The number of students enrolled in undergraduate- and graduate-level accounting programs reached a record high during the 2013-14 academic year, a new report shows.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) reported more than 253,000 students enrolled in accounting programs at all levels, up 5% from 2011-12. Enrollment in master’s degree programs was up the sharpest at 19%, compared with a 3% increase for bachelor’s degree enrollments.
The report, titled 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, concluded that growth in the accounting profession is expected to continue. Nearly every university that responded to the survey said enrollments in their bachelor’s programs are likely to maintain a similar pace or better within two years; 70% reported similar projections for their master’s programs.
The outlook also is encouraging for graduates seeking jobs as accountants and auditors in charge of preparing and examining financial records. Hiring of accounting graduates was up 7% percent in 2014, with master’s degree hires seeing the largest growth, at 11% since 2012.
Nine out of 10 accounting firms said they expect to recruit at the same level or higher in 2015, according to the August report.
“This indicates that job prospects for current enrollees in accounting programs as well as recent graduates remains extremely bright,” the AICPA said in a press release.
While enrollment and hiring numbers are up over previous years, the overall number of students earning diplomas in accounting held steady in 2014: master’s degrees awarded rose by 31%; bachelor’s degrees fell by 11% percent.
Women represented 46% of bachelor’s grads in accounting, 51% of master’s graduates and 36% of doctorates awarded.
In order to fill the gap left by the retirement of baby boomers from the profession, the AICPA said it is considering various initiatives to boost the number of accounting grads who are pursuing a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.
The report’s findings coincide with projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that show the number of accounting and auditing jobs nationwide will grow by 13% between 2012 and 2022. That’s slightly more than the anticipated growth rate of all occupations and equates to nearly 167,000 new jobs created during that decade.
As of May 2014, accountants and auditors earned an average of $73,670 a year, the bureau reports.
Starting salaries for accounting and finance professionals will rise an average of 4.7% in 2016, according to a September survey by the global staffing firm Robert Half.