Job Hunting

Silver Lining? Global Woes Boost Accounting Profession

The economy may be down but the profile of accountants has risen, says a new survey.
Sarah JohnsonDecember 10, 2008

In the aftermath of this year’s worldwide financial woes, accountants are gaining an ever-higher demand and respect for their services, according to a recent survey.

They will be expected to focus more of their attention on compliance and risk issues, says a report published this week by the International Federation of Accountants. Public accountants have already been fielding calls involving questions that have arisen during the credit crisis; in particular, there have been many queries about fair-value accounting, IFAC reports. Their job skills are also being tested with increasing demands for business restructuring help and more questions about insolvency issues.

In some sense, the findings reflect that if there’s any upside to from the economic downturn, it could be found in the future of the accounting profession. “The credit crisis is resulting in increased awareness of the value of professional accountants and the services they provide,” says IFAC chief executive Ian Bell. “It’s now up the profession to continue to meet the expectations of those that depend on our work.”

While accountants may have more job security than other careers, though, they will have their work cut out for them next year. The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board recently warned that accountants will have to increase their skepticism at the end of 2008 and into 2009 as they review companies’ financial statements that were prepared during times of internal and external pressures.

Outside of auditing, accountants will likely be more involved in corporate recovery and insolvency issues, risk management, internal controls, compliance, IFAC’s survey of 130 of its members found. The respondents said accountants should pay particular attention next year on meeting small businesses’ needs; identifying and preventing fraud; and dealing with regulatory changes.

While the group acknowledges the lack of accounting bodies to meet demand, they believe more people are interested in joining the profession. Two-thirds of the survey respondents say students wanting to becoming accountants has increased compared to five years ago.