Tight Job Market Can Mean Increased Workloads for Accountants

Demand for accountants continues to exceed supply in 2006, and while employers are offering higher salaries and more benefits in an effort to keep their employees, low staffing levels are creating high pressure and resulting in even longer hours for many accountants, Times Argus reports. Finance professionals who feel overworked rose from 42 percent in 2004, to 53 percent this year, according to a survey from CareerBuilder.


Turnover in the accounting industry will likely reach 30 percent this year, the CareerBuilder study says, five percent higher than normal.

“If companies are not careful, this cycle can feed itself,” Jennifer Sullivan, a CareerBuilder spokesperson said, according to Times Argus. “A few employees leave a company, but the job market is so tight the company can’t find immediate replacements, so it asks more of its remaining employees. That, in turn, convinces more employees to leave, which increases the workload more, and so on.”

Flexible hours and telecommuting are the two benefits accountants are looking for after health care, Sullivan says. “Finance does not require that much face-to-face contact. . . . People will work more if they get some choice in when they work and they spend less time commuting.”

A broad national survey by Hudson, the national recruiting firm, found that among all workers nationwide, most would select a flexible work schedule (33 percent) or family benefits that included parental leaves and personal days (22 percent) over other nonconventional benefits like supplemental insurance or job training, shrm.org reports.

The current shortage of accountants results from the low number of students who majored in accounting from the late nineties to 2002, a trend that has reversed itself. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), 40,420 students graduated with degrees in accounting in 2004, up from 35,000 in 2002. A dramatic increase has occurred at Ohio State, where 236 students graduated with degrees in accounting in the 2004-2005 academic year, compared to 147 in 2000, Columbus Business First reports.

Bea Sanders, AICPA vice president for academic and career development, said, according to Business First, that students were attracted to the technology boom in the late 1990’s but “once the dot-com bubble burst and the economy got tighter, the things that turned them away from accounting brought them back.”

A major factor in the increased demand for accountants was the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. “It caused companies to hire more auditors to make sure they were complying with the law, it required accounting firms to add employees to make sure their own internal systems were in compliance, and it increased people’s appreciation for being able to read financial statements, so it created more work for users of those statements,” said Richard Dietrich, chairman of the department of accounting and management information systems at Ohio State, according to Columbus Business First.

The high level of turnover in accounting can also occur at the management level, providing greater opportunity for some long-term employees to move up, the Times Argus report says, but companies also risk losing employees who are looking for stability.

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