Accountants Are Running for the Exits

'WSJ' looks at the exodus, and the decline in students opting to go into the profession
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 1, 2023 7:31 AM CST
Accountants Are Running for the Exits
   (Getty Images / Torsten Asmus)

Numbers are their thing, and the numbers don't look great: The Wall Street Journal reports that in the last two years, more than 300,000 accountants and auditors have left their jobs. That's a 17% drop, and the departures weren't just due to retirements, with the 25- to 34-year-old and 45- to 54-year-old demographics seeing an elevated number of exits. And the influx of new accountants is on the decline as well, with a nearly 10% drop in students who graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting in 2020 versus 2012. As the US head of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP's puts it, "I don’t know who we’re not competing with, quite honestly."

He's referring to everything from banks to tech companies to consulting groups, which all typically offer more money out of the gate. As Joe Schroeder of Indiana University’s Kelly School of Business told Fast Company in February, accountants' pay hasn't budged much in 20 years. "If you go into investment banking or medicine, the financial ROI is worth the long hours. It’s not worth it in accounting. A junior accountant could be making $80,000 a year. A bank teller could be at $55,000 a year, but they’re not on call, working 70 or 80 hours a week." Those long work weeks, which spike from January to April, are another factor, and the Verge in January noted that the pandemic caused many accountants' workloads to balloon even more as clients sought help with obtaining PPP loans.

Then there's getting one's certified public accountant license, something that requires 150 credit hours; the requirements for a bachelor's degree are 120 credit hours, meaning students can be forced to take a pricey fifth year of classes to get there. PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has started recruiting college sophomores, is trying a pilot program in New Jersey that sees students get those 30 needed credits while working at the firm; that work is paid, and the company covers the tuition costs as well. (Read more accounting stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.