CPA Job Market Trends

Anyone planning to start their career as a CPA should probably take a moment to read the AICPA study of CPA hiring trends.

One of the startling trends was the steep rise in the number of accounting degrees and the number of Masters degrees that have been awarded since bottoming out in 2004.  Students are required to complete 150 semester hours of education and that is often cited as the reason for the steep rise. This trend is actually somewhat disappointing as it correlates with the strong growth of student loans. In other words, it is highly likely that CPA’s are taking on more and more debt in order to fill the educational requirement.

Furthermore, the rise in the supply of CPA candidates may curtail wage growth for the profession. Fortunately, demand appears to be stable and there will most likely be some growth in the profession due to Obamacare.

There has been a steep increase in the total demand for CPA’s since the Great Recession. In fact one could say that the CPA profession has been one of the brighter spots of job creation since 2008. Along with software development and healthcare, accounting been a growth engine over the last six years.  Total demand is expected to exceed 40,000 new CPA’s which is almost double the demand from a decade ago. 

In terms of hiring it appears that accounting firms are showing a strong preference for CPA’s with a Master’s degree. A decade ago about 70% of CPA’s hired by accounting firms simply had a Bachelors degree. Now that number has plummetted to 40%. Basically, a Masters degree is the new Bachelors degree.

In terms of area of specialty it appears that Auditing continues to be the overwhelming favorite with 51% of employment at CPA firms in that area. Taxation is a distant second at only 23%.