CPAs Confident about Their Careers: They're in Demand and despite the Hours, Pay and Satisfaction for Most Are Higher Than Ever

By Berkowitz, Hank | Journal of Accountancy, May 2005 | Go to article overview

CPAs Confident about Their Careers: They're in Demand and despite the Hours, Pay and Satisfaction for Most Are Higher Than Ever


Berkowitz, Hank, Journal of Accountancy


In the midst of a surge of demand for the talents only CPAs can offer, AICPA members are finding fresh professional challenges, ever-greater career achievements and new opportunities to balance work/life priorities.

More than at perhaps any time in the past two years, they appear confident about their choice of careers and chances for further advancement.

"Thanks to a combination of events, including the effectiveness of the AICPA-sponsored student recruitment efforts, we are seeing meaningful growth in enrollment in university-level accounting programs" remarked Robert L. Bunting, 2004-2005 AICPA chairman. Accounting program enrollment is up 17 percent from 2000 and graduation rates in accounting are up 11 percent.

"The surge could not come at a better time," added Bunting, "since there will be a huge need for talent as the leading edge of the 'boomer' generation begins to retire and as the resource needs of the profession grow in the post-Sarbanes-Oxley environment."

In the AICPA Custom Publishing Career Outlook Study for 2005, CPAs emerge as ardently committed to their choice of profession as ever. Three in five CPAs overall say they are "excited" about going to work, even during busy season.

Excited to go to work? "Yes!" says a resounding number of AICPA members.

* "Yes. Even at 76 years of age," says the managing partner of a small firm in Independence, Mo.

* "Evenings, too," says a consultant in Mountain Lakes, N.J.

* "I am stimulated by working with people, analyzing challenges and communicating solutions to clients," according to a managing partner in Renton, Wash.

* "I enjoy what I am doing and enjoy helping others, which is the way I look at my work," adds a partner in Basking Ridge, N.J.

More than two-thirds of CPAs call their job prospects "excellent" or "very good." This represents a marked uptick from the 2003 study when less than half of CPAs were so confident.

The key to the new career landscape appears to be tied to the changing business and regulatory environment. To be sure, the economy is running relatively strongly, but perhaps more specifically, new financial reporting requirements are pulling in the slack of the CPA job market. No wonder then, that CPAs say "having the right skills and training" are now the No. 1 factor for success today.

And it's showing up in CPA paychecks, as well. Today 37 percent of AICPA members are happily expecting larger raises than they received last year. And, maybe just as important, CPAs are getting a new respect. Seven in 10 say their employers make them feel rewarded in ways that go beyond compensation and benefits.

Median pay is nearly $80,000 a year and nearly 30 percent earn over $100,000 annually--an encouraging sign for the profession since nearly three-fourths of survey respondents describe themselves in mid-management or staff level positions.

About 31 percent of CPAs are expecting raises of five or six percent and another 16 percent are forecasting raises of seven percent or more. A significant 37 expect they'll get more than their colleagues.

Accounting hiring managers, however, are grappling with the other side of the coin. Where job-seekers are finding a sellers' market, employers are being forced to accede to the realities of the marketplace.

For instance, the robust job market has encouraged about three in 10 CPAs actively to consider a job change. And most CPAs feel the effects of a so-called "generation gap" in the profession that, if not carefully understood and managed by employers, can undermine cooperation and dedication among co-workers.

Still, two thirds of accounting professionals feel that their managers do encourage loyalty through appreciation. And more than half of all CPAs are satisfactorily balancing the competing demands of work and family in this ever-more-hectic world.

And CPAs are sleeping soundly in their confidence. …

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