Demand for accountants drives firms to recruit youth

minute read

Last Updated May 22, 2024


The number of young college graduates choosing to become accountants is shrinking. As demand for accountants shows no signs of abating, that’s a problem for firms and to the future of accounting broadly.  

Signs of the decline are everywhere. The number of students who completed a bachelor’s degree in accounting has been in freefall for a decade and continues to drop. In an AICPA survey, firm owners consistently identified “developing the next generation of firm leadership” as one of their biggest challenges.   

The drop in the number of young accountants is happening against a backdrop of burned-out veterans leaving the profession in large numbers. Veterans are abandoning accounting, and young workers aren’t replacing them. Firms have no choice but to adapt their strategies and practices to recruit young accounting professionals.  

Recruiting accountants becomes more difficult as field of young professionals shrinks

Demand for accountants starts with a decline in young recruits.

The job accountants do is a lot harder than it used to be, due in part to pandemic-era legislation that created a raft of new programs. Firms have had to meet the needs of clients desperate to resolve tax issues that didn’t previously exist. 

Many firms have also taken the wise step of expanding their service offerings beyond audits and preparation of tax returns. However, they haven’t adapted their processes and strategies to accommodate their expansion and the new complexity of tax preparation. This translates into asking overwhelmed employees to take on even more responsibilities…and this leads to burnout and adds to an already surging demand for accountants. 

Combine those factors with the issue of accounting salaries remaining relatively stagnant in recent years, and young professionals have developed a bad impression of careers in accounting. Large accounting firms have responded by increasing salaries for younger workers. Smaller firms don’t always have that option. 

Firms can improve the job outlook for accountants among recent college graduates

Your firm needs to do more than just update its recruiting process to attract young workers. You need to rethink your practices. Start with these:  

Move your business applications into the cloud

Enabling young workers—and all workers—to work together securely and easily in the cloud reduces the overall number of hours worked by eliminating problems with version control and doing away with outdated communication methods.  

It also helps eliminate errors, which is not a trivial issue. Fixing errors in client books was one of the biggest stressors identified by accountants in a recent CPAPA survey. For instance, 85% of participants reported having to re-open the books in at least one month during the last year to fix errors.    

Practice Smart Client Management

For firm leaders, Smart Client Management is an entirely new way of thinking. One example: Stop taking on so many tax-season clients. If you keep heaping work on employees during tax season, they’ll quit, and young accountants won’t join your firm. You need to diversify your services and become a year-round firm, not just a firm that crunches during tax season.  

Plus, some clients will inevitably be more of a drain on resources than they’re worth. They’re the clients that could turn younger workers away from accounting. This requires firms to be intentional about their client base overall. It may be time to terminate non-ideal clients and recruit those that fit a year-round services business model. 

Clearly communicate your firm’s strategy to young staffers

A recent Thomson Reuters survey indicated that young accountants seek fair and respectful treatment more than just about any other incentive for staying in a job.  

Your firm needs to communicate with them clearly and consistently. Explain how adopting the cloud helps them get more done in less time and boosts work-life balance. Introduce them to Smart Client Management. Educate staffers on how it works and makes their jobs easier and more fulfilling.  

Accounting jobs for young practitioners will sustain the accounting profession

With demand for accountants a continuing challenge, large accounting firms can offer salaries and benefits that smaller firms likely can’t match. But you can offer something more valuable: a work experience young employees will embrace.  

Work to become a firm that’s known for eliminating long-standing “bad habits” like endless tax seasons. When you embrace the cloud and proven approaches like Smart Client Management, you gain a competitive advantage and can attract the best talent…and keep them.

Ready to ensure that your firm thrives into the next generation? Get started now.

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