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What does the employment market look like for Chartered Accountants?

The Irish economy and labour market is strong. John Lawlor, Director at EY-DKM Economic Advisory Services, explains what that means for the job market and newly-qualified Chartered Accountants.

Like most accountancy students, you probably studied subjects like business, mathematics or economics in school, and you may have spent some time with a local accountancy firm during your transition year. After school, you possibly went on to study accountancy at an undergraduate level because your career guidance teacher suggested it’s where you would excel, plus you heard that accountancy offers a huge range of career options. 

You were right. The options range from working in academia, government, financial services, or professional services with an accountancy SME or in one of the Big Four firms. 

In short, for those who choose a career in accounting, there is a wide range of satisfying and rewarding career paths.

Against that background, I thought it would be useful to consider the employment prospects of young professionals on a regional and sectoral basis around the country. 

Professional services

Brexit notwithstanding, this is a fortunate time for any young person embarking on their career in Ireland. The economy added a net 190,000 jobs in the last three years, and the unemployment rate, currently at 5.4%, is heading back to levels last seen in the mid-noughties. The flow of net migration has turned strongly positive in recent times to support the growth in the jobs market. This is all good news.

The classification of employment data by the CSO captures accountants under the ‘professional, scientific and technical activities’ sector, or ‘professional services’. This is a major economic sector in Ireland, employing almost 140,000 people on average, or 6% of the total workforce, in 2018. Statistics from Chartered Accountants Ireland indicate that there are roughly 27,000 qualified accountants that help make up this total. 

There is no doubt that the demand for professional services throughout Ireland is strong, but it is especially so in Dublin. Labour market statistics for Q4 2018 indicate that over 40% of employment in the sector is located in the capital. While the statistic is a large percentage for one area, that statistic also demonstrates that demand is spread around the country. For example, significant employment in the sector is found in the south-west and mid-east regions. Combined with lower house and rent prices, newly qualified Chartered Accountants can easily consider employment opportunities outside of Dublin.

Careers across the spectrum

Not all newly qualified Chartered Accountants will stay in the professional services sector; accountants are in demand across the sectoral spectrum of the economy. From the 2016 Census of Population, it is evident that the biggest employer of accountants is, unsurprisingly, professional services (14,654 accountants), but a range of other sectors also feature, from financial and insurance (4,015) to manufacturing (3,360) and the retail trade (2,505). 

Brexit

The increasing number of accounting jobs in the financial and insurance sector is worth noting in the context of Brexit. EY’s latest Financial Services Brexit Tracker found that Dublin remains the most attractive location for financial services firms to relocate to post-Brexit, so this could present a significant opportunity for the next generation of Chartered Accountants set to qualify in the coming years.

Bright future

In summary, the strong and growing labour market, and opportunities not only in professional services, but across a range of sectors and regions of the economy, indicates that it is a good time to be a newly qualified accountant in Ireland. This should continue to be the case for the foreseeable future. While Brexit is a major uncertainty, it is likely to create opportunities for accountants, regardless of the ‘hardness’ or ‘softness’ of the eventual outcome. 

With the world changing rapidly and the likelihood that many of today’s students will ultimately work in roles that we cannot even envisage yet, risks are low when going into the accountancy profession. Given the diversity of career choices and the potential for continued growth within the accountancy profession, there is a bright future ahead.



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