The shortage of quality young talent in accounting, a lurking issue that every industry is dealing with, continues to have a significant impact on the ability of organizations to scale growth.
As technology provides new opportunities for businesses to grow, many organizations are put in a position where their finance and accounting teams are pressed to keep up, continuing the loop of unhappy and burnt-out finance employees and accountant turnover.
For those in line to become accountants now, their needs and expectations may differ from those who pursued the career years ago. According to new data from EY’s Accounting Professional of the Future survey, more than three-quarters (79%) of aspiring accountants believed studying accounting would benefit their long-term careers.
Why Pursue Accounting
As the traditional demands of accounting work don’t fit into the work-life balance desired by many young employees, the positive impact that accounting professionals can bring to the business and the marketplace they operate is inspiring them to enter the profession, the EY data showed.
While nearly half (46%) of students credited the lifestyle benefits an accountant’s compensation can provide, the other half were split on their motivations outside of a lifestyle opportunity.
A quarter (25%) said they enjoy using numbers and data to find solutions, alongside 23% who said they are looking forward to contributing to society. Just over a fifth (21%) said they are motivated by the ability to impact organizational sustainability.
A Generational Disconnect
With the desire to be impactful in their roles, data shows a potential disconnect between the desires of young accountants and what executives are focused on to attract that talent.
According to the EY data, accounting students are interested in community engagement, positive environmental and social governance (ESG) impacts, and diverse team and work environments. However, a majority of executives are not using these selling points to attract potential employees to an accounting and finance career.
Artificial intelligence, an area CFOs and their teams have been highly focused on this year, is a topic executives and accounting students have mixed feelings about. Students seem to be more realistic about AI’s impact. Only 19% of students said AI would enable professionals to focus their efforts on judgment and higher-level thinking, compared with 39% of finance leaders.
New Pathways to the CPA
On top of an increasing focus on promoting accounting to people of all backgrounds, some students and business leaders believe new pathways should be created to encourage people to enter the field.
Although the survey didn’t provide details on what these pathways may be, more than half (58%) of students said they believe an expansion of options for earning their CPA would be beneficial to them and their peers. Finance leaders tended to agree. Nearly nine in 10 (87%) supported new pathways toward a CPA.
Survey data by EY was compiled with 500 accounting and science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM) students and 500 senior executives between June 22 and July 5, 2023.