Do we really have a lot of unemployed accountants?

geek84
geek84 Trusted RegularMAAT Posts: 568
Hi Folks

I am on my last level of the AAT and hoping to go on to do the ACCA. Over the weekend, I bumped in to an old friend of mine and we got chatting over a cup of coffee.

Anyway, when I told him that I was doing the AAT and hoping to go on the ACCA, he was quite adamant in saying that I have definitely made the wrong career choice!

He said there are already plenty of unemployed accountants in the job market and I would most probably add to that list, at my age anyway,- I am approaching my mid 40s. This made me seriously think if I am indeed on the wrong career path and wasting my time & money.

Apparently, his older brother is a chartered accountant who got made redundant a few years ago. After finding it a struggle to gain employment , he decided to start off his own business - something to do with kleenzee. Apparently, he has about 100 people working for him, and making far more money as he would if working as an accountant !!

Anyway, back to my original question - Do you think we really have a lot of unemployed accountants? and if so, are we all wasting our time studying this course?

Thanks in advance for your replies.

Comments

  • Monsoon
    Monsoon Font Of All Knowledge FMAAT, AAT Licensed Accountant Posts: 4,071
    I think all sectors are tough at the moment.

    I live in a very rural area so I expect I'm lucky in that I don't have oodles of competition for my business, so it's growing and thus I've increased staff levels this year. I expect I would be having a far tougher time if my business was in a large town or city in terms of business growth.

    Other than being an employer myself, I know very little about employment. I wouldn't say it's a wrong career choice, but I think there's a lot of competition and it's taking longer to find jobs.

    Accountancy is a reasonably "recession-proof" business in many respects so I can't see the demand decreasing. I do think more and more people are training, which is why it's harder to get jobs.

    Ultimately it's down to the person, the area you live in and the circumstances. There are folk on these boards who are getting jobs, and those who aren't. I think that's true of most areas of work.
  • zara5034
    zara5034 Well-Known Registered Posts: 170
    I also think that having experience makes a huge difference in todays job mnarket. there are plenty of people coming out of college/AAT with the qualifications but no experience.

    I find that people with both experince and AAT are the ones that get snapped up!
  • geek84
    geek84 Trusted Regular MAAT Posts: 568
    Good Morning Folks

    Has anybody else got any views on this?

    (I'm also going to post this question on Facebook - there may be students who are more comfortable/in the habit of using the AAT on Facebook rather than this site).
  • JodieR
    JodieR Experienced Mentor Registered Posts: 1,002
    Like Monsoon, I work for myself and am not based in a big city and I have no shortage of work whatsoever. I've also not tried looking for full time employment for many many years so that may well be a different story, but there's definately no shortage of businesses happy to pay for my services. Yes, you may need to put in extra effort to get the experience you need to prove that you can apply what you've learned at college, but like Zara says, with a bit of experience you become much more employable. I'd then say that the next step should be to look at the type of community which you live in and see how you can best contribute to it's needs - consider full time employment in industry or practice as well as a combination of a couple of part time jobs, or see if you can subcontract to an established practice or set up on your own either as a general accountant/bookkeeper or specialsing in a particular business sector. There's lots of options, it might not be as easy to reach your goal as in the past but it's still very possible and personally I'd rather be doing this than working for Kleenease!
  • Makkusu
    Makkusu Feels At Home BournemouthRegistered Posts: 94
    Accountant jobs (especially PQ or trainee jobs) are really hard to come by here and graduates have been gobbling them up which sucks.

    I think during this tough period we'll see the vocational professions become more popular thus making the market harder. My generation have had "University is your only chance to be successful" drilled into us, and now people are starting to see the light more people will take up education such as AAT - which I believe will become quite a popular qualification over the next few years.
  • Rinske
    Rinske Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 2,453
    I might be joining the ranks of unemployed accountants soon, if my company doesn't stop it's current actions!

    However I do think it's harder to find a new job at the moment, then say 4 years ago. Whether that's because we're still in the recession and companies are more careful to hire people or that we have too many unemployed accountants I don't know. My guess is that it is a combination of both and I do think having the work experience will make a world of difference.
  • mac1
    mac1 Feels At Home Registered Posts: 40
    Monsoon wrote: »
    I think all sectors are tough at the moment.

    I wouldn't say it's a wrong career choice, but I think there's a lot of competition and it's taking longer to find jobs.

    Accountancy is a reasonably "recession-proof" business in many respects so I can't see the demand decreasing. I do think more and more people are training, which is why it's harder to get jobs.

    Ultimately it's down to the person, the area you live in and the circumstances. There are folk on these boards who are getting jobs, and those who aren't. I think that's true of most areas of work.

    I am unemployed in a part (SE) of the country that hitherto hasn't really experienced a really tough job market in comparison with other areas. I can empathise - see my other thread on this forum.

    I am also a member of a jobclub - M3 Job Club; full of people who frankly, have never known long term unemployment; one lady was intellectual property director at Nokia: how the mighty have fallen...We had managers of the Jobcentre give a presentation last week during which they stated that unemployed professional/managerial staff were around 30% where it used to be 10.

    Someone said that you need to operate on the premise that it's better to have it (the qualification) and not need it, than to need it and not have it...

    I think people need to see unemployment as downtime: no work? Then you have the time to do stuff which you might have no/less time for whilst working, but will be useful to you in the longer term and it might be an advantage to be unemployed: an example would be my AAT technician stage course (£500) at the local tech college, which cost me nothing because I was claiming JSA.
  • PGM
    PGM Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 1,954
    Rinske wrote: »
    I might be joining the ranks of unemployed accountants soon, if my company doesn't stop it's current actions!

    However I do think it's harder to find a new job at the moment, then say 4 years ago. Whether that's because we're still in the recession and companies are more careful to hire people or that we have too many unemployed accountants I don't know. My guess is that it is a combination of both and I do think having the work experience will make a world of difference.

    It would be hard to set up on your own though after working for a company for so long, this is one of the things that worry me... Its a case of having managmenet accounts experience but not the tax side for small businesses. So would be stuck trying to find more similar work.
  • PAMDILL
    PAMDILL Experienced Mentor Registered Posts: 719
    I keep swithering about setting up myself, however in East Ayrshire there seems to be quite a lot of people offering bookkeeping and account services to small companies and I have to think about the fact I have a husband, son and mortgage to sustain.

    I currently work in Glasgow and am not happy with the company I work for, had to take it when I was made redundant at the end of last year. I am currently trying to get work locally to cut down on the £45+ a week it costs in petrol to commute but vacancies are scarce.

    I have over 18 years experience in the finance/administration side of the construction industry but jobs there re few and far between.
  • Time to face the harsh reality

    The harsh reality is the concept of supply and demand.

    Currently (and I don’t see an end to this any time soon), there are far too many accountants either qualified or part qualified and not enough jobs.

    There are far too many accountants as the result of the main 3 bodies (CIMA, ACCA & ICAEW) competing against each other to gain more members and this seems to be their only KPI.

    To do this they have all lowered the barriers to entry and even a person with no GCSEs can become an accountant. The reason they gave for this was that they didn't want the profession to be seen as a profession that was unachievable for disadvantaged people whose only choice in life was manual work. The real reason is most likely to increase the number of potential members they could attract through their marketing campaigns. Remember, the accounting bodies are commercial businesses, not charities.

    The result though seems to have diluted the profession and what was once seen as a prestigious career (on par with doctors and lawyers) is now seen as something on par with a position in general management.

    Because there are more accountants than jobs, this has forced down the salaries of accountants and you now find qualified accountants having to take part qualified roles which means that part qualified ones are struggling to find work or having to take lower level jobs such as ledger work.

    Employers know they hold power over the job market which is why they can offer lower salaries and dictate specific and ridiculous criteria and if you don’t meet the criteria, you don’t get a look in. There are so many accountants out of work that an employer will always find somebody that meets that criterion.

    Recruitment agencies don’t help either because they will screen you out straight away if you don’t meet the criteria set by employers. Around 95% of vacancies are advertised through recruitment agencies.

    Recruitment agencies are filled with sales people that are single minded and are unable to think outside of the box. If they are recruiting for an accountant in the medical supplies industry, they will only select candidates for interview who have medical supplies industry experience.

    What they don’t realise is that the job of an accountant is the same whichever industry they go into and accountants can easily adapt to a new industry and don’t require specialised training to be able to go into that industry.

    To summarise the above:

    • The profession is not as prestigious as it used to be.
    • There are far too many accountants in the business and not enough jobs.
    • Salaries have been pushed right down and competition is very intense.
    • The profession has been destroyed by recruitment agencies over the years.
    • Employers don’t seem to see the true value of accountants

    Just a bit about me to put my comments into perspective:

    • I am a 27 year old male
    • AAT qualified
    • Half way through CIMA
    • Have 10 years experience within accounting both in practice and industry
    • 3 years experience within semi senior management
    • Unemployed for the last 4 weeks

    I was having a conversation with my dad just yesterday and he said to me that it was probably a mistake to have gone into accounting and that I should have chose a profession that pays decent money like an electrician. My dad isn't an accountant or an electrician so if that’s an opinion from somebody outside of the industry, what has gone wrong with the profession to makes others think it’s not a great industry to work in?

    Personally myself, I am looking to move out of the profession and go into marketing or set up my own company to either offer accountancy services or do something away from accountancy but utilises my business skills I have learnt over the years.

    My advice to others looking to do a chartered qualification is have a serious think about what you want to achieve in life. If you want to be constantly up against thousands of others applying for the same jobs as you, you have no chance unless you stand out or have something special.

    The AAT qualification exempts you from the first year of university doing an accounting degree. This will hold more value for you as a degree just proves your intelligence and allows you to move into any career you want to as a graduate trainee.
  • geek84
    geek84 Trusted Regular MAAT Posts: 568
    Hi Don

    Many thanks for your input to this thread, which I started last year!

    I thought nobody was intersted to share their thoughts anymore until today!

    I am still on my last level of the AAT, and in the last 12 months I have had 2 short term contracts as a credit controller. However, the thing that puzzles me, is that some people are still on their level 2 or 3, and they have been offered job roles such as assistant accountants. Is it a case of being at the right place at the right time or am I looking at the wrong vacancy sites?

    As stated in one of my earlier posts, I am thinking of going on to study the ACCA, once I have completed the AAT. After reading through some of these posts, i am now in two minds. The ACCA is going to take a while to complete, and I'm not getting any younger. Could someone be kind enough to advice if I could complete a 'shorter' course than the ACCA which is still in demand and respected by employers?

    Thanks in advance for your response.
  • CIMA can be completed quicker than ACCA and it is a business qualification as well as an accounting one. ACCA would allow you to move easily between industry and practice though.
  • geek84
    geek84 Trusted Regular MAAT Posts: 568
    Hi Don

    Thanks for your quick reply.

    The only thought that is scaring me is that if I do complete the acca or cima, I may still not be able to find suitable employment. My age is not going to help me either- I am in my mid 40s at the moment.

    So, again I am still asking the question to you folks out there - Could someone be kind enough to advice if I could complete a 'shorter' course than the ACCA which is still in demand and respected by employers?

    Any advice would be much appreciated.
  • The short answer to your question is no.

    Whether you do ACCA, CIMA, ICAEW, CIPFA, AAT, ATT or CTA...it will still take you between 2 - 4 years to complete.

    Your age will also go against you as there will be 25 years old qualified accountants competing for the same jobs as you. Employers like young qualified accountants as they are impressionable and easy to mold into what you want them to be. This is not really achievable with older newly qualified as they have life experience.

    The best thing you can do is get qualified and start your own practice or move to a country where demand for accountants is high. i.e. Australia

    I have to be honest and say very few achieve success at a career change in their 40s but i am not saying that it won't happen.
  • geek84
    geek84 Trusted Regular MAAT Posts: 568
    Thanks for your advice, Don.
  • James Patterson
    James Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    Don Juan wrote: »
    Whether you do ACCA, CIMA, ICAEW, CIPFA, AAT, ATT or CTA...it will still take you between 2 - 4 years to complete.

    Your age will also go against you as there will be 25 years old qualified accountants competing for the same jobs as you.

    Sorry had to say i'm 18 and i will have completed it in 18months, so not strictly true due to the fast track scheme.

    Due to my age i can't comment from experience, but i kind of have the plan of getting some experience through a local and practice and looking at starting a local firm myself once i have the funds to do so; guaranteed job, and control your work - sounds good to me.
  • Sorry had to say i'm 18 and i will have completed it in 18months, so not strictly true due to the fast track scheme.

    Due to my age i can't comment from experience, but i kind of have the plan of getting some experience through a local and practice and looking at starting a local firm myself once i have the funds to do so; guaranteed job, and control your work - sounds good to me.

    You are right James that AAT can be done in 18 months so perhaps I shouldn't have included that in the list but the original poster is going to be completing AAT and it will take between 2 - 4 to complete all of the other qualifications I listed, which was his original query.

    You have just highlighted another problem in the profession though, that AAT can be completed in 18 months. With AAT being a stepping stone, this means that even more people can enter the chartered profession 18 months earlier than they originally could when I studied AAT. This means even more competition and potentially we could even up with people qualifying as chartered accountants at the age of 21 making even more difficult for others who have qualified in their late 20s and early 30s to find work.

    The accounting bodies are so focused on making money by increasing members that they don't seem to realise the impact it is having on the majority of its members, both students and qualified.

    With you being only 18, you are in a very good position over somebody like me and the original poster who is in their 40s.
  • James Patterson
    James Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    Very true, I have seem competition for a majority of accounting jobs being advertised as around 100 applicants, thats just in the north west area.

    Although it is a great profession, there does seem to be a shortage of jobs, which i suppose more the reason to start your own practice. But then thats more competition between firms for clients. Its a tough one
  • Very true, I have seem competition for a majority of accounting jobs being advertised as around 100 applicants, thats just in the north west area.

    Although it is a great profession, there does seem to be a shortage of jobs, which i suppose more the reason to start your own practice. But then thats more competition between firms for clients. Its a tough one

    You will find a lot of competition with other practices also. The only way you would be successful is if you could differentiate yourself from the rest and that is very hard to do. However, you will find that the vast majority of practices are run by accountants between 40 and 70 and are very old school in their ideas. These old school ideas are starting to become redundant and if you can bring new ideas into the practice then you may be able to do very well. Business has changed therefore accountants need to also.
  • Kashcow
    Kashcow Settling In Nicely Registered Posts: 19
    I am just about to embark on Level 4 and am also struggling to find employment within finance. My current job allows me to fund the AAT, but I can't help feel that the AAT is not worth much without experience.
  • Kashcow wrote: »
    I am just about to embark on Level 4 and am also struggling to find employment within finance. My current job allows me to fund the AAT, but I can't help feel that the AAT is not worth much without experience.

    You are correct, AAT without experience is useless. I thought that a lot of doors would open for me when I qualified but there was no difference. I have found that being part CIMA qualified has opened a couple of doors but not enough. Even being CIMA qualified is not enough now, you need excellent experience and an excellent job history.

    Around 80% of chartered accountants will experience a mediocre career with the other 20% receiving all the benefits that was promised before we signed up to the profession.
  • James Patterson
    James Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    Don Juan wrote: »
    You are correct, AAT without experience is useless. I thought that a lot of doors would open for me when I qualified but there was no difference. I have found that being part CIMA qualified has opened a couple of doors but not enough. Even being CIMA qualified is not enough now, you need excellent experience and an excellent job history.

    Around 80% of chartered accountants will experience a mediocre career with the other 20% receiving all the benefits that was promised before we signed up to the profession.

    I must admit hearing that was not the best start to the morning. At the moment i'm stuck in Accounts Payable processing invoices for admin, as being in the public sector; not alot of reasonable opportunity. Hopefully, a trainee accountants position will flash up! fingers crossed
  • Kashcow
    Kashcow Settling In Nicely Registered Posts: 19
    James there does be a few position that do pop up now and then. Have you tried contacting practices and asking about possible AAT position. Or when you do qualify, you would be part qualified CIMA/ACA wouldn't you?
  • James Patterson
    James Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    Kashcow wrote: »
    James there does be a few position that do pop up now and then. Have you tried contacting practices and asking about possible AAT position. Or when you do qualify, you would be part qualified CIMA/ACA wouldn't you?

    Hi Kashcow, I will be fully AAT qualified by Feb 2013 so not too long - my intentions are to send around my CV to local practices and i am enquiring at a few places already. I would be exempt from a year of CIMA/ACA yes.
  • crispy
    crispy Trusted Regular SouthamptonRegistered Posts: 456
    Apolgies for hijacking thread, I have recently received good news and passed the recent cima exam I took in September. I thought that I would be feeling great about myself however this is not the case, I have received comments from colleagues such as 'Well you should be taking us out with all that money you are going to earn' (said very sarcastically) and 'Well you probably aren't going to ever be anything if you moved to a large company' also 'Experience is more important than your qualification anyway'. I realise that having aat/cima isn't a golden ticket to earning millions or will not guarantee a postion of CFO or CEO (I am realistic) but surely there is some hope for out there ? I would never de-motivate anybody who was trying to acheive something.....
  • James Patterson
    James Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    crispy wrote: »
    Apolgies for hijacking thread, I have recently received good news and passed the recent cima exam I took in September. I thought that I would be feeling great about myself however this is not the case, I have received comments from colleagues such as 'Well you should be taking us out with all that money you are going to earn' (said very sarcastically) and 'Well you probably aren't going to ever be anything if you moved to a large company' also 'Experience is more important than your qualification anyway'. I realise that having aat/cima isn't a golden ticket to earning millions or will not guarantee a postion of CFO or CEO (I am realistic) but surely there is some hope for out there ? I would never de-motivate anybody who was trying to acheive something.....

    Don't worry about the hijack, its fine haha

    That does sound rather bitter, but you do have to take into account employers prefer experience rather than qualifications, thats common knowledge to most.

    But the fact you are going to be qualified in your role is important and along with some grounded experience built up over time, you're going to look very employable.

    I wouldn't worry about it, it is definitely positive!!
  • blobbyh
    blobbyh Font Of All Knowledge Registered Posts: 2,415
    Experience is king yes, but qualification of a professional body also means staying contemporary by undergoing constant training to ensure industry relevant knowledge is up-to-date (aka CPD)... something QBE's rarely do and which inhibits their earnings potential.

    Sounds like your colleagues are just a bunch of jealous shites to me...
  • James Patterson
    James Patterson Trusted Regular Registered Posts: 281
    blobbyh wrote: »
    Sounds like your colleagues are just a bunch of jealous shites to me...

    haha well put Robert
  • sjtoomer
    sjtoomer Registered Posts: 32
    edited June 2

    The harsh reality is the concept of supply and demand. Currently, and I don’t see an end to this any time soon, there are far too many Accountants (either qualified or part-qualified) and not enough Jobs.

    There are far too many Accountants, as the result of the main 3 bodies (CIMA, ACCA, ICAEW) competing against each other to gain more members, and this seems to be their only KPI; to do this, they have all lowered the barriers to entry, so that even a person with no GCSEs can become an Accountant - the reason they gave for this was that they didn't want the profession to be seen as a profession that was un-achievable for dis-advantaged people (whose only choice in life was manual work), but the real reason is most likely to increase the number of potential members they could attract through their marketing campaigns (remember, the accounting bodies are commercial businesses, not charities). The result, though, seems to have diluted the profession, and what was once seen as a prestigious career (on par with Doctors and Lawyers) is now seen as something on par with a position in General Management.

    Because there are more Accountants than Jobs, this has forced-down the salaries of Accountants, and you now find qualified Accountants having to take part-qualified Accountancy roles, which means in turn that part-qualified Accountants are struggling to find work or are having to take lower-level jobs (such as ledger work).

    Employers know they hold power over the job market, which is why they can offer lower salaries and dictate specific and ridiculous criteria, and if you don’t meet the criteria, you don’t get a look in. There are so many Accountants out of work that an Employer will always find somebody that meets that criterion. Recruitment Agencies don’t help either, because they will screen you out straight away if you don’t meet the criteria set by Employers, and around 95% of vacancies are advertised through Recruitment Agencies. Recruitment Agencies are filled with sales people that are single-minded and are un-able to think outside of the box; they will only select candidates for interview who have industry experience in the industry of the employer, but what they don’t realise is that the job of an Accountant is the same whichever industry they go in to and that Accountants can easily adapt to a new industry and don’t require specialised training to be able to go into that industry.

    (Heavily condensed version of original response above.)

    OMG. This is all so true, from my personal experience. And this post was 10 years ago now.

    I am finishing-off my AAT L3 Book-Keeping course, having completed the AAT L2 Book-Keeping course. I was hoping to get a job in Accounting/Finance with my AAT Qualifications, but I am not so sure now, especially since I also do not have any existing related experience (I have experience in Administration, Letter-Writing (Legal & General), Microsoft Excel/Word, and IT, but not Accounting/Finance experience). Ultimately, when it comes down to it, Employers value experience over qualifications. However, as stated above, Employers can now demand a relatively high level of qualification and several years of related experience for a relatively low level of salary; this must be due to there being far more Accountants (of varying levels of qualification) than Jobs, since there cannot be any other reasonable explanation for this scenario.

    An Accounting Tutor recently told me that Accountancy qualification/training has become like a production-line (i.e. is moreso for money-making, rather than for the good of students); I don't wish to seem cynical or cause any offence, but they may be right. It seems like Accountancy has become too much of a business itself, if you know what I mean.

    Ever since finishing my AAT L2 Book-Keeping course (some 6 months ago now), I have been applying solidly for entry-level/low-level Accounting/Finance jobs, as I realise that I will have to start at the bottom when changing careers, but so far I haven't had a job offer. I want to finish-off my AAT L3 Book-Keeping course anyway, but I was hoping to change careers with it. I'm not sure if doing further qualifications will genuinely improve my chances of getting a job, as many more people who are more qualified than me are also struggling to get a job. I will naturally keep applying for Accounting/Finance jobs and finish-off my AAT L3 Book-Keeping course.

    Does anybody have any words of wisdom on this? Have I got the wrong impression of it all?
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