More than 300,000 accountants and auditors in the United States have left their jobs in the last two years, a 17% decrease, and the dwindling number of college students entering the field cannot fill the void.
The exodus is being driven by more profound workplace shifts than by baby-boomer retirements. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, young professionals aged 25 to 34, as well as midcareer professionals aged 45 to 54, left in large numbers beginning in 2019. According to recruiters, experienced accountants are frequently moving into jobs in finance and technology.
The large gap between companies in need of accountants and trained professionals has resulted in salary increases and an increase in the number of temporary workers entering the sector. Nonetheless, neither development will address the fundamental talent pipeline issue: Many college students are not interested in working in accounting. Even those with a degree in it.
Jordan Pixley applied his attention to detail and love of numbers to his accounting classes at Clemson University. However, in internships, he found himself bogged down by the repetitive tasks of accounting, such as balancing cash sheets, and the work was less interesting than the college class he enjoyed the most, data analysis.
According to professors, students want to make more money up front than many accounting firms do, and they are finding it in other industries. The new opportunities have arisen as a result of a decade-long economic boom that has created new jobs in industries ranging from banking to technology. According to recruiters, top students fresh out of college can earn significantly more working for consulting firms and banks, two rival fields that attract quantitatively minded students.
The firm, which needs to hire 4,200 entry-level associates for the fall of 2023, has candidates in its pipeline as early as their sophomore year. After their sophomore year, students do an internship, and many of those interns are funneled into a second internship after their junior year, according to Mr. Adams. Many of them go on to get full-time jobs.
While some mathematically inclined students are drawn to accounting, the field still has a stigma of being uncool, with tedious work and long hours, according to Keith Wolf, managing director of the Houston-based recruiting firm Murray Resources. Companies are sending young professionals into high school classrooms to try to change that perception, and an industry group has garnered millions of views with a TikTok campaign to highlight the field in a new light.
Accounting is a reliable path to stable, steady work, according to Mr. Wolf, but there are other ways to break into the business world.
“There are so many options,” he exclaimed. “Why take the more difficult path?”