According to NASBA (National Association of State Boards of Accountancy), there are 669,130 actively licensed CPAs in the US as of the August 24, 2021. The BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) reports that they anticipate a growth of 4% from 2019 to 2029, which amounts to 61,700 jobs. Furthermore, the BLS predicts about 125,700 job openings for accountants and auditors each year. So, overall, the future of the CPA profession is looking promising.
While demand for entry-level accountants is high, there is strong competition for jobs in more prestigious accounting firms. For this reason, having a CPA is highly beneficial. Now and in the foreseeable future, having your CPA will give you the best prospects in the working world.
On one hand, many of these new jobs in the accounting and auditing sectors are expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the labour force (to retire) or transfer to different occupations. However, there are also unique reasons for a promising future of the CPA profession.
The BLS reports four main reasons for growth in the accounting sector of the economy:
1. Health of the Overall Economy
Generally, the employment growth of accountants and auditors is closely tied to the health of the economy. This is because of this simple fact: as the economy grows we see more businesses being developed. All these businesses will need professionals to prepare and examine financial records. Similarly during periods of economic decline, there is a decrease in jobs and overall job loss. For instance, during the first year of the COVID pandemic, the NYSSCPA found that 3% of there members had been furloughed, another 6% had lost their jobs, and 11% had experienced reduced work hours or transitioned from full-time to part-time.
2. More IPOs
IPO stands for Initial Public Offering, which is the process by which a private company can go public by selling its stocks to the general public. As more and more companies are starting to go public, there is a greater need for CPAs to handle the legally required financial documentation.
With many states not requiring citizenship or resident requirements, more and more international accountants and accountancy students are interested in acquiring a US CPA. There are many international companies that hire staff oversees, and this has also become a lot more feasible since so many more Prometric testing sites were opened globally in response to the pandemic. Furthermore, the continued globalization of business may lead to increased demand for accounting expertise and services related to international trade and international mergers and acquisitions. Doing business overseas means complying with multiple tax codes. There are issues related to M&A and trade. It could also cost employers far less to higher an internationally based CPA than one based in the US, depending on the country.
This last point is a rather contentious one. As we know, technological change is expected to affect the role of people in a variety of sectors. In many cases, the advancement of technology is seen as a threat to workers whose roles could be replaced by computers. While some routine accounting tasks may become automated as artificial intelligence (AI), minibots and machine learning becomes more widespread, this is not expected to reduce the overall demand for CPAs. Instead, it is estimated that the automation of routine tasks (like data entry) will make accounting professionals more efficient and place more emphasis on the advisory and analytical duties of CPAs. In fact, today, most businesses and firms have already embraced many automated accounting processes. For example: supplier onboarding, procurement, purchasing, accounts payable, auditing, expense management, close processing, and customer queries.
Will CPAs be replaced by Robots?
The short answer is no. But it is true that intelligent technology will shape the future of accounting by impacting the types of services needed and the nature of jobs available. Ultimately, computers are capable of reducing manual data entry and improving the speed, accuracy, accessibility, and quality of data. What computers can’t do is apply this information to the real world, nor offer clients critical advice. As our computers handle the more repetitive work, accountants will need to lean into their analytical role. In this technological landscape, CPA’s must become the vital connection between data and clients.
The key to success in a tech-driven world is embracing the technological developments bound to impact the accounting profession. It is also about understanding the unique skills of both people and machines, and learning how they can work together. If properly integrated, this technology has the potential to make your job as an accountant a whole lot easier.
Tech to Get Used to
As technology becomes more advanced, it is ever more essential that CPAs (or accountants working towards their license) become familiar with the latest technological trends. This is a must if you want to stay competitive in the working world.
Working in the Cloud
Before you start thinking about AI or Blockchain, it is a good idea to get used to working in the Cloud. The main appeal of the Cloud is the ‘anytime, anywhere’ component, with reference to how easily you can access your data. Another significant advantage of a cloud-based system is shareability and connectivity, meaning that accountants and clients can both access real-time data and financial reports. This is great for clients who can make operational decisions based on the most current accounting information.
It is already a fact that the automation of accounting processes is well underway. As a CPA this is actually to your advantage. After all, computers are best at the most labour and time intensive parts of the job. With less time spent crunching numbers, accountants will have more energy to focus on communicating with their clients and helping them to grow their businesses. This makes it even more important that prospective CPA’s hone their analytical, managerial, and communication skills. A great way to do this is by getting a well-rounded education even before you write the CPA exam.
Blockchain is a computer-based open-sourced type of distributed ledger where data is stored in a block on the blockchain. When a block is encrypted, it can no longer be altered. To accomplish this, it uses an advanced type of data encryption and authentication process involving many computers to vastly improve the secure transmission and storage of data. You can also think of it as a chain of records stored in blocks, designed to ensure transparency, security, and decentralization of data. Some blockchains, such as the Bitcoin blockchain, release cryptocurrency as a reward to the computer that has completed the encryption.
For accountants, blockchains offer the possibility of “a new type of accounting ledger – one that can be continuously updated and verified without the threat of being altered or corrupted”, Accounting Today explains. Greater security and transparency also comes with greater speed. Transactions happen faster, and processes like auditing, compliance, and reconciliation are more accurate.
As cryptocurrencies are becoming more and more popular, there is a greater need for services that cater to these sorts of decentralized currencies. The Big Four accounting firms have already begun the research and implementation of blockchain in their processes. CPAs and accounting professionals who become familiar with blockchain processes and the relevant software programs will have a huge advantage in the industry – especially when it comes to consulting future-facing clients.
Never Stop Learning!
Technology is advancing exponentially and changes to the accounting profession are inevitable. The best way to future-proof your career is by embracing technological developments and continuing to advance your skills. CpaCredits offer a number of CPA online courses that can help you improve your IT and computer applications knowledge, for example: Electronic Spreadsheet Applications and Accounting Software Solutions – Small Businesses. Enrolling for these courses is a great way to advance your accounting-related computer skills while gathering the 150 credits necessary to qualify for the CPA examination.