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Monday, December 22, 2008

CPA Career Opportunities Still Abound Despite Economic Woes

Seems like no news is good news these days, what with the poorly-performing dollar, increasing costs of living, and continued freezing of credit and lending.

But once again, CPAs come out on top!

In a landscape of financial unknowns, it helps to have an expert on your side. This could explain why CPAs continue to be in demand - individuals concerned about their financial futures want to confide in a trusted and experienced adviser to guide them through the economic landmines. Consumers and businesses looking for breaks wherever they can find them are turning to CPAs to unlock the secret treasures of tax returns and for assistance with loose internal controls to tighten their grip on the bottom line.

According to a 2008 survey by the National Management of Accounting Practice by the AICPA and the Texas Society of CPAs, 75% of the CPA firms surveyed saw growth of between 1 and 19 percent from May 2006 through June 2008. This is encouraging news considering the housing market bubble burst just around the time that the survey began collecting information on the industry.

Representing a 40 percent increase from the 2006 survey, 2,722 CPA firms participated in the comprehensive survey to provide national averages and meaningful benchmark data in areas such as billing rates, expenses, revenue, realization, service offerings, staffing, marketing and benefits. As the data is delineated by region and firm size, CPAs can compare their financial results and practice management policies with other firms.

Fewer firms are reporting turnover. Less than one third (31 percent) said they had lost professionals in fiscal 2007. This is a significant improvement from the last survey, when 45.6 percent of firms reported losing professionals. "We've found that more and more small firms are offering greater work-life flexibility, which persuades more practitioners to remain at their firms," said Metzler.

Succession planning and professional training continue to remain weak spots. Only 22 percent of all firms surveyed had a succession plan and only 10 percent of the smallest firms had a practice continuation agreement to protect their practices in the event of death or a disability that leaves the owner unable to work. The MAP survey found that continuing professional education represents about 1 percent of firms' expenses.

For you optimists out there, there is also a bright side to the brutal financial landscape - in the wake of the $50 billion Madoff pyramid scheme, just like with the Enron scandal and the regulations that rose up as a result of it, forensic accounting should also see an even larger growth. Expect more of these types of scandals to be announced (it is inevitable as these sorts of things, unfortunately, happen all the time but now that investors are scrambling to put their money in safe places, they'll start to pull out of riskier ventures) and therefore more forensic accountants will need to rise to fill the need for more thorough investigations of revealed fraud.

So the future looks bright despite grim economic predictions for 2009. Hopefully the accounting industry will continue to see growth and prosperity, even when it seems other sectors are taking a huge beating from this full-on financial melee.

We've said it a thousand times but now the phrase rings even truer - now is the time for certification. If you've been putting off your CPA thinking you can afford to skip a promotion, think again. As the financial climate continues to unravel, qualified candidates for open positions will be the ones to rise to the top of hiring managers' lists - we hope you don't find yourself out of a job but like Roger says when it comes to studying the CPA exam, run a SMART race! Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!

This is certainly encouraging news for the industry, at least, and in a world transformed by increasingly dismal predictions and projections for the months ahead, we can certainly use all the good news we can get!

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