Is the Future for International Accounting Graduates Uncertain?

BY Owen Firth |
14/07/14

Some of you may have seen a series of articles in the AFR over the past few days regarding employment outcomes for graduate accountants and the growth of international students in Accounting like the one here.

I am writing this because I believe the articles are misleading and may give international accounting students cause for unnecessary concern.

Firstly, Accounting is locked into the Skilled Occupation List (SOL) and it is valid until 30/6/15.

There has never been change outside of the normal annual process to my knowledge

The AWPA is the government agency responsible for advising the government on which occupations should be on the SOL.  They gather data from a wide range of sources and experts (including the Accounting Bodies) to form a view on the future demand for these occupations, then make a recommendation to the government.  After many months of reviewing they formed a view that the future demand for accountants is strong and therefore recommended to the government to leave Accounting on the SOL.

The Department of Education was the only negative submission out of many to the AWPA regarding Accounting.  In my opinion, the information provided by the Department is out of date, based on past data, rather than future expectations.  The job applications per vacancy data that they gather is, in my opinion, fundamentally flawed.

The Accounting bodies (CA, CPA and IPA) are the most qualified to assess future demands for accountants and provided a comprehensive report to the AWPA supporting the view that accountants would be in strong demand in the future.

Who would you believe, the Accounting bodies who are directly in touch with the market, or the unnamed experts and other academics mentioned in the articles?  I wonder when they last spoke to an employer or recruiter?

I believe there is clear evidence of the future demand for accountants.  This can be in narrowly defined ‘Accountant’ positions (as the government does) and in the much broader variety of professional roles that accounting graduates go into.

I do however agree with one point:  if international student graduates do not develop their non-technical skills, especially business-grade communication, they are likely to struggle in the job market and often end up in low-skilled areas.  For those who do invest in their soft-skills, a well-paid and satisfying career awaits!

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