Hiring Picks Up for Accounting, but Industry Faces Stereotypes
July 10, 2012 (The Sacramento Bee) Wanna be a boring accountant? It's not the mind-numbing, number-crunching career that many assume, as many recent college graduates can attest.
Just ask 27-year-old Grayson Moyse, who started last summer at one of the country's top-rated accounting firms, Macias Gini & O'Connell in Sacramento.
Boring? Wearing red sneakers and a black Giants baseball hat at his firm's recent "employee appreciation" outing to a minor-league baseball game, Moyse said accounting isn't the least bit dull.
"When I was in college, I didn't think it would be as people-oriented as it is. It's not being on a computer in a cubicle all day," said Moyse, who graduated from Sacramento State University in May 2011 with an accounting degree after switching from biology and a brewery science path.
"What's great about accounting is there are a bunch of ways you can tailor it to accommodate what you want to do," said the Stockton, Calif., native, ticking off such possible careers as auditor, bank examiner, analyst, chief financial officer.
At a time when many of his post-college peers are struggling to find work or temporarily living back at home with mom and dad, Moyse and his numbers-friendly colleagues are getting snapped up for decent-paying jobs.
Considered one of the country's hottest hiring sectors, accounting jobs are projected to increase 15.7 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median salary for accountants in 2012: $61,690, according to the bureau.
This fall, the University of California-Davis is launching one of only two UC master's degrees in accountancy, and part of the university's mission is to jettison the old notions about the profession.
"Accounting is way beyond the Dark Ages of the green eyeshade," said Will Snyder, executive director of UC-Davis' new program. "You have to be a dynamic person, a global thinker. ... Accounting can be very creative and a good way to make a difference."
That's how Moyse, a first-year financial auditor, views his job: daily problem-solving amid a diverse mix of business types and client personalities.
And, he says, it's a career that matters.
"We're looking at a city or county's financial statements, and if something's missing it affects taxpayers who are paying into it. If it's a pension statement, it affects state workers and (retirees). ... What we're doing affects people's everyday lives."
Snyder said UC Davis' first class includes students with majors from archaeology to philosophy. Some want to work for Big Four accounting firms or local CPA offices. Others want to specialize in agricultural accounting, government auditing or even museum work.
The UC-Davis program is aimed in part at bringing more Latino and minority students into financial fields, said Professor Robert Yetman, a CPA who founded the program.
Ken Macias, a former board chairman of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, says accounting has moved from being a white male-dominated field, but there's still "a need to have more minority CPAs to help emerging entrepreneurs," many of them Latino small-business owners.
As of 2009, the California Society of CPAs said only 4 percent of its members were Latino and only 2 percent were black.
With the country still stymied by stubborn unemployment, young accountants like David Hollyman, 27, who started at Macias Gini & O'Connell four years ago, are counting on some job security.
"As the economy goes down, regulations typically go up, which means more work for us," said Hollyman, who has his CPA license. "It's a pretty recession-proof job."