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CPA Firms Shift Their Hiring Trends

Posted by Kat Oliver on Sep 30, 2019 9:00:00 AM

In ICS insights, Accounting and Finance, client

As technology continues to advance, hiring practices at accounting firms have been changing as well. Previously, Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms relied strongly on college graduates with accounting degrees to fill positions. But in recent years, the trend has moved to on-boarding new hires without an accounting degree.

Latest Industry Report

According to the newest report from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA), non-accounting graduates hired in accounting firms reached 31% in 2018—an increase of 11 percentage points from 2016.

What's causing this shift? It's the increased technology demands in the current economy. Firms have started to prefer graduates with technical skills like data analytics rather than those who highly specialize in accounting alone.

Status of Accounting Studies

Colleges still reported more undergrads selecting accounting as their major course of study. The number of enrollees was at its highest in 2015-2016, but the last year's number is the second-highest in history. In 2017-2018, Over 200,000 undergraduates named accounting as their major.

However, students enrolled in master's programs were down by 6% from 2015-2016. This only reflects that after undergraduate studies, more talents are choosing to enter the workplace rather than seeking an advanced degree.

Candidates who took the CPA exam in 2017-2018 decreased by 7% compared to 2015-2016, while those who passed the exam has dropped by 6%. The exam had a new version in 2017, which could be a cause of the drop in candidates earning their license.

Growth in Audit-Related Jobs

Compared to 2016, there's a four percentage point increase in accounting graduates taking on audit-related work. However, despite the rise in audit jobs, the accounting and finance functions of CPA firms have hired fewer accounting graduates by 11% since 2016.

These CPA firms are looking more into new approaches to auditing.  They want graduates who specialize in data science and analytics to help them incorporate technology into their functions. Hence, they get inclined to hire applicants who are skilled in technology, even if they don't have an accounting background.

Changing Hiring Trends

For CPAs to continue fulfilling their vital role in the public interest sector, they'll need technology, especially in the auditing side of their profession. Accounting graduates and newly licensed CPAs must be equipped with the skills they need to perform tasks alongside technology. Their professional evolution is key to shift the trends in the current hiring model of CPA firms.

A project called "CPA Evolution" is an AICPA initiative that helps CPAs meet the changing demands of the industry. It supports CPAs in honing more competencies, so they can continue to support the public better.

A Line-Up of New Initiatives

Aside from CPA Evolution, organizations and stakeholders of the accounting profession have also been working on different approaches to keep the industry healthy for the next generation of accountants. Some of these include:

  • CPA Exam practice analysis looking at technology's impact on the industry and the crucial competencies for newly licensed CPAs
  • Programs to encourage CPAs to earn doctorate degrees and teach
  • High school teachers training to teach an advanced level or college-level accounting

Other initiatives that are being explored are scholarships and programs for students from all backgrounds to engage and find meaning in the accounting career.

Finding the Right Hire

Employers who are looking to fill accounting positions can turn to Infinity Consulting Solutions (ICS). We can support you in finding top candidates with accounting degrees, technology degrees, and a mix of both. Begin your search today by clicking the link below!

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