Accounting Will Not Become Obsolete Due to Automation

Accounting Will Not Become Obsolete Due to Automation

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As companies continue to automate accounting tasks, many fear job losses for accountants. With the accountant career ranking among the best-paying jobs in finance, anything that threatens its future will worry many people.

According to Brookings Institute, accounting will not become obsolete due to automation, but technology will reshape the profession significantly. As a result, some accounting jobs will disappear or diminish in the future as companies seek to streamline their finance departments.

Let’s explore the future of the accounting profession. We will discuss the accounting jobs most at risk of disappearing due to automation and the survival strategies for accounting professionals.

Recent AI Advances Raise the Question: Will Robots take Accountants Over?

Automation poses a serious threat to the future of the accounting profession. The automation technology evicting accountants from their desks rapidly is dubbed Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

This powerful software can handle many rule-based accounting tasks. As a result, companies are adopting RPA software to automate accounting functions such as invoice processing and expense reporting. The software can also help with financial forecasting and payroll management tasks.

The software can emulate human activities on computers to act like them. By recording how people interact with digital systems, the RPA software can tell what’s on the screen, navigate a system, complete the right keystrokes, and extract the required information.

Besides speeding up processes, the technology enables companies to operate with lean accounting teams.

Although computers are increasingly taking up many accounting roles, robots won’t overtake accountants – at least not anytime soon.

Accounting professionals do more than defined functions that computers can learn and perform. For example, tasks such as analyzing financial statements, interpreting financial reporting standards, and tax planning will be hard to automate.

Furthermore, computers lack humans’ professional judgment and critical thinking capability to perform advisory roles. There are also strategic decision-making tasks that robots may never get right in the accounting field.

As a result, automation will only shift accounting functions to higher levels rather than make the profession obsolete. While entry-level roles are at risk, senior-level positions are safe and may become more exciting in the future. 

Low-Level Jobs Face the Biggest Risk of Automation

The talk about automation replacing accountants has been going on for a long time. It has even caused some students to steer away from the profession amid job security concerns. Job losses in the accounting field due to automation have been limited to entry-level positions.

The accounting jobs that face the biggest risk of automation are those that handle routine, tedious, and time-intensive tasks. As a result, automation-driven job insecurity bears down on general ledger accountants, payroll accountants, and accounts payable clerks.

As companies automate these labor-intensive functions, entry-level accountant jobs will diminish over time. Junior accountant job opportunities may only exist in small businesses that can’t afford the expensive automation technology. 

Accounting is a Field in Decline

The number of students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting has been declining in recent years. Similarly, the number of available accounting professionals has decreased.

Besides retirement, the movement of accountants to other professions for fear of automation eating their jobs is another factor in the decline. Companies have responded to the accounting labor shortage in the field by boosting the pay to lure or retain accountants. 

Benefits of Automation to Accountants

Not all accounting jobs are boring, and the accounting jobs that survive automation will become more exciting. Automation of accounting functions results in increased processing speed and reduces entry errors. That results in higher quality output that can lead to better business decisions.

Automating those dull accounting operations also frees accountants to focus on higher-value tasks. Accountants will have more time to think through quality advice for businesses. Furthermore, automation gives accountants more time to perfect their expertise to solve high-level challenges. 

6 Tips for Accountants to Survive the AI Revolution

While there’s no stopping the automation of accounting functions, accountants can adapt to the changes to survive and thrive in the future. Here’re a few steps accounting professionals can take to future-proof their careers: 

1. Develop Strong Communication Skills

Automation is moving accounting functions to more technical roles requiring strategic thinking, planning, and interpreting complex documents.

As the accounting profession shifts to more advisory roles, companies will seek to hire professionals who can clearly communicate strategies and foster collaboration. As a result, accountants with strong communication and business skills will be more marketable. 

2. Acquire In-Demand IT Skills

Accountants whose job security may be at risk due to automation can learn additional skills that will continue to be in demand. For example, knowledge of computer programming can add value to an accountant’s resume and lead to job opportunities such as IT auditors. 

3. Be Ready To Work Alongside the Robot

Instead of worrying about losing their positions, accountants can learn to use artificial intelligence tools that enable them to work alongside automated systems. Future accountants can be more successful by acquiring expertise in areas such as data analytics and business intelligence. Moreover, the ability to manage IT systems could help accountants secure their jobs in an automated environment. 

4. Seek Additional Qualifications

Since automation largely threatens junior-level accounting positions, you can take additional training to suit the higher-level roles in demand. For example, accountants with a plain bachelor’s degree can secure their jobs by obtaining Chartered Accountant and CPA qualifications.

Qualified accountants who perform complex tasks such as interpreting accounting laws, advising businesses, and making strategic decisions will continue to be in demand. A strong demand for technical accounting skills can only lead to better pay for the professionals. 

5. Explore Opportunities in Adjacent Fields

Although automation is notorious for destroying jobs, it also creates new opportunities. Chartered Accountants and CPAs can fit in many roles in an organization beyond the finance department. As a result, accountants can explore opportunities in adjacent areas. For example, business consulting is a promising field for accounting professionals. 

6. Build a Broader Professional Network

Accountants can benefit from growing their professional network in a rapidly changing field. For example, you can expand your skills and learn about new opportunities more quickly by meeting and connecting with like-minded people.

When building a professional network, you should strive to connect with like-minded professionals across industries. Networking can help you gain a deeper understanding of challenges in your field and challenge your assumptions about situations. 

The Bottom Line

Automation poses the greatest threat to the job security of entry-level accounting positions. As a result, many rule-defined tasks handled by junior accountants will disappear as computers master those functions.

However, higher-level accounting jobs that require strategic thinking and professional judgment will be difficult to replace with automation software. The future belongs to accountants who can adapt to industry changes by upgrading their skills to handle high-power tasks.

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About The Author

Nathan Brunner
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Nathan Brunner is a labor market expert. He is a mathematician who graduated from EPFL.

He is the owner of Salarship, a job board where less-skilled candidates can find accessible employment opportunities.