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Accounting: trends affecting next generation of accountants.

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 ethics.

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-making.

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 (IRS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).

Next Generation Accountant: A New Outlook on a Timeless Profession, a research guide published by RHI, is based on extensive U.S. research. To request a free copy of the guide, call 866.328.0577 or visit

RELATED ARTICLE: Key training areas:

* Forensic accounting

* Internal auditing

* Financial statement analysis

* Ethics

* Risk management
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Title Annotation:businessBRIEFS
Author:Heffes, Ellen M.
Publication:Financial Executive
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Previous Article:From the editor.
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