January 12, 2024

Brain Drain

Brain Drain

A recent study found that the pipeline of future accountants at universities is dangerously low and that more than 73% of accounting students need outside financial support to earn a license as a Certified Public Accountant. The data was collected by the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, but it looked at accountants nationwide.

Even worse, the number of students who graduated with an accounting degree at the end of the 2021-2022 academic year was down 7.4%, part of a six-year trend of fewer people entering the profession, according to other data from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

For those of us who are passionate about careers in accounting, it may be hard to understand why university students don’t share our enthusiasm. Accounting is a career that’s built around solving challenging problems and helping interesting people achieve their business and financial goals, which in my experience, never gets boring. What’s not to like, other than perhaps the frequent deadlines?

However, it’s incumbent on all of us to step back from our laptops and make sure that more college students are aware of all the possibilities our field has to offer. Many don’t understand how much the field is evolving and all the opportunities it offers those who want to be on the cutting edge of change.

That is why, when Marcum reaches out to future accountants through our many recruiting efforts around the country, we present ourselves as more than a professional services firm. Accounting has morphed into a tech field—we even have our own proprietary AI tool at Marcum, as I’ve shared in a previous column—and that trend will only accelerate.

At the same time, accounting puts us on the cutting edge of another trend. Accounting has always been a people business, and, in an age when many interactions in our daily lives have become automated, we are leaning into the soft skills where people will always outperform technology.

Whether we sit down with clients to handle sensitive matters like succession planning, divorce, or selling a company, these are never just transactions. They’re complex situations where clients have a lot at stake, not just financially but emotionally. Serving these clients isn’t just about preparing a spreadsheet. It’s about listening, not just to what the clients say but also to what they struggle to articulate. Only when we can truly hear the people we serve can we do our best work for them. We work closely with all of our team members to help them develop not just their skills as financial professionals but also as trusted advisors.

It ultimately rests on the accounting firms to help solve the industry’s talent shortage, and Marcum is doing its part, with compensation being a key factor. We offer competitive pay for new hires and have increased pay scales across all professional levels. In addition, our perks, flexible schedules, bonuses, and excellent benefits make this field much more appealing. We also support all our associates in their CPA path, cover the costs for their first-time sitting for the big exam, and even offer bonuses for those who pass. By realigning compensation and focusing on growing talent, we are positioning the accounting profession as a rewarding and lucrative career choice, at least here at Marcum.

This Firm can’t singlehandedly solve the brain drain in our field, but we’re doing all we can to make sure we are spreading the word about what a great career accounting can be. Looking back at the past few decades with 20-20 hindsight, there are a few things I would have done differently, but I have never once second-guessed my decision to study accounting. This field has served me and countless clients at Marcum very well. I intend to do all I can personally to make sure that future generations of students have a chance to enjoy it as much as we have.

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. It is an important reminder of all of the work that remains to be done to achieve Dr. King’s vision of social and economic equality for all. His legacy underlines the power of coming together to make the world a better place, a goal just as relevant now as it was during his lifetime.