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Are accountants in demand in the UK?

22 May 2024
Person sat at a desk and computer using a calculator


Are accountants in demand in the UK?

It’s a valid question.

In the past few years, the sector has been in flux with a reduced number of accountancy applicants and the introduction of AI and machine learning (ML).

So, are accountant jobs in demand?

In this article, we will explore the UK’s accountancy sector - more specifically, do those within the field have the skills relevant to the modern accounting profession?

If you work within the field and believe your talent has gaps in their skill set, Kaplan Assessments can help. We design, develop, and deliver professional qualifications that can be tailored to your workforce to ensure they have the skills required.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, get in touch with our expert team to find out more.

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Is there a shortage of accountants in the UK? The evidence would suggest not, but can we trust it…

According to IRIS, there’s been an almost 40% increase in small accounting practices and bookkeepers - an increase from 55,000 to almost 77,000 since 2018.

This number is thought to have only increased to now almost 100,000!

Some of these smaller practices aren’t sharing their qualifications on their site. It may not seem like much, but it could actually be a far more alarming problem than first thought.

For example, would you use the services of somewhere that doesn’t have their qualifications displayed for something as important as your accounts?

But that’s not the only problem.

Do qualified accountants have up-to-date skills that are required? If they don’t, there will likely also be a lack of skills which could lead to catastrophic problems for businesses, such as:

  • Decreased profits
  • Legal actions
  • Reduction in investor confidence

Continuous professional development (CPD) is essential for many high-stakes industries, including accountancy.

Are the skills of accountants in demand?

Accountancy applicants have reached an all-time low - there’s been a 33% decline in accountant candidates in just one year.

On top of that, according to the FRC Key Facts and Trends Report, there has been a reduction in the number of student and qualified accountants becoming part of industry bodies such as ACCA, ICAEW, and ICB - one year saw a decline of 3.5%!

The fewer people training to become accountants, the fewer accountants are available to fill the jobs necessary for business operations.

But what is causing the lack of accountants in the UK?

Why is there a shortage of accountants?

There are several factors that have impacted the number of accountants in the UK.

Ageing workforce

According to the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), the average age of accountants is 46.

This implies that although there may be some younger accountants, most of the UK’s accountancy sector is older.

With this in mind, many of the older accountants will likely be looking to retire soon which could be one of the reasons there is a shortage of professionals in the sector.

Educational changes

It’s no secret that in the past decade or so there has been a big push for STEM subjects. These include:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics

With more focus on science and engineering particularly, this could have impacted the amount of students exploring accountancy as a career.

Plus, there’s now a wider range of jobs than ever before thanks to the introduction of digital-based jobs, such as:

  • Cybersecurity technicians
  • Content creators
  • Cloud architects

With more jobs than ever to choose from, it’s no wonder there’s been a reduction in the number of professionals in various sectors, not just accounting.

Influx of AI

There has been a lot of discussion recently about AI taking over jobs in various sectors, including accountancy.

More than 50% of accounting professionals believe generative AI will be used for tasks like auditing. If people believe that AI will take over their jobs, will they want to go into the sector to begin with?

Although the worry is understandable, it’s unlikely that AI will replace humans in accountancy.

Therefore, accountants will still be in demand, however, talent within the sector will need the skills required to use AI properly to avoid mistakes.

Changes to working expectations

Since the Covid-19 pandemic, expectations of working conditions have significantly altered.

For example, as of 2023 39% of workers either work fully remotely or in a hybrid model.

Many employees also expect increased benefits - especially if workplaces don’t offer hybrid or remote working. This can include:

  • Unlimited holidays
  • Private dental and healthcare
  • Company socials

How to counteract the UK’s accountant skills shortage

If you provide your workforce with modern working expectations - such as hybrid working - you are more likely to attract younger talent.

This is because 59% of 18-39 year-olds are willing to leave a job if it doesn’t have hybrid working - showing its importance to obtaining accountants in this age range.

Attracting younger talent also means that you could lose less of your workforce to retirement.

Of course, we all understand the importance of having staff in the door. But especially if you do hire lots of younger staff, you could be at risk of a shortage in skills as they have less experience.

With 83% of millennial and Gen-Z workers stating skill development is one of their top priorities, if you showcase that your company is dedicated to the professional development of their employees, you may see less of a churn of accountants.

According to Accountancy Age, there’s at least a 22% skills gap in the accountancy industry - with the advancements in technology and AI, the need for training is only going to increase.

However, you need to make sure the skills being developed are relevant.

The best way to do this? Tailored assessments.

Let Kaplan Assessments help you upskill your accounting professionals

With so many changes happening within the accounting sector, it’s never been more important to offer professional development to your workforce.

By upskilling your entire accounting department, you can ensure your workforce has the skills to remain relevant to industry updates and be competitive within your sector.

Here at Kaplan Assessments, we design, develop, and deliver professional qualifications for various industries.

We work alongside our clients to ensure that the assessments are tailored to the skills your talent requires.

Plus, if any member of your workforce is neurodivergent, we can also make reasonable adjustments to ensure they also have the opportunity to develop professionally.

To find out more about how we can help upskill your accountants, reach out to our expert team today.

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