Accounting Enrollment Reaches an All-Time High

Posted By Terri Williams on November 3, 2015 at 1:37 pm
Accounting Enrollment Reaches an All-Time High

For the first time in history, accounting enrollment has reached the 250,000 threshold, and accounting firms are hiring a record number of accounting graduates. According to the 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits Report, during the 2013-2014 academic school year, enrollment surged at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

The report, by the American Association of CPAs (AICPA), tracked accounting enrollment by program for several years. The results for the past three years are as follows:

Degree 2009-2010 2011-2012 2013-2014
Bachelor’s 187,534 201,570 207,071
Master’s in Accounting 29,464 29,648 39,641
MBA in Accounting 5,100 5,132 3,107
Master’s in Taxation 2,822 2,840 2,068
Ph.D 1,188 1,189 1,195
Total 226,108 240,379 253,082


These findings are consistent with several other recent studies. A Georgetown University study of the most popular degrees among college students listed accounting as the third most popular field of study, with 17.7% of all undergraduates choosing this major.

There are two primary factors fueling the popularity of accounting degrees:


The AICPA report also revealed that hiring increased across the board by 7% from the previous year, and 91% of firms expected to hire at the same or an increased rate next year.

Also, statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reveal that 166,700 new accountants and auditors will be needed by the year 2022. However, graduates with an accounting degree can also pursue a range of other occupations, including tax examiner and collector, revenue agent, budget analyst, personal financial advisor, financial analyst, and financial manager.

Below are the projected job growth rates from the BLS for each of these positions:

Profession Job Growth Rate Through 2022
Accountant and Auditor 13%
Budget Analyst 6%
Financial Analyst 16%
Financial Examiner 6%
Personal Financial Advisor 27%
Tax Examiner and Collector -4%



In addition, the Georgetown study found that a bachelor’s degree in accounting led to the fifth highest salary among business graduates. According to the BLS, the median annual wages for the careers listed above are:

Profession Median Annual Wage
Accountant and Auditor $65,940
Budget Analyst $71,220
Financial Analyst $78,620
Financial Examiner $76,310
Personal Financial Advisor $81,060
Tax Examiners and Collectors $51,120


Regarding the AICPA Trends report, Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, president and CEO of the AICPA says the data is very positive and indicates a bright  outlook for accounting students entering the profession. However, he notes a slightly widening gap between the number of students graduating with an accounting degree and the number taking the CPA Exam.

This certification makes candidates more competitive, and the designation is often preferred by many employers. Joanne Fiore, vice president of professional media, pathways and inclusion at AICPA adds, “To increase the number of students sitting for the exam, our research shows that employers can make a difference by encouraging or requiring students to sit for the exam and supporting them by giving time off to study and helping with costs.”


Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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