Accounting Careers Witness Decline Amidst Stagnant Salaries

An alarming decline is evident in the accounting profession as stagnant pay discourages younger generations from pursuing it. Meanwhile, other fields present more lucrative opportunities.

Quick Facts

  • Stagnant Salaries: Despite rising salaries in finance, marketing, logistics, and consulting, the median pay for young accountants has not seen significant growth in recent years.
  • Enrollment Drop: Notable universities, including Florida Atlantic University and the University of Maryland, reported a double-digit decline in enrollment for accounting programs.
  • Profession Exodus: Over 300,000 accountants exited the profession between 2019 and 2022, intensifying the accountant shortage.

Historically, a career in accounting was a coveted pathway to the upper-middle-class realm for countless Americans. The promise of job security, coupled with decent pay, drew many to the profession. However, the contemporary scenario paints a starkly different picture. While fields like finance, marketing, logistics, and consulting have seen a surge in the salaries offered to young professionals, accounting remains stagnant.

The implications of this disparity extend beyond individual career trajectories. Major academic institutions such as the University of Maryland and Florida Atlantic University have borne witness to this trend. Their enrollment rates in accounting programs have plummeted, with some reporting double-digit percentage declines. This dwindling interest in accounting is exacerbating an already pressing shortage in the industry. The weight of this shortage isn’t just borne by companies but also by the existing accountants, whose workloads have significantly increased.

The professional landscape’s shift is palpable, with the younger generation recalculating their professional choices. Students who might have previously leaned towards accounting are now gravitating towards more lucrative fields. Incentivized predominantly by potential pay, the allure of accounting dims in comparison to its counterparts. For instance, Tomer Downing, a finance major from the University of Houston, highlighted that the combination of an additional year in college for a CPA license and the lackluster pay dissuaded him from opting for accounting.

For Further Reading
Median Salary Analysis: A deep dive into the median salaries of various professions showcases a widening gap, with fields such as finance and marketing surging ahead while accounting lags. An inflation-adjusted analysis by the Wall Street Journal using Census Bureau data revealed that the pay for young accountants has remained relatively unchanged, making it less appealing for budding professionals. [Wikipedia Source]


Why are fewer students enrolling in accounting programs at universities?

One of the primary reasons is the stagnation in salaries for young accountants, making other fields more financially attractive. The increasing workload due to a shortage of accountants and the extra year of college for a CPA license also deter students.

How are existing accountants affected by this trend?

The declining number of new accountants entering the profession has led to increased workloads for those already in the field. Many are also leaving the profession in search of better opportunities.

What measures are institutions taking to make accounting more appealing?

Universities are attempting to integrate contemporary topics like blockchain and cryptocurrency into the curriculum to renew interest. Firms are also reconsidering pay structures to attract young talent.

Source: “Why No One’s Going Into Accounting” – WSJ