The Modern CPA Profession for Accounting Students and Recent Graduates
It wasn’t too long ago that students considered their math ability as a factor in determining if accounting was a possible career path. Historically, choosing to be an accountant had been perceived by many to be similar to choosing to be a mathematician, however the two couldn’t be more different.
Accountants were once defined as number crunchers due to their use of paper ledgers, sharpened pencils, calculators and 13-column green paper. The accounting profession, however, has changed significantly over the short span of 10 years due to technology integration. This integration has helped the progressive CPA firms that embraced this change to attract those recent graduates who will perpetuate the profession by revolutionizing the way firms do business.
The traditional four-by-four workstation and 9-to-5 work day has been transforming to a cloud-based workspace and flexible hours. For progressive firms, the transition to almost entirely work-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic was a little easier. The remote-work environment highlighted the importance of, and sometimes inadequate resources dedicated to, IT and communications.
Today’s college graduates have a wider range of career options as they enter the modern accounting profession. In addition to the traditional tax and audit career paths, the profession now offers opportunities in areas such as consulting, information technology and communications.
The business world is producing data faster than it has the ability to interpret and analyze. The accounting profession is evolving to help business with this challenge. Modern accounting firms are shifting from producing historical financial statements sometimes two months after a period end to the interpretation of data generated yesterday. Technological advances and integration provide instant financials, and business owners are looking to their accounting professionals to provide insight on this data.
Historical cost financial statements present challenges because they do not provide information on current value. Many businesses instead are asking for fair-value financial statements. The modern CPA profession is providing a career path for consultants who will be able to provide valuable information to business owners as they manage growth in a data-driven society.
Accounting Information System Specialist
Technology has played a large role in revolutionizing the accounting profession. Many routine and manually intensive tasks have been automated. Accounting firms have been able to work smarter with a smaller work force and an effectively implemented accounting information system (AIS). The modern CPA profession is providing a career path for AIS specialists who can assist with the design and implementation of data management systems. Accountants with a background in information technology have an advantage over traditional accountants or consultants in that the accountant who is an AIS specialist understands accounting compliance concerns important to the accounting firm and is able to help organizations in managing information for secure and accurate financial reporting.
CPA firms recognize that many families and businesses need assistance managing their financial houses. These advisory services can extend to bill paying and maintenance of a household general ledger. The accessibility of QuickBooks online and its ease of use can be a feeder service to a firm’s tax compliance practice. These advisory professionals can be an important resource in a firm’s new business development by identifying needs that can be fulfilled by other departments in the organization.
The accounting profession has drastically changed and will continue to adapt in order to compete in a technology-driven world. This is an exciting time for recent graduates and students who are considering an accounting degree. Young professionals can look forward to increased client interaction, consulting engagements and technology opportunities that didn’t exist in audit and tax compliance accounting firms in the not-so-distant past.
This article appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.