differently. For the right candidate, would you be willing to tweak your job expectations? If a great candidate is only willing to work part time or requests more remote options than you currently offer, would you be willing to make exceptions?

Find part-time or full-time subs.

Accounting jobs are hard to come by, but there are staffing companies that can help you fill those positions in a pinch. Yes, temp staffing agencies in your area can help, but they aren’t your only option. If you have a robust remote work environment, you could consider contracting with a staffing company that has fully remote candidates, expanding your reach to other parts of the country.

Consider an outsourced model.

Outsourcing from a qualified advisory firm can be a temporary or a more permanent solution to your staffing needs. By hiring a professional from an advisory firm, you can find someone to seamlessly plug into your operations, wherever it is that you need help.

Advisory firms differ from traditional staffing agencies because they provide qualified [and often CPA-certified] talent. If you need to fill a more technical role, or if you need help navigating the accounting requirements of a complex business transaction, contracting with a CPA/advisory firm may be the way to go.

If you want to learn more about how outsourcing can help, contact our CBIZ ARC advisory team. Tell us about your needs and let us brainstorm ways to help solve your problems. Connect with us today. 

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