Aussie accounting: Future proof or failure to launch?

Sydney business district
Chris Sheedy By Chris Sheedy, CA Today

5 April 2016

There is enormous disagreement around whether enough Australians are being drawn in to accounting and whether there are enough, or too many, jobs in the pipeline.

There is no middle ground with accounting in Australia. The industry is either entering its greatest renaissance or doomed to disaster, depending on whose opinion you seek.

Recruitment firm Hays, for example, released in late 2015 a report that said demand for accountants is so high that the industry has been future-proofed. Architects and salespeople were another two stars of the lucky list of in-demand career paths.

“Provided they keep their skills up-to-date, remain connected to their industry through social media, networking and their recruiter, and are digitally literate, professionals in these areas will experience ongoing career success,” said Hays Managing Director of Australia and New Zealand, Nick Deligiannis.

Within the field of accounting, Hays specifically pointed out accountancy support roles such as high-volume payroll officers, accounts payable professionals, accounts clerks, bookkeepers, credit controllers and accounts receivable officers, as well as accountancy firm roles such as audit professionals and those experienced in other business services.

Accounting-related roles have also long been on the Skilled Occupation List for migrants, but there has been a growing movement for accounting to be removed from that list. Indeed, it is on the ‘review’ list this year, meaning authorities are determining whether it should be dumped.

A safe career choice?

The Australian Financial Review reported that while accounting was once considered a safe career choice, the numbers now tell a different story. A research study sourcing its information from the Department of Education, Department of Employment, and Graduate Careers Australia said for each Australian studying accounting, there were now 2.5 foreigners studying accounting at Australian institutions.

Then there is the fact, from the same report, that the number of Australian students taking accounting has fallen by 20% from 2001 to 2012. And the number of international students finishing undergraduate accounting degrees rose by 500% in the same time period. Many of these international graduates would be expected to leave the country, taking their Australian qualifications back home.

As various accounting roles are offshored or automated, and as large accounting firms begin to source recruits from a broader spectrum of degrees and experience, the intense demand for accountants often referenced by experts is not so obvious.

Talented and well-trained people will find and do good work. And Australia is not a bad place to do it.

From 2009 to 2014, the Australian Financial Review said, around 40,000 migrants entered Australia thanks to their skills in accounting. That flood of talent, many argue, has meant businesses now have no problem filling roles and, in fact, some local graduates are reporting having a difficult time finding work.

In 2001, says Graduate Careers Australia, 93% of graduates found full-time work within four months of completing their studies. By 2012 that figure had dropped to 80% - not the figures one would expect from a ‘future-proof’ industry.

Yet another opinion comes from Job Outlook, an Australian Government initiative from the Department of Employment that provides data on employment characteristics, trends and prospects for occupations. Job Outlook says that over the past five years employment for accountants rose strongly, and in the next five years it is expected to do the same.

In the five years to November 2019 job openings for accountants in Australia are expected to be ‘high’, meaning greater than 50,000. This figure comes both from employment growth and turnover. With around 193,000 accountants in Australia as of November 2014, opportunities should be available in most regions, Job Outlook says.

No matter the stats or the anecdotal evidence, perhaps the real truth, as with most occupations, is that the cream will rise to the top.

Talented and well-trained people will find and do good work. And Australia is not a bad place to do it.

Do you think accounting in Australia is future proof? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black, Cadillac , Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.


  • Accountancy
  • Australia

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