With evolving technology and a changing economy, students who are interested in accounting might be hesitant to pursue this previously sought-after career path. With accounting software programs widely available to the public, people with no accounting education or training can now prepare their own tax returns. As more software programs and applications become available, aspiring accounting professionals sometimes wonder if new technology will result in a more competitive job market or even make their jobs obsolete. Fortunately, accountants do more than input numbers, and their other skills and abilities help the field of accounting continue to grow even when faced by supposed “rivals” like accounting software.
What Accountants Do That Software Can’t
Tax preparation software can be used even by someone without an accounting background to prepare a basic tax return, but often, the software’s usefulness ends here. For any taxpayer in an even slightly more complex situation – such as someone who has dependents or who runs their own business or takes on work on a contract or freelance basis – software may not be sophisticated enough to apply the right tax rules and exemptions. In fact, CBS News compared the outcome of using different tax preparation software versus hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) to complete the tax return and found that the CPA noticed opportunities for savings that software and software users had missed, potentially saving hundreds of dollars.
The same CBS News report identified another failing of software as compared to people. Accountants don’t just work with numbers. They also work with ideas, like strategies for helping clients achieve their personal or business financial goals. Tax return software can’t advise users on moves they can make to minimize their tax burden and improve their plans for saving for the future. Only human accountants, who understand accounting concepts and how to apply them, can help clients strategize and plan. Modern accountants work with clients on budgets, managing businesses efficiently and cutting costs, according to the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants.
The Job Outlook for Accountants
Some people think that tax return software programs must decrease the number of job opportunities for accountants, but in reality, the job outlook for accounting professionals is pretty steady. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects jobs in this career field to increase by 13 percent over a ten-year period, which is comparable to – and even slightly better than – the 11 percent job growth expected across all industries.
Of course, even with this positive job outlook, aspiring accountants should work hard to give themselves a competitive edge in the job market. They can do this by making the most of their college years and taking advantage of extracurricular and internship opportunities to develop both their technical skills and their people skills. When they do become accountants, these professionals can boost their success by remembering, and reminding clients, of the important big-picture planning and problem-solving skills they have that tax return software doesn’t have.