The landscape of the accounting industry has changed dramatically over the past 4 decades, from technology (remember when fax machines went mainstream?) to gender roles (women now make up more than 50% of the profession).

But what changes will impact the industry this year, and more importantly, your career? While technology still seems to top the list, there are three other trends to keep in mind as well.

1. Technology

According to Sageworks, 76% of accounting firms feel that technology will impact their ability to provide services and added value to clients over the next 5 years. In this always-on era, it’s practical for accounting professionals to stay on top of these changes. Some of the technology trends as listed by Accounting Today include:

  • IT Outsourcing. Accounting firms are taking advantage of a recovering economy, making strategic outsourcing a priority in order to maintain efficiency. Part of this trend includes lean IT models that use a combination of experienced, internal IT professionals who collaborate with outsourced providers.
  • Cloud-based Solutions and Data Collection. This trend includes using intelligence data to make informed business decisions. Firms are looking to collect actionable information in order to drive business growth and provide them with information that will enhance the company’s value.
  • Increased IT Security and Compliance. With data breaches becoming mainstream news topics as of late, accounting firms are doing what they can to evaluate current systems and set internal controls for data management to diminish potential cyber hacks. On the compliance side, these firms are also responding to requirements for personal data collection and privacy.
  • Increased Use of Social Media. Social media has increasingly become a standard part of the business landscape. Accountants are using these channels to communicate with clients, network, and provide relevant content to potential clients. In fact, LinkedIn is the most popular when it comes to social media used by accountants.

2. Public vs. Private Accounting Firms

Employment in public accounting firms is on the rise. In fact, because these firms employ the largest number of CPAs (and have the most job openings), public firms are attracting the most interest from job seekers—and the demand for public accounting employees is at an all-time high.

Employees in public accounting firms typically work with multiple clients, gaining exposure to a variety of industries. There is also the potential for travel, especially in firms that work with multi-national clients. In many cases, the salary for public accountants can be much higher than that of an accountant working for a private firm. According to Robert Half’s Salary Guide, a public accounting audit manager can earn $126,500 while a midsize, private firm’s internal audit manager may earn $111,000.

3. Compensation

As a whole, the accounting industry is feeling confident about business prospects driven by U.S. economic growth. The top accounting positions predicted to experience large pay spikes include senior compliance analysts, controllers, and senior financial analysts. Overall, the starting salaries for accountants are predicted to rise by 3.5% in 2015.

The reason for the salary hikes can be attributed to a tight hiring environment. The accounting industry has an unemployment rate well below the national average, leading hiring managers to provide competitive compensation packages.

Salary increases, however, are not the only things changing in 2015. Job flexibility, telecommuting options, and increased paid time off (PTO) are trending as compensation incentives as well. In fact, Forbes recently named tax managers as one of its 10 High-Paying Flexible Jobs.

4. Ethics

Ethics in accounting has become such a hot topic that many firms are requiring their staff to participate in ethics training. In an interview with Forbes, the Honorable Kim Wallin, CMA, CPA, CFM, and Nevada State Controller, stated that her staff “is required to take two hours of ethics every year, because we think it’s important and we talk about ethics all the time.” Wallin also mentioned that in her experience, she has encountered more ethical conflicts as a controller of a government entity than she had in 29 years of public accounting.

Quality control standards in the accounting industry have also become stricter in the wake of recent financial scandals. The AICPA Principles of Professional Conduct provide good measures for accounting professionals, as does the International Federation for Accountants. As ethics and quality control continue to be monitored in the years ahead, it is important for accountants to keep up with these changes and new standards. Potential employers will look for professionals who keep ethics and quality control standards in high regard.

Leverage for Your Career

All trends considered, the education behind your experience is what has the potential to push you to the next level in your career. In fact, hiring managers are looking for specialized accounting skills, which are proving challenging to find.


Students in an MBA program from Capella University learn about trends impacting the accounting industry, prepared with skills and knowledge to hit the ground running.