It was once thought that technology and the automation of tasks would be the solver of staffing shortages in the accounting profession. Unfortunately, not only is the technology implementation rate taking longer than expected, but the hard truth is that CPAs are still needed to assess specific intake data, follow the rules, review and input numbers and guide clients. The human component of what CPAs do cannot be replaced in its entirety…well, at least not yet. And, because of a concern about artificial intelligence (AI) some students who would otherwise become accounting majors are shifting gears and seeking out engineering and technology roles, which, by the way, are rich in diversity. Understanding this shift leads to a new way of thinking about who we can hire.
In breaking down some of the basic skills necessary for entry-level accounting roles and beyond, it’s a given that two highly sought-after skills are math and analytics. If that’s the case, then it would be fair to state that consideration should be given to the following majors: mathematics, statistics, economics, computer science, engineering, physics and actuarial science. These degrees have similar entry-level basics as that of an accounting curriculum and may, in some cases, be more directly suited for candidate roles that companies are desperate to fill.
Most accounting firms and departments require a degree plus experience after year one. With that said, existing employees are responsible for teaching them the job responsibilities they will have in their particular organization. Would it be fair to say that many of the “accounting” majors you hire, and then teach, end up leaving your company before they become a CPA or on average between two to four years later? If you agree, why wouldn’t you try an alternative to one of the areas lavishly under-represented in these careers, such as academic upbringing? The firm that realizes that engineering graduates are also insanely great at project management might, in fact, provide audit jobs completely on time.
To be radical, but not off-base, the “come up” of accounting in our firms should require three components of transformation:
- Learn the basics of the job. The employee goes through a series of learning; they learn how to do the job, how to use the technology, the culture of the organization and the ropes.
- Become the teacher. If they stay long enough, then they become the teacher and guide the next layer of new hires along the same path they came.
- Transition to proud employee. Finally, the destination we hope many new employees reach is being proud employees (wearing the logo on their shirt and LinkedIn profile). At this stage, they’ve become subject matter experts or recognized in the area of specialization they’ve chosen, and they can easily sell the organization’s services to clients.
However, most traditional accounting and accounting ancillary degreed individuals likely do not make it up the ranks — more than half of accounting majors, if told that they will grow up to “teach” and “sell,” would choose a different path. With this in mind, psychology, marketing, human resources, entrepreneurship and business and technology degrees also offer huge opportunities for highly sought-after abilities that are often missing in the top tiers of companies. Those individuals make for wonderful candidates who, given the right training (same as accounting degrees), may be the missing link to the growth and expansion of your company.