The Great Accounting Exodus - Part 1

The Great Accounting Exodus – Part 1: Why Over 300,000 CPAs Left the Profession

Published: April 26, 2024
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The accounting world is facing a talent crisis of epic proportions. Over the last few years, a staggering 17% of the CPA workforce in the United States has left the profession, according to the Wall Street Journal. That’s over 300,000 qualified accountants that have resigned, retired early, or jumped ship to other careers between 2019-2021 alone.

So what is driving this great accounting exodus? Our whitepaper, “The Accounting Hiring Crisis,” examines the major factors behind this concerning talent drain:

Mass Retirements of Boomer Accountants

This shortage has been brewing for decades as Baby Boomers reached retirement age without enough next-generation accountants to fill those vacancies. The AICPA estimated that by 2020, 75% of their membership was retirement-eligible. With many Boomers accelerating plans to retire early after the Covid-19 pandemic upended the workforce, the accountants leaving the profession reached a tipping point.

The “Great Resignation” of Early/Mid-Career Accountants

However, it’s not just older accountants leaving the workforce that created the shortage. Droves of accountants in their 20s, 30s, and 40s have been rapidly exiting public accounting firms as well. The “Great Resignation” phenomenon in response to the pandemic was in full swing across the profession. An October 2023 report by the Institute of Management Accountants and Robert Half found that some 24% of accounting and finance professionals plan to leave their jobs within 12 months … 17% within the next six months.

Lack of New Graduates to Backfill

Making the talent drought even worse, there is a dwindling pipeline of new graduates entering the accounting profession. The number of candidates taking the CPA exam plunged by 7% recently, marking the lowest participation since 2006. Accounting programs have seen declining enrollment as fewer students opt to pursue the 150 credit hours required for licensure.

How Can You Proactively Respond to the Talent Shortage?

So while the demand for accounting services remains strong, the supply of qualified professionals to provide that service is drying up at an alarming rate. Firms feeling the effects of this talent shortage may struggle to grow, take on new clients, meet deadlines, and avoid costly mistakes when overworked.

Want to learn more about what’s causing the great accounting exodus and how to insulate your firm from its effects? Download the full “Accounting Hiring Crisis” whitepaper now. You’ll learn:

  • How compensation and work-life balance factor into the crisis
  • Steps your firm can take to cut costs and attract top talent
  • How SmartVault enables the efficiency and modern perks to hire & retain

Firms that invest in SmartVault find themselves with a crucial advantage for hiring and retention in today’s hyper-competitive talent marketplace. And by increasing efficiency and productivity, you can do more with your existing employees. Schedule a demo with us to learn more.