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The Evolution of Accounting Jobs in the 2020s

With organisations being held to higher standards, what does that look like for accounting jobs in the near future?

Roles in the accounting sector continue to change and develop as new technology is incorporated and expectations evolve.

Organisations are being held to higher standards, and accountants need to adjust to those changes.

So, what does that look like for accounting jobs as we roll into the next decade and beyond?

What’s impacting accountancy jobs?

Accountancy jobs are seeing a broader range of duties incorporated into each role. That’s partly because automation and other technologies have streamlined so many tasks.

Now, many of those tasks can easily be combined into a single role. These new and diverse roles are being labelled as ‘super jobs’.

That doesn’t mean that jobs are being eliminated – in fact, far from it!

Accountancy jobs are evolving to have more impact and meaning to their organisations. The diversity in each role is making career ladders and career lattices obsolete.

Lateral moves will become more prevalent in the future, and career paths will be more fluid. With that, CVs will tell a candidate’s story based on their skills rather than previous job titles.

Technology innovation is expected to have the highest impact on accountancy jobs in the 2020s and beyond. Additionally, growing regulatory pressures and evolving organisational structures have a role to play.

Career Zones Replace Career Paths

Moving into the future, accountancy career paths will be more fluid.

Instead of following a clear path toward your dream job, you’re likely to make several lateral moves. It’s more about gaining experience and skills rather than having a list of job titles.

ACCA has designated five career zones that replace the way we view traditional career paths. They each offer a pool of experiences and can encompass plenty of roles.

Read on to see how they work together to build the accounting team of the future.

1. Assurance Advocates

Trust in organisations continues to waver. That’s why the role of the Assurance Advocate is so essential. They’re the ones that promote transparency and integrity under the ever-evolving demands for regulation.

These accountants can detect fraud in new ways and provide better, more accurate data to stakeholders using advancing technologies.

Assurance Advocates work to understand how emerging problems are going to impact their organisation. Their roles include:

  • Tax Specialist
  • External Auditor
  • Internal Auditor
  • Risk and Assurance
  • Regulatory and Compliance

2. Business Transformer

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This role is exactly what it sounds like it does – transforming business financial operations during organisational changes.

Business Transformers are primarily found in advisory services. They create and drive change to bring businesses up to date with new technologies and ideas.

You can expect to see a Business Transformer work in several roles, including:

  • Tax Advisory Services
  • Technology Implementation for Small Accountancy Firms
  • Establishing Foreign Subsidiaries
  • Cloud and Analytical Software Implementation Specialists

3. Data Navigator

The role of a Data Navigator is to be the ideal business partner to an organisation. Data Navigators are experts and compiling and using data. They help promote better decision-making by providing forward-thinking analysis.

Automation technology has been a catalyst for developing these roles in accountancy. It frees up time for Data Navigators to use the data in a meaningful way, like painting the entire picture of business performance. They are found in roles like:

  • Data Analysis
  • Data Scientist
  • Strategic Business Partner
  • Financial Reporting

4. Digital Playmaker

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This champion of technology adoption focuses on creating technological plans for organisations. They look at new and innovative digital tools and decide how they can best fit into the various teams and functions within the business.

Digital Playmakers know that digital transformation is critical for businesses to stay competitive and sustainable as we move into the 2020s. You can expect to see them in roles within:

  • Financial Technology
  • Finance Software Specialist

5. Sustainability Trailblazer

Building sustainable operations with eco-conscious efforts will continue to be important in the next decade.

Sustainability Trailblazers build value for organisations in meaningful ways that promote transparency to the public. These accountancy roles focus on purpose in addition to profit.

Sustainability Trailblazers seek to capture both financial and non-financial information. They ask tough questions about how performance is measured and what companies are doing to create long-term value.

Most of the roles for Sustainability Trailblazers focus on sectors of work rather than the jobs themselves. Outside of an environmental accounting position, you can expect to work in areas like:

  • Affordable Housing
  • Green Chemicals
  • Hybrid Vehicles
  • Energy-Efficient Buildings
  • Food Waste Reduction

Skills to Develop in the 2020s

The skillset you’ll need to keep up with the evolving careers in the accounting field is also evolving.

Careers are becoming more skill-centric instead of focusing on job titles. Here are some of the experiences you’ll need as we move into the 2020s:

  • Creative: Being creative as an accountant means taking your expertise and applying it to new situations to create new ideas.
  • Tech-Savvy: The world is going digital, and accounting is no exception. Digital skills involve using and applying new technologies in your job and finding new ways to leverage digital innovations.
  • Emotional Intelligence (EI): This skill will always be necessary for the workforce. As accountants, you’ll interact with both internal and external customers. EI will help you identify your own emotions and the emotions of others so that you can better manage and react to them.
  • Experience: Your experience as an accountant involves meeting expectations and outcomes to create value for your organisation.
    Problem Solving: Accountants are faced with many daily challenges. Working through problems with intelligence and reasoning is essential to every role.
  • Innovative Thinking: As new trends arise in the accounting world, it’s essential to innovatively apply them to tasks in order to add value and streamline processes.

3 Ways to Move Forward in Your Career

With everything shifting as we look forward to the 2020s, what does that mean for your career?

It’s important to approach your career in accounting with an open mind. Here are some things you can do as you navigate through your career.

i. Be Flexible

Your career isn’t necessarily going to have a clear path anymore. The days when you moved up a traditional ladder and each job came with an increasingly important title are in the past.

Now, you’ll need to be flexible and open to lateral moves. The key is to look for opportunities to gain more skills than fancy job titles.

ii. Continue to Learn

Even after you’ve received your degree, you’ll have to continue learning and re-learning your taught skills.

As things keep evolving, how something is supposed to be done can change every few years. Be open to learning new ways of completing your day-to-day tasks.

iii. Embrace Technology

It’s not going anywhere. Technology will continue making its way into every accountancy role.

While it can be disruptive, embracing the digital world can help you do your job more accurately and efficiently. Stay up to date on emerging tech and do what you can to apply it to your role.

Conclusion

Moving into the 2020s means that the accounting industry will keep evolving.

Your career path may not look as cut and dry as accountants before you have seen. While change is sometimes uncertain, it can be exciting!

Now, you’ll focus on developing skill sets instead of collecting job titles. That can mean more meaningful experiences and opportunities to specialise in things you enjoy. Most of all, it’s important to find roles that you enjoy.

Clodagh OBrien
5 min read
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