There's a nationwide shortage of accountants, and it's becoming a problem for businesses.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants says fewer people are graduating with accounting degrees than in years past, and the number of people taking and passing the certified public accountant exam is dropping. Meanwhile, a 2022 Deloitte poll found that 82% of hiring managers for accounting and financial positions at public companies and 69% at private companies said talent retention is a challenge.
Accountants manage financial processes and financial reporting and ensure regulatory compliance. If the shortage of these workers continues, accountability and integrity in business could suffer, Steven Kachelmeier, the chair of the accounting department at the University of Texas, told Insider, which could lead to a rise in fraud like the Enron and WorldCom scandals of the early 2000s.
He said that a lack of accountants is like playing sports without a referee.
"We may not always like the referees, but sports is a free-for-all without them," he said. "Accountants and auditors are to business as those people in the black-and-white-striped shirts are to sports. We're the referees of business.
"Without accounting and without finance, there are no rules to the game. It's like playing a game, and you make up your rules as you go along. It keeps the system honest."
To combat shortages, those in the accounting industry are working to attract more people to the field. Advancing technology in the sector, raising awareness about accounting careers, increasing diversity, and changing the profession's image are some of the ways they're tackling the challenge.