With the state of the economy and the stubbornly high unemployment rate, recent college graduates are facing a difficult time finding jobs. Many are unemployed or underemployed after settling for part-time work. According to a recent Rutgers University study, only 51 percent of those who have graduated college since 2006 have a full-time job – and eleven percent of them are unemployed. The numbers are worse for those who have graduated since 2009. More than half of those graduates spent more than 12 months searching for employment after graduation before finally landing even a part-time job. They are three times more likely not to have a full-time job than graduates from the classes of 2006, 2007 and 2008.
The lack of employment prospects has other repercussions, the largest of which is depressed wages. Due to an oversupply of workers, starting wages tend to be lower. Other graduates may take jobs that they are overqualified for, sacrificing the possibility of finding a job with higher wages for the relief of just having a job. The same Rutgers study found that over 40 percent of employed recent graduates have jobs that don’t require a college degree. Unfortunately, depressed starting wages have long term affects. By starting at a low wage, graduates might work for years before gaining enough yearly raises to equal the starting wage they should have initially received.
Opportunities in Accounting
The field of accounting is a bright spot on the employment horizon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook (published August 31, 2012), accounting jobs are expected to grow by approximately 16 percent over the next eight to ten years, which is roughly equivalent to 190,000 new jobs. According to the same BLS study, the median annual wage of accountants was $61,690 as of May 2010. As of 2011, salary statistics for accountants who went on to become CPAs, were even more impressive. The vast majority of accountants work full time and increased work demands are common during tax time and at year-end.
With the expected growth in jobs, the accounting field can provide great opportunities for recent and upcoming graduates as well as career changers and those who are simply undecided on a career. Those with advanced degrees and credentials, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential, often have the best prospects.
Benefits of Being an Accountant or CPA
One of the main benefits of working in the accounting field is that accounting skills and experience are always needed, regardless of the state of the economy. In addition, for those who thrive on challenges, accountants work in an ever-changing business environment. Changes to company operations as well as changes in applicable laws and regulations mean that accountants have grown accustomed to changes.
Also, accountants are often faced with financial puzzles and must piece together how a business operates, mitigates risks, and makes money in order to complete accounting functions and make recommendations. Fully understanding how a business operates is an invaluable and highly transferrable skill, which is helpful if the accountant moves to a different firm, industry, or line of work.
For those who enjoy variety and don’t want to “job hop” in order to gain exposure to different industries, accounting can be a perfect fit. Virtually every industry in the public and private sectors requires some accounting functions. Accountants can work directly for companies in specific industries or they can work for an accounting firm with a variety of clients.
Not all accountants perform the same type of work either. There are various specialties that accountants can pursue, such as forensic accounting, financial crime investigation and bankruptcy, and contract dispute resolution. These accountants often work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.
A Career in Accounting Offers Growth and Variety
A career in accounting provides many career paths and has many benefits, especially for recent graduates who are facing a tough job market. It’s a growing field that commands competitive wages and provides exposure to a variety of situations and industries. It also builds an excellent foundation in business practices, tax issues, and financial issues, which can benefit an accountant both professionally and personally.
Grant Webb is a writer and learning facilitator with Bisk CPA Review. Grant enjoys writing on best practices for accounting career development, best practices for becoming a CPA, and top career choices for new CPAs.
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