Job Opportunities in Accounting and Bookkeeping in 2021

In many ways, 2020 has been the year we all wish we could have skipped. No Australian alive today was also a responsible decision-making adult last time a pandemic shut the country down (1919), so effectively, the chaos of COVID-19 is a totally new experience for all of us. New and devastating for us as individuals, as communities, as a society, and as participants in our economy.

If you were planning on a big career move in 2021, it’s understandable if you’re wondering what options you have left. Entire industries have been put on pause. Businesses have disappeared. Many Australians have sadly lost their jobs, through no fault of their own. But there’s good news too. Many are finding great satisfaction in working from home. Business is booming for many online retailers. There’s plenty of work for couriers and other logistics contractors.

This article will focus on some of the good news and job opportunities in accounting and bookkeeping for 2020. Long story short: if you were planning on a new career (or a career move) in accounting or bookkeeping, the future is still bright.

Job security and demand

Even at the time of writing, when hours and roles across all jobs were going down , there was a significantly slower decline in job ads for accountants compared to other professionals. In fact, accountants had the eighth highest number of new job ads of any job category for the latest month (sixth before that) . So compared to many other career options, you can infer that accounting is relatively secure.

In general, statistics suggest accountants will enjoy ‘strong future growth’ in job prospects over the long term as well . What this means is that the projected percentage change in workers over the next five years is strong compared to other jobs. The demand and skill level required is reflected in the pay, which is around $200 a week higher than the average for all jobs ($1,660 vs $1,460). Good news for those seeking full time hours, too: most accountants (80%) work full time (compared to 66%) average). If you’re chasing the flexibility of part-time work, bookkeeping may be for you: only 33% work full time, yet the number of positions is still projected to remain stable in coming years.

Remote work

Most accounting and bookkeeping roles can be done remotely. Many career bookkeepers, especially sole practitioners, already work from home, or on a ‘mobile’ basis. Accountants’ core systems (including accounting software) are already digital and often cloud based, which lends itself to reliable and secure remote work.

There are other features of some accounting and bookkeeping work which lend themselves to working from home. For example, those who charge a flat rate/fixed fees have a different value proposition to those charging hourly rates. ‘Face time’ may be less important than results, which can theoretically be delivered from anywhere. Some bookkeepers already have extensive experience with mail-in ‘shoebox bookkeeping’, which allows contractors, sole traders and micro-businesses to mail in their invoices and receipts (or have them collected) for the quarter in order to have their BAS and other statements prepared.

It’s not just sole practitioners and small practices leading the charge in remote or WFH bookkeeping and accounting work. Many employers are also offering remote or remote optional roles. You can test this yourself by visiting any job ad search site, searching for listings in the ‘accounting’ category, then searching again in the same category for the keywords ‘work from home’. For example, on one site (at the time of writing), at least 10% of accounting job ads specifically mentioned ‘work from home’ or ‘remote’ in the ad title, and many others mentioned unspecified negotiable flexibility.

Diversity of industries

One of the things that’s keeping job opportunities interesting for accountants and bookkeepers in 2021 is the sheer diversity of work. A little over half of accountants work in professional services and financial services firms, but this includes accountancy practices that may serve a variety of different business clients. Other big employers for accountants are manufacturing, wholesale trade, health care, and of course the public sector.  Accounting clerks and bookkeepers enjoy much more diversity. 80% work for industries outside ‘professional services’, the largest being construction, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and public administration.

For 2021, this suggests two important positive possibilities. First, because accounting and bookkeeping work isn’t limited to a single industry, it’s less likely to suffer a serious impact from industry and regional shutdowns. At a glance, this seems to be reflected in the diversity of the vacancies being advertised at the time of writing. There are also hints that bookkeeping and accounts clerks are hiring priorities in diverse businesses at the moment. This may be a good sign for entry level applicants (including new bookkeeping graduates) looking to stay in their current industry and leverage their experience, but move into a more secure role. For example, at the time of writing, a number ads for ‘junior’ roles specify a preference for someone with industry experience, but not bookkeeping experience.

Demand for compliance expertise

At this time, accounting and bookkeeping clients (especially small businesses) are looking to their accountants and bookkeepers for advice on how to meet the requirements of accessing government support. This includes JobKeeper as well as local and state government grant initiatives designed to support businesses. This kind of consulting and practical assistance may be a major contributor to accounting and bookkeepers’ activity right now, in turn helping to buoy the employment market.

If you’re considering a new career or a sideways move within accounting and bookkeeping, we encourage you to explore the vocational education pathways with our education provider of choice, Monarch Institute. Their courses have always been 100% online, so you know you’ll get a purpose-built learning experience with great student support. You can enrol anytime and study at your own pace.

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