By Marc Basil | March 18, 2017

We are lucky to find ourselves amidst one of the strongest job markets in recent history. For those accounting, finance and IT professionals who worked through the period of 2008-2013, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the current climate is a welcomed change.

I can attest to just how much of a positive impact this change has made on those professions, especially accounting.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of junior and senior-year Accountancy students from a leading, local university. The students and I had an engaging discussion on the state of the job market, through a Q&A format, and I was thoroughly impressed with the level of commitment these students demonstrated by their very insightful questions.

I’d like to share with you some of the key topics we discussed.

1. The jobs are there. 
The state of the accounting profession is incredibly strong, as is the employment market as a whole. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the unemployment rate in the month of January sat at 4.9 percent, the lowest number since February of 2008, and well down from the peak of 10 percent in October of 2009 at the heart of the recession. If we drill down further, the unemployment rate for degreed and advanced degreed accounting and financial professionals in the greater Chicago area is roughly 2 percent.

2. The salaries are there. 
Starting base salaries for the Big Four Public Accounting firms for Audit and Tax in Chicago are between $60,000 and $63,000, while starting salaries for a Staff Accountant in a corporate range between $45,000 and $60,000, depending upon the size of the company. Further, according to the Journal of Accountancy, on average, there will be between a 4.0 and 5.3 increase in salaries for accounting and finance professionals, while a significant amount of professions have been flat in recent years.

3. The career path is there.
Opportunities for accounting professionals long term are virtually limitless, as new and diverse roles are being created each year as companies become more complex and sophisticated. This is more good news for the students looking ahead to plan their careers.

Even though the outlook for the accounting profession is positive doesn’t mean there are no challenges to face. One said hurdle starts with an important place – the classroom. I recently had lunch with a tax partner from one of the Big Four public accounting firms who is also a professor at a local university, and he shared his insight on the state of the profession. His biggest concern? Fewer and fewer individuals are choosing to teach accounting (pursue a PhD, etc.) which limits class sizes, in turn limiting the amount of accountancy students.

While there are certainly many exciting things happening in the accounting profession today, continued efforts need to take place in order to ensure the future of the profession remains bright, as well.

What else do accountancy students have to look forward to in their profession? Let us know in the comments below.

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