Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Green Eyeshades Are Now 'In'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Why Green Eyeshades Are Now 'In'

Article excerpt

Tracy Baisa of Chicago isn't out to save the world. She aspires to get married, have children, and make a decent living at a stable job with plenty of flex time. For all those reasons, and because she's good at math, she became an accountant.

Little did she know when she began training, however, that a world fed up with corporate scandals might one day look to the likes of her for brave rules enforcement on the front lines of business. Since the 2001 collapse of Enron, the formerly sleepy world of accounting has become a place to get noticed - and maybe make a memorable mark.

"You definitely feel like you do need to be a little bit more on the ball," says Miss Baisa, a University of Texas graduate student with two job offers from PricewaterhouseCoopers. "I know with my old [accounting] job, I would go there on a couple hours of sleep, not a big deal. But I would never ever do that now. There's just a lot more at stake getting involved in this job now."

All that pressure to get every number right isn't scaring folks away. On the contrary, accounting has become a magnet for job- seeking students. Enrollments in accounting programs climbed 17 percent between 2000 and 2003, according to the latest report from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Before that period, enrollments had seen a steady decline since 1994.

The job market hasn't disappointed. New federal requirements helped create 49,000 new accounting jobs between March 2004 and 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And pay for entry- level jobs climbed more than 10 percent from 2004 to 2005, as the inexperienced now command as much as $47,000 per year at large firms, according to a survey by Robert Half International.

With accountants both in demand and in the news, the profession is getting a makeover in more than image alone. Those once regarded as bean counters in green eyeshades are becoming corporate leaders in areas of compliance and business planning, according to John Rieger, director of accounting at the Association for Financial Professionals in Bethesda, Md.

That means accountants are being called upon to muster qualities, from assertiveness to gregariousness, that don't always come naturally. …

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