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Accounting: trends affecting next generation of accountants

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Accounting: trends affecting next generation of
By Heffes, Ellen M.
Publication: Financial Executive
Date: Thursday, September 1 2005
New research conducted by Robert Half International (RHI), Next Generation Accountant: A New Outlook on a Timeless
Profession, identifies how changes to the accounting profession are making this a dynamic time for practitioners,
elevating their visibility and responsibilities, as well as the level of trust placed in them.
New corporate governance regulations and the increased emphasis on greater transparency within public, private and
nonprofit organizations have dramatically altered the environment for accounting and finance professionals. Accounting
reforms, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, have been a double-edged sword for these professionals, however,
increasing demand for their services but also adding considerably to their workloads.
The reforms have highlighted staffing and experience shortages in the accounting profession, prompting companies to
step up their recruiting efforts and offer more competitive compensation and benefits packages. The ongoing need to
meet regulatory requirements, coupled with the retirement of a large number of Baby Boomer professionals, will continue
to drive demand. In response, colleges and universities are offering more courses in areas that reflect marketplace
needs, such as internal auditing, enterprise risk management, forensic accounting, financial statement analysis and
As the work environment has become more complex, demand will continue to grow for accountants with certain areas of
expertise and specific certifications. Yet, the well-rounded general accountant, who may also have specialty training,
should find an abundance of opportunities. Employers will seek expertise in financial analysis, internal auditing, audit and
assurance and forensic accounting.
Firms need accounting professionals who can support compliance efforts and understand both the financial and
information technology aspects of various business improvement initiatives. Communication skills, both verbal and
written, are especially important as financial professionals assist their companies in strategic analysis and decision-
While opportunities are plentiful and varied, many professionals continue to choose a well-traveled path that begins in
public accounting. However, new regulations have reshaped the work of the public accountant. The most pronounced
changes include a heightened emphasis on the independence of the external audit, a greater separation between audit
and consulting work and the growth of compliance-related consulting services.
Many of those who enter public accounting eventually leave to work in private industry, where they can find equally
diverse and challenging roles and responsibilities. Yet whatever the career path next-generation accountants choose, the
certified public accountant (CPA) credential remains a key requirement for advancement.
Demand for accountants is also being felt in academia. With accounting enrollment increasing and a growing percentage
of accounting professors nearing retirement, universities are already experiencing faculty shortages. Still another option
for today's accountants is the regulatory arena, working for government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service

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