Finding and keeping qualified employees is the top concern of most accounting firms, an indication that the profession is back in a growth mode after years of recession, according to a new survey by the American Institute of CPAs.
The biennial CPA Firm Top Issues Survey, published in June 2015, also revealed other industry issues. Smaller firms, for example, are most focused on keeping pace with complex changes in tax law or governmental regulations. The largest firms, those with more than 21 accounting professionals, are wrestling with owner and partner accountability issues.
Other concerns across firm sizes included “Seasonality/Workload Compression” and “Succession Planning.”
Between 2012 and 2022, accounting and auditing jobs nationwide are projected to grow by 13%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That compares to an 11% average growth rate for all occupations during the same decade.
The BLS says that employment growth in accounting and auditing is expected to be closely tied to the health of the overall economy. More of these professionals will be needed to prepare and examine financial records as the economic outlook brightens.
Candidates with professional designations such as certified public accountant (CPA) “should have the best prospects,” the federal agency predicts. Job applicants with a master’s degree in accounting or a master’s in business with a concentration in accounting could also have an advantage.
The BLS also notes that “continued globalization of business” should lead to more demand for accounting expertise and services related to international trade, mergers and acquisitions.
As of May 2014, the nearly 1.2 million accountants and auditors in the United States had an average annual salary of $73,670, according to federal data.
A 2015 report by the California-based staffing firm Robert Half found that average starting salaries for accountants and auditors nationwide represented increases of about 3% to 4% over the previous year.
Salary is “one of the most important factors” in recruiting and retaining top employees, Max Messmer, chairman of Robert Half, wrote in his company’s 2015 Salary Guide.
The guide also found that the “hiring environment continues to improve” for accounting and finance professionals. That’s driven, in part, by regulatory mandates requiring new skill sets and the gradual but steady wave of baby boomer retirements.