insight magazine

CPAs Are Hot Hires

Demand is high, supply is low. Which means now's the time to earn your CPA. By Selena Chavis | Digital Exclusive - 2017


It’s no secret that today’s young accounting pros are peering into a bright future. Year after year, market studies affirm job growth projections well above the national average over the next decade. In fact, a recent U.S. News and World Report survey ranked accounting as the third best business job.

It comes down to basic economics and the law of supply and demand. And very simply, one is outpacing the other when it comes to CPA talent. A growing and increasingly complex economy is creating the need for more CPAs, while a number of forces are simultaneously driving down the numbers available, leaving many firms and corporations struggling to secure the CPA talent they need to fill technical and high-level positions.

In other words, the market is piping hot for CPA talent, and young professionals are wise to claim this designation sooner rather than later for this, among other reasons. Here’s a closer look.

Greater Demand

A number of market undercurrents are driving greater demand for CPAs—corporate scandals, globalization and IT advancement all come to mind. Increasingly, CPAs are being sought after to monitor financial integrity and compliance, understand international business risks and regulations, and design and implement advanced IT infrastructures.

In fact, a recent Illinois CPA Society survey of Chicago’s top 25 public accounting firms revealed that 100 percent find the CPA credential “very desirable or somewhat desirable,” and ranked CPA at number six on its top 10 hottest jobs list.

Dwindling Supply

An impending mass exodus of CPAs over the next 15 years is the most obvious contributor to shrinking CPA numbers. The AICPA often cites that the large pool of retiring Baby Boomers will leave a gaping hole in the supply of experienced CPAs.

What’s more concerning is that National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) data reveals only one-in-three accounting graduates ever become CPAs, and many young professionals simply don’t feel an urgency to sit for the CPA exam. In fact, the average age of CPA exam takers in Illinois is just over 30 years.

Exacerbating the situation is a market rich with careers that don’t require the CPA designation. For instance, Accounting Today data reveals a 90-percent increase in the growth of advisory service revenues at the top 100 accounting firms, opening a huge playing field of positions that don’t require the work-life balance sacrifice that goes hand in hand with studying for and affording the CPA exam process.

As businesses and accounting firms war over talent, industry expectations are that recruitment efforts will become increasingly creative and attractive for qualified candidates. Simply put, the future for CPAs could not be brighter.

5 Reasons to Sit for the CPA Exam Sooner Rather Than Later

Accounting professionals at large are in high demand, but those with the coveted CPA credential are in the highest demand. As such, these savvy, forward-looking professionals are armed with greater negotiating power and, ultimately, greater career choices.

The best time to get certified is on the heels of earning your accounting degree—when the momentum for educational pursuits is already high. But even if you’ve landed that first job minus the CPA credential, consider that preparation is critical to your long-term career trajectory. In other words, there’s no time like the present;here are a few of the reasons why.

1. Dodge the 2017 exam bullet

While 2016 introduced some changes to the CPA exam, bigger changes are coming next year, and they don’t make the process any easier. For starters, the CPA exam increases from 14 to 16 hours (four sections of four hours each), and the number of Task-Based Simulation questions for all sections increases—along with the costs.

 Also, a recent practice analysis conducted by the AICPA revealed the need for high-order cognitive skills from newly licensed CPA professionals. As a result, the 2017 exam will require candidates to answer more questions that demonstrate their ability to apply, analyze and evaluate. In contrast, the current exam focuses on memory, comprehension and application.

2. Achieve a greater professional value quotient

Earning the CPA delivers the highest level of credibility for an accounting professional. It’s validation of technical knowledge and skill, and recruiters recognize its value. Most C-level or partner-level accounting jobs require certification.

3. Stand out from the competition

Statistics from the AICPA suggest that 75 percent of current CPAs will retire in the next 15 years, leaving a huge vacuum in the industry. Those with their certification in place will be poised for a quick flight up the professional ladder as accounting firms, corporations, educational institutions and other organizations seek them out for leadership positions.

4. Make more money

Research by global recruiter Robert Half suggests that a CPA designation yields a 5-15 percent jump in salary. That’s substantial. Plus, some companies and firms offer a juicy bonus for earning this level of prestige.

5. Increase your negotiating power 

The CPA pipeline is dwindling, while demand is increasing. As organizations compete for credentialed professionals, CPA candidates are in a stronger position to negotiate better deals, whether in terms of benefits, salary or work-life balance.

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