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Demand high for accounting grads, but program cuts shorten supply

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May 17, 2011

The future is looking bright for accounting graduates, according to the American Institute of CPAs’ new report, in which 90 percent of accounting firms forecast the same or increased hiring of graduates this year compared with 2010 and 71 percent of the largest firms predict more hiring.

Released today, the 2011 “Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits” report tabulates record numbers of accounting students and graduates and reveals a potential challenge in that demand for new talent could eventually outpace supply.

“Opportunities in the accounting profession continue to expand as the needs of firms and businesses grow ever more complex and global,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president for students, academics and membership, in a statement. “As the U.S. and global economies recover, and as seasoned professionals begin to retire in unprecedented numbers, it’s even more important to guard against a talent shortage. Employers increasingly want graduates with advanced degrees at the same time colleges, facing budget and other constraints, are restricted in their capacity to train all the students who want to join our profession.”

During the 2009-10 academic year, 226,108 students were enrolled in undergraduate or graduate accounting programs—6 percent more than in 2001-08, the last time the AICPA conducted the survey. A record 68,639 students graduated with accounting degrees in 2010. Almost 4 in 10 graduates hired last year by CPA firms have master’s degrees, compared with 26 percent in 2008.

According to the report, more accounting programs are rejecting qualified applicants because they don’t have the capacity to accept them, likely due to budget cuts and a shortage of professors as they reach retirement.

“The AICPA is diligently focused on this potential challenge, leading efforts like www.startheregoplaces.com and www.thiswaytocpa.com to guide students into the profession and supporting and administering programs like Accounting Doctoral Scholars, which addresses the need for more PhDs in the classroom,” Patton continued. “We are committed to ensuring the accounting profession continues robust growth for years to come.”

Most respondents completed the survey online between September 2010 and January 2011, though a paper option was also available. The full report can be accessed here.

 

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