November 10, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Western Carolina University
Saint Xavier University
University of San Diego
New Jersey City University
California State University - Fullerton
New Jersey City University
University of Missouri - St Louis
Tennessee State University
University of Michigan Dearborn
Seminole State College of Florida
Cleveland State University
School of Business and Management | Azusa Pacific University
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
University of Missouri - St. Louis
Saint Louis University
UC Santa Cruz
Western Carolina University
College of BusinessWebsite
Dr. N.Leroy Kauffman Ph.D.: One colossal trend in the current job market and students entering the job market is working remotely. Remote work has impacted all of us in one way or another, but our students feel the impact of remote/virtual work.
If they are still taking classes, they likely have small/virtual levels, and if they are already in the workforce, they are most likely working remotely. This has also impacted the recruiting and hiring processes. Traditional networking events did not happen this fall and are doubtful in the spring. The student needs to learn how to network and interview virtually, using a variety of platforms. Working independently, without constant supervision and feedback, is a skill that is highly valued in the current work environment.
Dr. N.Leroy Kauffman Ph.D.: I don't think it is as much of an issue of new technologies to learn but learning how to use better and combine the existing technologies. Business Analytics is gaining much momentum these days, and our students are learning how to do new things with and better utilize known technologies. There are some new platforms and technologies, but much is learning how to better the existing tools to "talk" to one another.
Dr. N.Leroy Kauffman Ph.D.: I don't foresee a reduction in demand for accounting graduates over the next five years. We are finding that the tools and skillsets that employers want are changing a bit. Employers are no longer looking for entry-level data employees. They are looking for graduates who know the basics well, know basic software applications, and can contribute "right out of the gate." The changes being experienced in the profession, with a significant shift to working remotely, have created several new challenges for accounting, particularly auditing, is done.
Direct observation becomes more challenging, and the nature of some business transactions is changing. More recently, in some cases, the pandemic has raised business continuity and has challenged the extended-standing models used to assess growing concern considerations. CPA firms are being required to use more professional judgment and evaluation of form and substance of transactions.
Saint Xavier University
Department of Accounting and FinanceWebsite
Indranil Ghosh Ph.D.: For Finance and Financial Services jobs, the most significant trends seem to be working offsite using Zoom, Teams, Hangouts, and other forms of video conferencing. Also, the overall job market in the U.S. for Finance and Financial Services (including Finance/Investment, Wealth and Estate Management, Insurance Services, Real Estate Finance, and Financial Planning) saw an increase in the unemployment rate (BLS data) from about 2.2% in this sector in March 2020 to a peak of 5.7% in May and has been dropping down to 4.4% in the latest September data. This is relative to the overall unemployment rate peak of 14.7% in April, 13.3% in May, and the current September data of 7.9%. The Chicago metro area unemployment and job loss rates for the Finance industry track about 2% higher than the national average.
Indranil Ghosh Ph.D.: Knowledge of video conferencing, the ability to provide services efficiently offsite, as well as specific Financial Service industry hardware and software experience, will be the key to thriving in this industry shortly.
Indranil Ghosh Ph.D.: I would expect the Finance industry to slowly get back to the 2% average unemployment rate that we saw at the beginning of this year (2020); however, I expect the growth to come slowly over the next couple of years; of course absence of any other external adverse shocks.
University of San Diego
Alyson Ma Ph.D.: Learn all that you can from your work experience. Network within and outside of your company to learn more about potential opportunities and find a mentor(s). Don't be afraid to ask questions if you do not know the answer. Go out of your comfort zone and take on responsibilities that may help you to acquire new skills. Keep your resume and LinkedIn account updated. Create a running list of the projects you worked on, skills gained from those projects, and save your job description(s).
Alyson Ma Ph.D.: Analytics will continue to be a dominant tool in the field, particularly machine learning, given the abundance of big data. Keep up-to-date with how analytics is used in your industry, not necessarily the actual programming but the broader application. However, it would be helpful to brush up on programming languages such as R, Python, and SQL. Being a data visualization guru would undoubtedly be a plus.
Alyson Ma Ph.D.: Economics is a combination of critical thinking, problem-solving, and quantitatively analyzing relationships using data. Students studying Economics are trained to interpret the big picture and present complex information about how an economy functions. Given the analytical and quantitative skills, it is not surprising that Economics majors earn higher than average starting salaries. The preliminary 2020 data shows an average salary of $63k for Economics and Business Economics Majors at USD.
Coupled with work experience, students trained in Economics also outpace their peers to advance in their careers. According to Monster.com, a major in Economics ranks third on the fast track to $100K. Additionally, the Wall Street Journal shows that Economics has the highest Mid-Career 90th Percentile Salary for those with a bachelor's degree at $210,000.
A cautionary note is that Economics is not for everyone. Students who gravitate toward Economics tend to be fascinated by the world around them. They are the analytical type and appreciate the logical beauty of math. If you asked many 'why' questions when you were little, then Economics might be for you.
New Jersey City University
Nava Cohen Ph.D.: With so many employees working from home, it's never been more important to be aware of the most in-demand skills for the future of work.
Data and analytics skills become increasingly valuable. Companies are looking for accounting and finance professionals with predictive model forecasting skills, advanced revenue analytics, cost optimization, SQL programming, real-time model development, and data visualization.
People with healthy analytical and critical thinking abilities to suggest innovative solutions and ideas and solve complex problems will be needed to navigate the human/machine division of labor. It's crucial for accounting students to learn technology skills to stay relevant and competitive in the job market today. Despite their education, many accounting graduates do not have the necessary technical skill sets. As firms are looking for people with data analysis and data analytics, they hire more non-accountants out of school.
With technology leading the way in the accounting industry, it's essential to keep your soft skills up to date. All workers will need to adapt as demand grows for work requiring socioemotional (initiative-taking, growth mindset), creative, and higher cognitive skills. According to a Deloitte's study, while we've recently seen strong attention on technical skills, two-thirds of jobs will be soft-skill intensive by 2030.
Creativity is the most in-demand soft skill of the future since technology is replacing many mundane, process-related jobs. But machines currently can't compete with humans on creativity. In this constantly changing work environment, developing a growth mindset - improving continually - is an important skill. Moreover, having strong interpersonal skills should never be underestimated. Whether it's communicating effectively with co-workers or working with clients, communication is essential to the future of work. People should improve their ability to share effectively with others, which means being able to say the right things, using the right tone of voice and body language. People with high emotional intelligence will also be in demand. As our world and workplaces become more diverse and open, young graduates must have the skills to understand, respect, and work with others, despite differences in race, culture, age, gender, sexual orientation, political or religious beliefs, etc. This ability to understand and adapt to others improves how people interact within the company and leads to a more inclusive and successful company. These soft critical skills could be the deciding factor in your success.
The future of work will be about skills. Interestingly, it will be about hard skills and a broader and more holistic mindset. Employers look for more than just task-oriented or technical skills. It is our job and opportunity to incorporate these soft skills and technical skills into the curriculum and classrooms, to lead students toward successful careers and increase diversity amongst our workforce.
Nava Cohen Ph.D.: Accounting jobs are actually in demand throughout the country. Experts predict the industry will grow significantly over the next five years, due in part to a widespread talent shortage. Accounting firms are excellent employers. The 'Big Four' accounting firms - Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, and KPMG - are always listed among the top 100 companies to work for in America and offer benefits such as high salary and opportunities for growth.
Although the accountant industry is concentrated in major cities (California, New York, and Texas) where the salaries are the highest, there are job opportunities in less populous parts.
In the past few years, there was an urban vs. rural employment gap in the accounting industry. The job market in rural areas appeared less attractive than in urban areas, mostly because many positions disappeared during the recession. The good news is that remote work, encouraged by companies during the pandemic, now has the potential to change this paradigm. Remote work helps bring in new employment opportunities to recent locations. Accounting professionals in rural areas can be employed in a small job, even if they are headquartered in a different state.
Nava Cohen Ph.D.: The accounting industry is undeniably evolving with the rise of technology. Cloud-based work, automation, big data, machine learning, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, robotics, and blockchain, to name a few, are changing the technological work environment and will likely have long-lasting impacts on the accounting profession.
Future accounting jobs will become available and require dedicated people who are ready to evolve alongside this change.
Although it may seem new, many companies are already using basic automated accounting processes. Audits, tax preparation, banking, and payroll are fully automatic facets of accounting. If you're scared of automation replacing your role, don't be! Technological systems will take on the time-consuming jobs, leaving the analytical tasks to people. Major software vendors, such as Intuit or Sage, offer automated data entry using AI and machine learning technologies in company bookkeeping. Another example is the utilization of robotic process automation (RPA) to reduce processing times for audits and contracts down to weeks instead of months.
Advances in technology are taking accounting to new levels. The future of the accounting profession is looking cloud-based. Companies will keep investing in cloud-based accounting and online client portals in the future. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this transition. The cloud allows instant access to data and allows the continual updating of information. Cloud computing is experiencing rapid growth as new intelligent technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, are integrated into the cloud. As more companies move their information to cloud-based systems, accountants need to become proficient in leveraging the cloud to offer clients up-to-date financial analysis and stay competitive. The future of the accounting profession is looking decidedly cloud-based.
Another trend impacting the future of accounting jobs is blockchain technology. Blockchain has gained popularity with bitcoin and has progressed significantly. The blockchain technology enables users to access ledgers in real-time, as well as record transactions. The accounting ledger can be continuously updated and verified without the threat of being altered or corrupted. Because of this, the blockchain has been very attractive for accounting professionals.
With the advances made in the technology sector, there is less focus on data entry tasks and more emphasis on accountants' strategic role in long-term planning. Accountants will expand beyond their traditional role to help clients drive their long-term business strategy, making sense of complex financial infrastructure. Companies can benefit by taking advice from their CPA when they're experiencing problems like the current pandemic.
I believe that the more we embed technology in accounting graduates' education, the more they will be prepared for the accounting profession's future. At NJCU, we incorporated data analytics into our Accounting curriculum two years ago.
California State University - Fullerton
Department of Accounting
Jeff Bogan: The skills required for young accounting and tax graduates are evolving. Young accounting professionals must be more skilled in working with various types of technologies and applications. Young graduates should have experiences working with data integration tools, such as Microsoft getting & Transform, Alteryx, data visualization tools, cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft Azure, and robotic processes automation applications such as UiPath and Blue Prism.
Over the last decade, we have seen global transparency initiatives such as OECD's BEPS initiative, complex tax law, and numerous complex accounting guidance. Also, the business has become much more complicated with global footprints and digital platforms. These changes now require accounting professionals to have the well-developed critical thinking, analytical and problem-solving skills. Accounting professionals must now also have a "continuous learning" mindset. Technology is changing rapidly, and accounting professionals will need to adapt and learn new technologies.
Jeff Bogan: Typically, there are opportunities in most locations; however, larger metropolitan areas including, but not limited to, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, San Jose have a lot of job opportunities for young accountants. However, it will be interesting to see how employers react to digital/virtual work environments and have employees in select geographies
Jeff Bogan: We should continue to see significant advancements with technology over the next five years - more powerful data integration, analytic, and visualization tools, as well as advances in machine learning and AI. We will see technology augmenting accounting professionals. These technologies will free up accounting professionals from performing low-value data manipulation tasks to spend more time on problem-solving, critical analysis, and planning.
New Jersey City University
Ling Yang Ph.D.: Yes, we have seen the effects of the pandemic on career development and the job market for our graduates. We believe it will last for a few years, and we need to prepare our graduates for the new challenges. The graduates should work on different strategies to meet the needs of the "new normal" in the virtual environment.
Ling Yang Ph.D.: We still believe all big cities will be good places for accounting graduates. For example, New York City is still one of the best places to find an accounting job.
Ling Yang Ph.D.: With advancements in technology and ongoing changes in the accounting profession, both CPA and CMA exams have emphasized the importance of internal control, technology, and analytics. Thus, it is important for students to possess strong foundational knowledge in data analysis and compliance.
University of Missouri - St Louis
Stephen Moehrle Ph.D.: This will depend upon the profession. The closer a graduate's work is to technology, the better the prospects in general. Clearly, the workplace has been evolving towards technology, and this evolution was simply sped up by the pandemic. In our profession, the CPA profession, we are finding evidence that CPA firms will maintain their hiring levels. Corporations vary. In general, they are reporting intentions to reduce hiring significantly. However, as eluded to above - job prospects for graduates with data skills and/or technology skills will fare much better through the tough market currently in place.
Stephen Moehrle Ph.D.: I think the geographic hiring prospects are less important than the skills-based hiring prospects. The hiring prospects are especially strong in the growth areas (e.g., texas) for the candidates with the data and tech-related skills.
Stephen Moehrle Ph.D.: The industrial revolution changed the nature of work in the post-civil war era. the personal computer again spawned huge changes in the nature of the workplace. A technology revolution is now underway, and it will change the nature of work every bit as significant as certainly the personal computer did and even possibly as significantly as the industrial revolution did. Young people are so comfortable with technology. They should be implored to be proactive in honing these skills. If they combine their technology comfort with data skills, they will be especially sought after.
Tennessee State University
Department of AccountingWebsite
Dr. Steve Shanklin: In a word, yes. Some students will be affected positively, while others will be impacted negatively by the experience. In spring, when the pandemic was first delivering a sudden jolt to the educational delivery norms, both faculty and students were scrambling just to adjust.
By the fall semester, the better students had joined the new reality to try and complete their educational goals and get on to the professional workplace to start their careers. They had come to grips with the still unknown changes that were to come. They had regained their focus and accepted that additional hardships were to be expected and endured.
Another group entered the fall with the same victimization attitude with which they left in May. Their verbiage centers on "how unfair this all is"; "...you can't expect us to perform well under these conditions"; and "how are faculty preparing to make up for my missed internship?" Adjustment and acceptance still have not been seen as their task. The attitudes that students exhibit now will determine which way their careers will be impacted, positively, or negatively.
Potential employers are impacted in their planning as well. They are picking up very quickly on the resilience shown by many of our students and the innovative ways that those same students can bring a "battle-hardened" attitude and resolve to entry-level career opportunities.
Dr. Steve Shanklin: The pandemic has changed and is further changing the established "workplace" concept by questioning the idea of "place" in recruiting better students. The locale is becoming a smaller piece of the equation with deliverables and professional accountability emerging as the values that have moved up in expectations for new hires. While urban areas have borne the brunt of the medical impact to firms/businesses, population density, once a social lure for new grads, may now be negative toward recruiting many.
The good workplace now, beyond the virus, maybe the workspace that has evolved in a virtually planned and emerging way. The work will still be there. The future "good workplaces" will be those that enjoy high degrees of technological infrastructure, wherever it may be. The nature of the work and social interaction adaptations will be challenging but still professionally rewarding.
Dr. Steve Shanklin: The virtual workspace will be largely shaped by various layers of technology. Interaction technology will the professional platform for performance moving forward. The technology that was so integral in undergraduate course skills and the tools that were expected to be used in the workplace will be undergoing great pressure because they were designed on a different level that included a different expectation of collaboration.
The concept of "working in groups" will be a series of new dynamics in the virtual workspace. The technology used to collaborate effectively will be quick to evolve, and new hires will be expected to begin skill enhancement with new platforms and media at an increasing rate of proficiency.
The move of technology-based accounting will increase with more speed, and the thinning line between theory and practice, as a professional, will be one of greater expected mastery. New methodologies learned by necessity in the current environment will be the drivers of greater efficiencies in the future of the profession.
University of Michigan Dearborn
Small Business ManagementWebsite
Claudia Kocher Ph.D.: Continue to hone your communication, networking, and problem-solving skills. Study how successful public firms are creating value and stay current on the news related to business and economics. Develop familiarity with certifications in your area of interest, and consider pursuing certifications that are a good fit with your career goals.
Claudia Kocher Ph.D.: Three tech areas new graduates should pay attention to are artificial intelligence, blockchain, and data analytics. Many employers offer/require ongoing training related to these and other technologies.
Claudia Kocher Ph.D.: The pandemic adds challenges to beginning a career in finance. Many finance majors and graduates will get a slower start than usual as internships are shortened or canceled, and some firms freeze hiring and lay off experienced workers. Graduates may end up taking jobs outside of their major fields to bring in regular income. However, finance is a high demand field, and the work can often be done remotely. For graduates who are flexible and persistent, I believe the long-term impact will be minimal.
Sheri Geddes: Starting a career is like the beginning of a long journey. The journey will give you time to learn more about yourself, while making new and lasting relationships. I would encourage graduates to focus on two things. First, try to develop a heart of leadership centered on serving people. Second, always try to remain receptive to new ideas and information, by encouraging others to speak freely, by creating an environment in which all input is valued.
Sheri Geddes: Virtual interviews are nothing new. For years companies have used phone interviews to filter candidate pools. However, as hybrid or Zoom interviews become more common, candidates will need to show the same professional attributes as face-to-face interviews. These professional attributes include joining the meeting on time, dressing appropriately, actively listening, and being polite and understanding, even if there are technical issues during the interview process.
Sheri Geddes: The pandemic will force graduates to quickly fill a leadership pipeline that must be adaptable, resilient, and dedicated to lifelong learning. Lifelong learning is dependent upon several creative habits, one of which is intellectual curiosity. I believe that intellectual curiosity will be a primary driver of success for long-term professional trajectory in a post coronavirus pandemic society.
Ken Johnston Ph.D.: With so much uncertainty in the economy currently, due to the coronavirus, graduates are going to have to be patient and flexible when it comes to beginning their careers. For many recent graduates, job start times have been delayed and may turn virtual as this pandemic plays out. Be reluctant to sign yearlong apartment rental agreements or include a coronavirus escape clause if your job is suspended. If your career starts virtually, move home and use those rental payment savings to start a Roth IRA. A Roth IRA is preferred as you are in a lower tax bracket when you begin your career, and given the size of the national debt, taxes are going to have to increase in the future. As Warren Buffet says, "Every decade or so, dark clouds will fill the economic skies, and they will briefly rain gold." If you can create investable cash, these are buying opportunities. Investable capital in these situations is like buckets to catch the rain.
Ken Johnston Ph.D.: Depending on what area of finance you plan on pursuing, there are many different professional designations you can get a significant jump start on. Some examples are: Certified Financial Planner (CFP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Fund Specialist (CFS), Certified Financial Modeling and Valuation Analyst (FMVA) and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU). It is all about increasing the value of your human capital in your field of choice. Use this time to your advantage.
Marty LaBarge: I tell students to trust their education. Completing a rigorous 150-credit-hour Accounting program has provided them with the knowledge and skills to do the job, even if the job environment is not what they anticipated. Building relationships takes extra effort when you're working from home but should still be a high priority.
Marty LaBarge: Data analytics and data visualization technologies and skills will become even more important and prevalent in the Accounting field over the next 3-5 years. Today's accountants are asked to help companies understand and analyze increasing amounts of data to navigate business decisions successfully.
Marty LaBarge: Yes. This year's Accounting graduates transitioned from face-to-face learning to online learning in a matter of days. Starting their careers remotely has required the ability to complete job objectives without the guidance of what's been done in the past. These graduates will be more adaptable in both their work settings and in their approach to creating solutions. I believe the pandemic will strengthen their ability to think critically, analyze, and problem-solve.
Seminole State College of Florida
Terri Walsh: Advice for a business student: Most students do not major in accounting if they are a business major, and many regret later not having done so, if they graduate without any internship/business experience. Besides, if the economy is not doing well and jobs are not plentiful (this is the case now with COVID 19), accounting is a very recession-proof degree, as you come out of college with skills, and aptitude work, and pay attention to detail, and problem solve.
I would also tell a business major that if they have an aptitude in accounting, that can be evaluated by their first basic accounting class, I would ask them to speak to the principal in it and keep persevering with an accounting degree. And would tell a business major to stay focused on graduating in accounting, NO MATTER how much work it is or how hard it is compared to the other business majors, because this degree gets you a JOB at the end of the degree and a career path that does not need to stay in accounting. If a student has a work ethic in studying and an aptitude in learning, this is the best business degree you can achieve because many degrees are general. At the same time, employers look, these days, for specific skill sets, and problem-solving, and critical thinking. Accounting degrees give you specific skill sets, AND problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. You should also take other classes to add value to your accounting degree, which many community/state colleges offer, like QuickBooks Accounting (learning a basic computerized accounting system), EXCEL, SQL, etc. I would also tell an accounting major to get involved in the accounting clubs/societies at their schools, and their communities, and nationally. Student Accounting Society (SAS) is a way to begin in Freshman and Sophomore years, and then there is the Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) for high-GPA accounting majors, and where the Big Four public accounting firms recruit from. In addition to that, there are the state CPA societies like, the Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants (FICPA), and the national CPA society: AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). As an accounting major, switched from Communications/Drama, to make sure I had a job at the end of my formal schooling, I joined the SAS, BAP, FICPA, and AICPA. Also, the National Association of Black Accountants is a great organization to expand a student's networking opportunities. Student membership in these organizations is free, and scholarships are available as well.
For graduates pursuing a career in accounting, my advice would differ if I advise while in school versus after they graduate. If they are still in school, and they are not sure what area of accounting to work in, I would suggest they choose the public accounting route first and, depending on their level of interest in global versus regional versus local, I would tell them to try to get into auditing and pursue their CPA license (they can start sitting for the exam after a bachelor's in accounting, in the state of Florida), so they can work with a variety of clients and see the differences in their accounting systems, their industries, their internal control systems, and their company culture. The auditing field allows a graduate beginning his/her career to see a plethora of pathways in accounting. Sometimes, depending on the graduate's interests, like in TAX, Internal control, corporate accounting, etc., they may want to jump into an organization's entry-level accounting job. Regardless of their start, a degree will not have given the accounting graduate all the skill sets in EXCEL/Spreadsheets required for the job. So I highly recommend taking refresher courses at a local community college or online, with places like Udemy.com, where they can find high-quality, on-demand, online training in these skills.
Terri Walsh: I think EXCEL is a must for all business graduates, especially for accounting graduates, but often they have not been exposed to much of it in their degree. Besides, with technology continually changing, a dual major in accounting and information technology will be sought after, so I recommend a bachelor's degree accounting major NOT pursue an MBA, but an information technology degree or programming data. The rise of Big Data and issues surrounding cybersecurity risks will require the accounting profession, and accounting roles, to rely more on students with strong computer skills and logic/analytical thinking. As mentioned before, they will need to master EXCEL, as spreadsheets are widely used in accounting and are the foundation for more advanced software. We are already seeing TABLEAU being used in accounting books, even in the foundational courses which have EXCEL already. There is powerful interrogation software, such as IDEA and ACL, which can pull data from multiple sources; and knowing these tools or their capabilities will be required in the future. Also, strong technological skills need to be communicated once data is retrieved, and this will require persuasive writing and verbal skills.
Terri Walsh: In your opinion, will there be an enduring impact of the coronavirus pandemic on graduates? For accounting majors, there will not be an enduring impact of the coronavirus on accounting graduates because there are not enough of them, and demand is still strong because accounting skills can propel one's career into operational roles, marketing roles, finance roles, etc. The hard work that goes into an accounting degree lends itself to significant payoffs in business roles because you can understand the language of business and how understanding financial and managerial accounting data helps bring value to an organization. I see plenty of business graduates underemployed and not employed; I see very few skilled accounting majors in this situation.
Cleveland State UniversityWebsite
Dr. Benjamin Hoffman Ph.D.: I think it's essential for accounting majors to make sure they have worked hard to acquire soft skills (writing, public speaking, etc.) to couple with the technical accounting skills they learned in college.
Dr. Benjamin Hoffman Ph.D.: Any technology related to the analysis of big data in a way that can provide financial statement users with key takeaways.
Dr. Benjamin Hoffman Ph.D.: I do not think there will be an enduring impact on accounting graduates. However, I think it has become more critical than ever to learn how to be professional remotely, specifically through electronic communication (emails, Zoom calls, etc.).
School of Business and Management | Azusa Pacific University
School of AccountingWebsite
John Thornton Ph.D.: The pandemic has shaken up everything, and even as things move back toward the familiar, it will be a new normal. As we've already seen, there have been winners and losers. Think online shopping v. brick and mortar. Or sit down restaurants v. home delivery platforms. Or online education v. face-to-face. By being forced to try new things, we unexpectedly find that some of them we like, and others can't wait to move past. In the field of accounting, everyone and every company still has money problems. So I expect there will be the same amount of business to go around. But we'll see fewer professionals moving back to the office. The two highest costs in professional service industries are labor, then rent. In the aftermath of Covid-19, firms will have more evidence to see what work from home was efficient, and what still needs to be done. I think the balance will permanently shift more toward the home office.
John Thornton Ph.D.: CPA firms and corporations are still hiring accounting professionals. The disruption will be temporary, and much of the work will bounce back. But the long-term trend of global outsourcing of professional services, including accounting, has been dramatically accelerated. More than ever, graduates need to focus on setting themselves above the competition through professional certifications, such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and the like. Graduates need to think beyond simple data collection and move to data analytics. Critical thinking skills, coupled with strong technical competencies, will win the day. One colossal growth area in accounting will be forensic and investigative accounting. With the increase in online everything, the protection of financial information will face ever-increasing pressures. Cybercrime is on the rise. So to demand innovative ways to stop fraud and white-collar crime. One impressive credential in this area is the Certified Forensic Accountant (CFE).
John Thornton Ph.D.: I expect a continued shift away from the office to the home office, reducing lease costs for professional firms and added flexibility for professionals. The change to globalization for professional services will continue-especially the transfer of necessary data entry in accounting. Professionals will need to bring more significant innovation, analysis, and critical thinking skills to the table to justify their added value. Big data is here to stay, and using it to gain competitive advantages for decision making will rule the day.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Department of AccountingWebsite
Dr. Kyleen Prewett PH.D.: The Arkansas Society of CPAs held the 17th annual Accounting Educators' Conference recently. In one of the breakout sessions, I asked my colleagues what skills they thought would be important for our current graduates to have, given the current work environment. We all agreed adaptability is key. Things aren't going to look exactly like they are presented in the textbook. They never do, but especially not now. Understanding accounting theory, so answers to new problems can be explored within the accounting conceptual framework, will be key.
I also think familiarity with online communication and collaboration tools is a must.
In their resumes and interviews, students should showcase any experience they have with tools like Zoom, Teams, Google Docs, Slack, etc. Also, their interviews are likely to be online, so when the appointment is scheduled, I think they should practice with whatever tool the potential employer is using. If it's Skype for Business, practice that. If it's WebEx, practice that, etc. so that they appear (and are) comfortable with the technology during the interview. If they are proficient (rather than familiar) with particular communication and collaborative software, they should list/discuss the features with which they are proficient. Be specific. There's a big difference between "I've participated in a Zoom meeting" and "I can host a meeting, administer registration, file sharing, in-meeting polls, run post-meeting reports, etc."
Furthermore, I think demonstrating knowledge about federal and state pandemic assistance programs and new employer requirements for things like employee paid sick leave, etc. would be a plus. If an applicant can converse about some of those things, they would demonstrate not only that knowledge, but the fact that they pay attention to business and current events.
Dr. Kyleen Prewett PH.D.: If full-time employment after graduation isn't an option, students should try to find an internship, part-time work, or volunteer somewhere, while studying for and taking the CPA exam, assuming they have their 150 hours. I also recommend keeping up with current events. Demonstrating knowledge about federal and state pandemic assistance programs and new employer requirements for things like employee paid sick leave, etc. would be a plus.
If an applicant can converse about some of those things, they would demonstrate not only that knowledge, but the fact that they pay attention to business and current events.
Dr. Kyleen Prewett PH.D.: Finally, more than ever, graduates will likely be working from home. Therefore, they will need self-discipline and organizational skills to simulate a work schedule and environment at home. They will also need to be able to demonstrate and document productivity, while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
In the past, online classes and degrees have been viewed by many as being somewhat inferior to face-to-face classes. I think that tide has turned. Now, the very skills that make someone successful in an online class will make them successful in the current, remote work environment. Showcasing what they have done in online classes will be a plus when applying and interviewing for jobs during and after the pandemic. I think employers who realize how much time and money is saved by working remotely will be reluctant to change that post-pandemic.
University of Missouri - St. LouisWebsite
Stephen Moehrle Ph.D.: It was a great time to be entering the accounting industry, before the pandemic. Our students were serving in internships in huge numbers and our graduates were enjoying 100% placement, usually with multiple offers. The entry-level professionals were entering a profession marked by emerging and evolving technologies that made even the entry-level duties especially interesting. Further, our tech-comfortable young professionals were experiencing quick advancement because of their ability to employ the new technologies.
Most of the above remains true so the only open question is job availability. It would be unrealistic to say things are great. However, it seems that job prospects for accounting majors will be better than for those of virtually every other entry-level profession during difficult times. I have been speaking with firm leaders across the spectrum of firms and most do intend to be on campus in the fall recruiting season. Of course, they have a lot of time to learn more about the economy over the next few months, but we are cautiously optimistic. Again, I am confident that whatever the state of job availability for young CPAs-to-be, prospects will be better for accounting graduates than virtually any other profession.
They will be entering the profession at a fascinating moment in time. Of course, the technological advances assure this regardless of economic conditions. However, there are business disruption-related issues that will provide rich opportunities for making a difference. For example, audit staff will be working with clients to see them through these troubling times. Lamentably, I fear that these young professionals will learn more about the going concern determination than they desire to know. Tax staff will help clients to optimally use the tax loss carrybacks and carryforwards that are arising by the day. Entry level professionals in corporate accounting will get a day-to-day front row seat in business management through crisis. While lamentable times, these are times when young professionals can make a difference that saves jobs.
Stephen Moehrle Ph.D.: In the spirit of continuing education I would recommend the following: First and foremost, successfully complete the cpa exam. This is a huge difference-maker in the marketplace. If the young professional has already accomplished that, I would consider developing expertise consistent with their long-term career goals. Potential areas of expertise include data analytics, information systems controls and security, taxation, SEC reporting, or management accounting. There are certificate programs in each of these skills at universities across the country. The internet is also replete with free or relatively inexpensive materials for self-starters.
Stephen Moehrle Ph.D.: I think the most enduring impact of the pandemic will be the tight job market that will likely result. I have said, the prospects for accounting majors will likely be brighter than for other majors, but for at least a few years - they will not be as bright as they were over the past few decades. Thus, I recommend that young professional distinguish themselves by gaining the CPA credential and demonstrating at least competency with the evolving technologies. One thing will not change though - the most important skills will always be positivity, passion, and perseverance.
Graduate School of ManagementWebsite
Hollis Skaife Ph.D.: We are fortunate that the vast majority of accounting firms are honoring their employment offers, so our Master's of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) students will have jobs upon graduation. But the start date for many has been delayed. In the past, MPAc graduates juggled starting their jobs and studying for the CPA exam. With the delayed start date, it makes sense that MPAc graduates will use the time to study and successfully complete the CPA exam, so when they do report to work they will be better prepared to focus on their clients.
Hollis Skaife Ph.D.: Be gracious, curious, and keep learning.
Saint Louis UniversityWebsite
Dr. John McGowan: One big difference will be the commitment of the student (new employee) to their new place of employment. In times past, Millennials had the reputation of jumping freely between jobs. As I talk to current CEOs, I hear how current employees have stepped up their productivity, for fear of being the next person to be laid off. It's become so hard to find and keep a job that employees are motivated to go the extra mile to hang on to their positions.
Dr. John McGowan: A gap year shouldn't just be a break from everything where a student sits around doing nothing. That won't set them up for future success. Instead there should be a purpose.
After high school, students sometimes get involved with service programs like Job Corps or Teach for America.
In light of the tough job market now, one idea is to try and reach out, connect, and collaborate with professionals in great companies. This can be done with LinkedIn. I like the advice given by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great, find a company that has achieved greatness and figure out a way to get onto that ship.
UC Santa Cruz
Scott Anderson CPA: Strong candidates will continue to find career opportunities at CPA firms, much like they have in the past. Start date commencing in Fall 2020 will very likely hold, but earlier scheduled start dates may be delayed because many firms are not yet prepared for remote training recent graduate hires.
Scott Anderson CPA: If a student is finishing up an undergraduate degree without the prospects for employment, I highly recommend looking at a Master's in Taxation or Master's in Accounting. A Master's in Taxation will especially pay dividends throughout one's career and is a highly sought-after degree. If additional education is not an option, then I suggest any job opportunities that would provide experience in sales or project management. These skills will always be valued by the accounting industry.
Scott Anderson CPA: Many firms have started furloughs or pay reductions, and this may or may not have an impact to existing offer letters for students. It's problematic as an associate who now has nearly a year of experience and recently received a pay reduction likely makes less than those students with offer letters sent out last fall. These situations will likely be remedied with temporary pay reductions for those starting with offer letters drafted before April 2020.
This summer's internships are going to be a mixed bag as firms deal with the reality of having to develop a remote internship program or keep their fingers crossed that their shelter-in-place orders are released and a return to offices occurs in May. Without the return to offices, many firms just aren't up for the logistical challenge of adapting their internship programs to a remote work environment.
The good news is that accounting firms are adapting very quickly to the remote work environment and that overall demand for compliance services (audit and tax) is likely to hold or only see modest declines in demand, whereas productivity (work done per day rather than hours charged to clients) per employee is suffering as accountants adapt. I'd anticipate some short-term disruptions for recent grads but overall, this is still a phenomenal degree to be graduating with in 2020.