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Accounting Grad Hiring, Enrollment Declines

August 14th, 2019

Accounting grad hiring

"Increased demand for technology skills is shifting the accounting firm hiring model," says the CEO of the AICPA. "This is leading to more non-accounting graduates being hired, particularly in the audit function."

The organization released its annual Trends Report yesterday. It shows an 11% decline in the hiring of new accounting graduates, while firms have increased their hiring of non-accountants by the same percentage. Some of the increase in non-accountants is due to changes in the survey, "but even without new categories there was still a significant increase."

As more and more accounting firms turn to technology, and especially automation processes, to make work more efficient, the profession is being transformed. Consultation and business advisory services are growing in importance.

Noting this trend, the AICPA said in a statement announcing the report, that accounting firms "are seeking employees with data science and data analytics skills. They are largely filling those needs with non-accounting graduates, though there is anecdotal evidence from firms to suggest that some of this technology-specific hiring is occurring at the experienced hire level."

Barry Melancon, CEO and president of AICPA and CEO of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountant, reinforced that message, saying, "It is incumbent upon the profession to ensure accounting graduates and newly licensed CPAs have these skills and expertise needed to support the evolution of the audit.”

The Trends Report also found accounting enrollment in the nation's colleges declined from its high point in the 2014-2015 school year. Last year, 242,000 students were enrolled in all accounting programs from bachelor's to PhD. That's a decline of about 11,250 student from the 2014-2015 enrollment, most of it due to fewer bachelor's program students.

Hiring, however, is not expected to change much next year. The report found that among the firms that hired accounting graduates in 2018, 58% expect to hire the same number or more this year.

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