Why So Many Accountants Are Quitting
Even some accounting majors don’t want accounting jobs
More than 300,000 U.S. accountants and auditors have left their jobs in the past two years, a 17% decline, and the dwindling number of college students coming into the field can’t fill the gap.
The exodus is driven by deeper workplace shifts than baby-boomer retirements. Young professionals in the 25- to 34-year-old range and midcareer professionals between the ages of 45 and 54 also departed in high numbers starting in 2019, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recruiters who have been luring experienced accountants into new roles say they are often moving into jobs in finance and technology.
对于这种外流现象，与其说是“婴儿潮”一代逐渐步入退休年龄所致，不如说是深刻职场变革的结果。根据美国劳工统计局（Bureau of Labor Statistics），从2019年开始，年龄在25-34岁的年轻职业人士以及45-54岁、处于职业生涯中期的从业者，他们的离职率同样居高不下。过去一段时间，招聘人员经常会游说经验丰富的会计师尝试新的领域，他们说，这些人往往会选择金融与科技行业。
The huge gap between companies that need accountants and trained professionals has led to salary bumps and more temporary workers joining the sector. Still, neither development will fix the fundamental talent pipeline problem: Many college students don’t want to work in accounting. Even those who majored in it.
Jordan Pixley put his attention to detail and love of numbers into his Clemson University accounting classes. But in internships, he felt bogged down by the repetitive tasks of accounting – such as balancing cash sheets – and the work proved less interesting than the college class he enjoyed most – data analysis.
乔丹·皮克斯利（Jordan Pixley）把他对细节的关注和对数字的热爱融入到了克莱姆森大学（Clemson University）的会计课课堂上。可实习期间，一些重复性的会计工作，例如调平现金流量表，却让他有一种不得志的感觉，而且事实证明，这份工作没有他最喜欢的大学课程——数据分析——那么有趣。
The 22-year-old accounting major attended a KPMG LLP recruiting event in Orlando, Fla., but ultimately chose not to apply. He graduated last week without a job lined up and is exploring opportunities with the U.S. military. Accounting’s grueling hours – 70- and 80-hour weeks are common at the biggest public firms before tax and audit deadlines – were part of the turnoff, he said.
“I was a little scared of it, not going to lie,” Mr. Pixley said. “I don’t know if I want to do all that.”
KPMG said it is considering ways to reduce overtime hours and workloads during busy seasons. While salaries vary by market and position, most entry-level workers across audit, tax and advisory services at KPMG in 2023 will earn salaries that are 5% to 15% higher than those who graduated and joined in 2022, the firm said. One entry-level tax associate job based in New York City, which requires firms to disclose pay, has a posted range of between $71,000 and $82,000.
In the past 12 months, most KPMG employees have received three successive pay increases, a company spokeswoman said. Chief Executive Paul Knopp spent several days this fall on college campuses, including the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois, pitching the company and meeting with students. He said the profession hasn’t done enough to help students understand the career options in accounting.
一位毕马威发言人说，过去12个月间，该公司大多数员工都连续获得了三次加薪。刚刚过去的这个秋天，毕马威首席执行官保罗·诺普（Paul Knopp）有几天时间来到得克萨斯大学奥斯汀分校（University of Texas at Austin）、伊利诺伊大学（University of Illinois）等大学校园，为公司进行宣传并与学生见面。他说，会计业界在帮助学生了解本行业职业选择的问题上，做得还不够。
“The accounting degree is an incredible, powerful tool to help you succeed longer term in the business world,” he said.
It isn’t an easy sell, said Steven Kachelmeier, who leads UT-Austin’s accounting department. As the number of accounting majors has dropped, the bidding war to recruit students has intensified.
Firms promise higher salaries after a few years on staff, Prof. Kachelmeier said, but “when you’re 19 years old, you don’t think about 10 years from now or even five years from now. You think about right now.”
Students want to make more money up front than many accounting firms are paying – and they are finding it in other industries, according to professors. The expanded opportunities have come during a decadelong economic boom that has created new roles in sectors from banking to tech. Top students straight out of college can make significantly more going to work for consulting outfits and banks, rival fields that are drawing quantitatively minded students, according to recruiters.
“I don’t know who we’re not competing with, quite honestly,” said Rod Adams, who leads PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP’s hiring in the U.S. and Mexico.
“说实话，我不知道还有哪些行业不是我们的竞争对手。”普华永道（PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP）美国及墨西哥招聘业务负责人罗德·亚当斯（Rod Adams）说。
The firm, which needs to recruit 4,200 entry-level associates for fall 2023, has prospects in its hiring pipeline as early as their sophomore years. Students do an internship after their sophomore year, and many of those interns are funneled into a second internship after their junior year, Mr. Adams said. Many go on to receive full-time offers.
One significant barrier to entry remains for many newly minted accounting graduates. To earn a certified public accountant license, a professional needs 150 credit hours, or 30 college credits beyond the typical 120-hour bachelor’s degree requirement. The 10 extra classes can add up to a fifth year of college, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars in additional tuition and fees.
PwC has joined with Saint Peter’s University, based in Jersey City, N.J., so that some students can get the 30 extra college credits by working at the firm. The company is paying tuition and paying the students for the year of work. Company leadership hopes the pilot project that allows work for credit will result in more young professionals sticking with accounting and becoming full-fledged CPAs.
普华永道已与新泽西州泽西城（Jersey City）的圣彼得大学（Saint Peter’s University）建立合作，如此一来，一些学生便可以通过在该公司工作来获得额外的30个大学学分。普华永道会替学生出学费，学生在普华永道工作期间，该公司也会支付报酬。公司领导层希望，“以工作换学分”的试点项目可以让更多的年轻从业者留在会计行业，继而成为合格的CPA。
The number of U.S. students who completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting declined nearly 9% to about 52,500 in 2020, down from almost 57,500 in 2012, according to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. The slump has continued over the past two years, according to the group, though it hasn’t published final numbers for 2021 and 2022. Fewer students are also sitting for the four-part examination to become a CPA.
据国际注册专业会计师协会（Association of International Certified Professional Accountants），2020年，完成会计学学士学位的美国学生减少了近9%，降至约52,500人，相比之下，2012年这一数字接近57,500人。该协会表示，过去两年间，跌势仍在延续，但它尚未公布2021和2022年的最终数据。此外，参加CPA四门考试的学生也越来越少。
While some mathematically inclined students are drawn to accounting, the field still suffers from a stigma that it is uncool, with tedious work and daunting hours, said Keith Wolf, managing director at the Houston-based recruiting firm Murray Resources. Companies are sending young professionals into high-school classrooms to try to change that perception, and an industry group has drawn millions of views with a TikTok campaign to show the field in a fresh light.
总部位于休斯顿的招聘公司Murray Resources的董事总经理基斯·沃尔夫（Keith Wolf）说，尽管一些喜欢数学的学生被会计学吸引，但该行业仍被一种污名所累，即这行不够酷，工作枯燥，上班时间又长。眼下，企业正让年轻的职业人士走进高中课堂，试图改变人们的这种印象；一个行业组织还在TikTok上发起活动，以一种全新的方式展示会计行业，并吸引了数百万人次观看。
Accounting is a reliable path to stable, steady work, Mr. Wolf said, but there are easier ways to enter the business world.
“There’s so many options,” he said. “Why pursue a much more difficult path?”