Karen Russon, CPA and professor of accounting at Lone Star College-North Harris, said the demand for accountants and accounting personnel is growing, not only in the Greater Houston area, but across the country and around the world.
Mitch Feldman, president of A. E. Feldman, an executive recruiting firm agrees. “An increase in the number of businesses, changing financial laws, and corporate governance regulations, and increased accountability for protecting an organization’s stakeholders continues to drive growth in this field,” he said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of accountants and auditors is expected to grow at least 18 percent by 2016–that’s faster than the average rate of growth for all other occupations.
Intensified by the current credit crisis, the sub prime mortgage industry meltdown, and economic slowdown, opportunities are growing in the fields of fraud and litigation as well as forensic accounting, according to Feldman. “It’s not just corporate and public accounting that is hot, there is growing demand for forensic and international accountants as well,” he says.
Despite recent gloomy economic headlines, the outlook for hiring in finance and accounting should be strong for 2009. “You see a lot in the press that’s negative, and there are problems with the economy,” says Josh Warborg, Robert Half International district president in Seattle. “The fact of the matter is we’re seeing an expanded economy and expanding jobs.”
To meet this demand, Lone Star College-North Harris offers a one-year certificate program and two-year associate degree in accounting that Russon said provides “almost all the courses found in four-year accounting programs. The main difference is we only require one economics course and one science rather than two,” she explained, “but our training parallels the curriculum of a four-year program, which gives our graduates the skills that bring higher salaries.”
The Lone Star College System also offers a unique Certified Public Accountant certificate program for people who have earned a four-year degree in field of study. “Let’s say, for example, you have a four year degree in English and have decided to change fields,” Russon explained. “In our program, you can prepare to take the CPA exam in a very thorough and intensive one-year program.”
“The CPA prep courses, which became available five years ago, are recognized by the state CPA board for students with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines who come back, complete the prep courses and then sit for the CPA exam,” Russon said. “They’ve also approved some of our business courses and we also offer an accounting ethics course that has been approved by the state.”
An accounting assistant with a two-year associate degree can expect to earn between $35,000 and $40,000 as an entry-level assistant in the Greater Houston area. Students graduating with a four-year degree in accounting can expect starting salaries at $58,000 or higher.
“Experience is also a strong component in the field of accounting,” Russon continued, “so we encourage students to participate in a co-op or part-time job to obtain experience in the accounting field. We also help students with their résumés and to find jobs, which includes a Web accessible program where students put their résumés on-line and employers can search on-line for accounting employees.”
Russon, who is president of the Institute of Management Accountants–Houston Chapter, said she also encourages students to go to technical meetings to meet people working in the real world and for the purpose of networking. “Lone Star College-North Harris also has scholarships available, just recently we gave two of our students scholarships.”
In addition, many of the area’s professional organizations are encouraging student participation and Russon continually gets calls from businesses who are interested in Lone Star College-North Harris students.
For accountants at all levels, there are a lot of opportunities and the trends feeding demand for accountants which aren’t likely to end soon. “The Baby Boomers [who] are retiring in the next five years are going to fuel demand for accountants, despite what may happen in the economy at large,” Russon said, “and the effects of growing compliance initiatives are having an impact on the financial sector. Those two forces provide assurance that, even in tough economic times, accountants’ skills will be in demand.”
For more information on the accounting programs available at Lone Star College-North Harris, contact Russon at 281.618.5618.
Lone Star College-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 E, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: NorthHarris.LoneStar.edu.