Career Outlook: Accounting

The increase in number of accounting jobs over the next 10 years will be double that of overall job growth, according to the Illinois Department of Employment Security. The same is true for the national outlook from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Accountants and auditors who have earned professional recognition through certification or licensure should have the best job prospects. CPAs should continue to enjoy a wide range of job opportunities. Similarly, CMAs should be in demand as their management advice is increasingly sought. Applicants with a master’s degree in accounting, or a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting, also will have an advantage in the job market.

Proficiency in accounting and auditing computer software, or expertise in specialized areas such as international business, specific industries, or current legislation, also may be helpful in landing certain accounting and auditing jobs. In addition, employers increasingly seek applicants with strong interpersonal and communication skills. Because many accountants work on teams with others from different backgrounds, they must be able to communicate accounting and financial information clearly and concisely. As always, competition will remain keen for the most prestigious jobs in major accounting and business firms.

As a result of accounting scandals at several large corporate companies, Congress passed legislation (Sarbanes-Oxley Act) in an effort to curb corporate accounting fraud. This legislation requires public companies to maintain well-functioning internal controls to ensure the accuracy and reliability of their financial reporting. It also holds the company’s chief executive personally responsible for falsely reporting financial information. These changes have led to increased scrutiny of company finances and accounting procedures and have created opportunities for accountants and auditors, particularly CPAs, to audit financial records more thoroughly.In order to ensure that finances comply with the law before public accountants conduct audits, management accountants and internal auditors increasingly are needed to discover and eliminate fraud. Also, in an effort to make government agencies more efficient and accountable, demand for government accountants should increase.

The changing role of accountants and auditors also will spur job growth. In response to market demand, these financial specialists will offer more financial management and consulting services as they take on a greater advisory role and develop more-sophisticated and flexible accounting systems. By focusing on analyzing operations, rather than simply providing financial data, accountants will help to boost demand for their services. Also, internal auditors will increasingly be needed to discover and eliminate waste and fraud.

Earnings

Accounting majors typically enjoy some of the highest starting salaries for students with bachelors degrees. According to a 2008 salary survey conducted by Robert Half International, a staffing services firm specializing in accounting and finance, new accounting grads were offered between $47,500-$57,500 at large public accounting firms. Salaries were lower at non- or smaller public accounting firms. Salaries were higher for those with masters degrees.

You can see the survey at the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) website.