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Financial Crisis Spurs CPA Job Seeking

What's your advice for the next President?

October 16, 2008
by Rick Telberg/On Careers

The crisis in financial markets and heightened uncertainty in the economy may be prompting some tax and accounting professionals to accelerate their plans to jump to new and better jobs.

The number of CPAs who say they'd consider looking for a new job has jumped seven points, to 44 percent in September from 37 percent in August.

"I know there are many jobs out there for accountants, especially at the level that I am at," says a CPA at a mid-sized business. She feels lucky to be young, skilled and in demand as a senior accountant. "I am part of the shortage era and the number of people at my skill level is limited."

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Meanwhile, the percentage of CPAs reporting that their offices are planning to increase headcount in the next few months dropped in September to 29 percent, down eight percentage points from August.

At the same time that some CPA job-seekers are redoubling their efforts, overall job-seeker confidence has been dropping. From August to September, the ratio of "confident" CPAs to "less-than-confident" CPAs shifted from dead even in August to decidedly "less-than-confident" in September.

But no wonder. As CPAs no doubt recall, September began with the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts, followed by Lehman's bankruptcy and the takeover of AIG, a dramatic government rescue effort and snowballing signs of global recession.

To Russell Abernathy, a CPA in corporate finance, the business and economic outlook has suddenly turned "very negative" in the last few weeks.

"The financial markets appear to be on the verge of collapse at worst and very shaky at best," said Abernathy, giving voice to many CPAs' opinions. "There is obviously more bad news to come and it is just a matter of time before the next big crisis."

"That said," Abernathy added, "I think that we will get through this and that things will return to normal in the next 12 to 18 months."

Indeed, even in California, where the state government was having trouble getting credit to make payroll, a state auditing employee remained relatively optimistic about careers in accounting. "I believe accounting and finance positions are some of the more secure positions in this declining economy," she told us.

CPAs are adjusting their expectations. "Mary" (not her real name) is facing cutbacks at her job, but still, she's confident she can find new and better work — eventually. "The economy is unstable right now," Mary says, "which will affect the length of time it takes for me to progress to the next level in my career."

"It sounds scary so I keep my head down and work hard where I am today," according to a mid-level staffer at a large company. He's expecting staff reductions in the coming months but remains fairly confident about his own job.

"The business environment is worrisome, but I also feel that CPA jobs are, and will be, in demand in the upcoming year," says another CPA, a sole practitioner with 30 years of experience.

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COMMENTS: Rants, raves, questions or ideas? Contact Rick Telberg.

Copyright © 2008 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. First published by the AICPA.