It’s tax season, but for Massachusetts public accounting firms, the numbers may not be adding up.
The state, much like the rest of the country, has a shortage of accountants, despite the industry’s robust job market, said Amy Pitter, chief executive of the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants.
“The recruiters at the firms are saying they normally have their hiring goals all met by December, and this year they’re still hiring full time and interns now, and they’ll be hiring into spring,” said Pitter, a former commissioner at the state Department of Revenue. “The schools are saying this is the first time they’re seeing the firms repost [accounting] jobs this time of year. This is very late.”
In a competitive economy, finding and retaining qualified staff is a challenge that many industries face. But accounting firms listed the issues as the most pressing one they experience, according to a 2015 survey by the American Institute of CPAs.
There are, however, some promising signs. In another survey released last year, the organization found that in the 2013-14 academic year there was a 19 percent increase in master’s degree accounting program enrollments, and a 3 percent increase in bachelor’s degrees over the previous year.
Master’s degree hires increased by 11 percent since 2012, with bachelor’s degree hires growing by 5 percent in the same time period, the survey found.
But it’s not enough. “There are more jobs than there are accountants at the moment,” Pitter said.
The Massachusetts organization is embarking on a “fueling the pipeline” initiative with a number of efforts to attract a wider, more diverse pool of candidates, beginning as early as in middle school.
Pitter is working with the Massachusetts STEM Advisory Council to try to have accounting integrated in the math portion of the educational curriculum, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math. Advanced placement accounting classes could be included in school districts, too, perhaps as soon as the 2017-18 school year, Pitter said.
Recruiting minorities is also at the top of the to-do list for Pitter, who added that the field has traditionally been white.
“If you’re not recruiting minorities at the same rate of the existing population, you’re closing up your applicant pool,” she said. “We want to work with colleges and high schools to attract accountants to the profession.”
Katheleen Conti can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.