1 in 5 Junior Staffers Planning to Quit

Expect a new hiring crisis.

One in five junior staffers plan to leave their accounting firm by the end of the year, according to a startling new survey.

And, of those, about 75% plan to quit public accounting completely, significantly worse than last year's 65% loss rate.

The data comes from the latest issue of IOMA's Partner's Report (subscribe here) which reports the results of a survey of more than 2,000 employees of CPA firms, conducted as part of Consulting magazine’s 2010 Best Firms to Work For survey.

In addition, the average anticipated tenure for a junior employee is slipping -- to just 3.9 years, a decline from the year-ago 4.1.

IOMA Jr staff turnover

Furthermore, mid-level employees (those between partners and junior staff) say they too would quit public accounting if they could -- by more than a 2-1 margin, (61 percent vs. 29 percent).

"This means that the spike in turnover isn’t likely to lead to a redistribution of talent among accounting firms," according to Editor Jess Scheer, writing in the monthly newsletter. "Instead, we’re seeing signs of a one-way stream away from the profession."

"To stem the tide," he advises, "accounting firms must first convince their staff of the merits of remaining within the profession, as well as staying at their current firm... Moreover, as the War For Talent rekindles in the coming year, this trend will likely lower the supply of talent, thus exacerbating the hiring challenges. "

38 Responses to “1 in 5 Junior Staffers Planning to Quit”

  1. Edward Greenlee

    I’ve been involved in PA for over 25 years. Much has changed and not for the better. Part of PA’s problem is the perception of the public of what we can do for them. Last year I took the step to address the problems my practice has faced and have developed a multi-family office. It combines PA services with wealth management. Now instead of serving hundreds of tax clients, I can focus on just a few families.

  2. CPA Firm Owner 22 Years

    The problem with the younger generation, Y generation, is that they think they should all make $100k/yr and go home everyday at 5pm. The real problem with the Y generation is that they have no idea what its like to actually run a firm day to day and deal with fee pressures from clients, etc. But based upon my experience over the last 22 years with my clients, its not always rosier on the other side! When is the Y generation going to wake up and finally learn that hard work and dedication is what made this country great and strong. Yes, I do believe you can balance work life with family, and my employees all receive a minimum of two weeks vacation to start and three after 5 years. And I have always been flexible with kids sports, etc and letting my staff move their hours around to achieve this balance. But what I want in return is commitment to the firm and its clients.

  3. Anonymous


    As a 25 year old male in the profession, I agree with Darren. You only live once, family and other relationships are what matter. I plan on staying in PA until 35 at the latest. It’s NOT worth it. They couldn’t pay me enough to want to work the hours PA requires.

  4. J

    Darren – As a Gen Y female who is currently struggling with whether to have kids or a career, I find it very interesting that you, as a male, are considering the work/life balance issues that women have struggled with in the past few decades. Seems it used to be that the (mostly male) parters had a spouse at home in a support role (taking care of the kids and all the domestic duties) so they could spend insane hours climbing the ladder to where they are now. I’m sensing a trend where Gen X/Y men are becoming less willing to sacrifice family time in order to make it to the top. Are there any other men out there who can lend perspective on this issue?

  5. Darren

    “Fed Up”…I don’t think you’re alone.

    I would be very interested to hear comments from current CPA firm partners who ascended to partnership positions the traditional way (as opposed to those who started their own firms) regarding the impact that the time and effort they put in to get there had on their relationships with their children and spouses.

    I don’t sense a great deal of genuine happiness in the majority of partners that know personally. They’re constantly out of town. They’re not as involved in their kids’ lives as my dad (who worked in a factory) was with me. Those with grown children don’t seem to have close relationships with them. I’ve worked for 9 different partners and only 2 of them are still married to their first spouse.

    I’m only 30, so call me Generation Y, but this is the perception that staff accountants have of the sacrifice needed to become a partner at an accounting firm. I checked my partner aspirations at the door when my wife and I had our first son three years ago. No more overnight travel, no “networking” (that word makes me shiver) on my own time, no pressure for practice development. It was the best career decision I’ve ever made. If I ever want to make real money, I’ll do it when my kids are grown up.

  6. annoymous

    I so agree – I don’t want to miss my child grow up just to make my moody selfish boss rich!

  7. Anonymous

    Wow – Anonymous, 9/15 – great comments – I would come and work for you in a heartbeat!!!

  8. Anonymous

    Great to know I am not alone out there with some of these comments…14 years public acct and would love to bail & go private! Going nowhere fast in this dead end repetitive boredom and missed my son’s growing up!

  9. What is the Profession? « The GSCPA House of Blogs

    […] this is a growing trend of “a one-way stream away from the profession.”   (see the article at http://cpatrendlines.com/2010/09/13/1-in-5-junior-staffers-planning-to-quit/ ) What struck me wasn’t the 20% turnover rate, but that the article assumes anyone leaving public […]

  10. Anonymous

    If only I could afford to survive while I could build my own firm. I would provide:

    1. Work based on developing specific skill sets and training toward personalized career goals.

    2. Immediate feedback and evaluations 2 to 4 times per year.

    3. Pay for performance.

    4. Clear standards and expectations on all engagements.

    5. April 16 to April 30 off. Thanksgiving through Christmas off–Paid. I don’t need you to pay for yet another Lexus for me.

    6. Clear path to partner. What you need to do when.

  11. Will

    I agree with some of the comments. I have friends that switched to jobs outside of public accounting. They say the hours are better, the pay is about the same, sometimes better considering CPA are willing to work longer at companies and so get promoted faster. At a CPA firm, it sometimes feels like I’m just working to make the partner’s money, while I’m busting my butt 50+ hours a week only to get a 3% raise at the end of it all. Life outside of public accounting sounds better all the time.

  12. Fed up

    Being a great auditor or tax expert is not enough to make it to the top paying jobs.

    Networking and bringing in business is the only path to partner and serious money in public accounting and after working 40-50 hours a week May to December and 50-65 hours or more from January to April it is very difficult to go out and network on your own time especially in small firms where there is no support to help you in networking effectively.

    After 25 years of having the carrot of partner held in front of me it is starting to look really moldy. That is 25 years of lower pay than my peers in private industry , no overtime compensation and a busy season bonus that barely comes to minimum wage for the time worked.

    It would take me the rest of my life to catch up if I were made partner which at this point is unlikely. No wonder why people want out. Am I bitter?

  13. Steven

    There have been issues with the PA industry for many years. Now we have the regulatory agencies, government entities, and market forces putting pressure on us as well. I’ve been in the business 10 years. I’ve seen many changes. Its not what it used to be.

  14. Zanze Bar

    The view from outside for most jobs is always rosy.

    When one works 55-60 hours (chargeable) a week, for 4 to 5 months a year, and has to deal with constant bitching at work, it ain’t worth it.

    It’s not the money, stupid!

  15. Yogi

    From my personal experience…I don’t think I care enough about being rich to put up with what I have to do to get there. I think I would rather make about 100k and go home at 5 every day. Most people on the street would agree that that sounds awesome.

  16. Jess Scheer

    The quick answer to your question is “yes”– there are a number of reasons for the anticipated spike in voluntary turnover. There’s the usual life decisions that got postponed during the worst of the downturn. But there’s also a number of factors, both inside and outside the profession, that are exacerbating the situation. The latest issue of Partner’s Report examines many of these issues. But I’d be glad to discuss this with you in more detail.
    Jess Scheer

  17. Earl Rudolfo

    Rick, I’m wondering about the reasons for this trend – namely that “I in 5 junior staffers are planning to quit” and “mid-level employees (those between partners and junior staff) say they too would quit public accounting if they could.” Is it a dissatisfaction with the accounting profession? Or because of the working environment? Or some other compelling reason?

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