An accountant’s job was among multiple professions that were predicted by some to go nearly extinct in a few years’ time. This was roughly a decade ago, and yet accountants, chartered accountants and accounting managers are not just earning a living in 2020, they are well-paid professionals with growing employability within the business sector.

This sharp difference between what people thought it would be like for accountants and how it is for them in reality today stems largely from a core misunderstanding. We will discuss this big misunderstanding, along with other reasons as to why careers in finance continues to grow with more encouraging and prospective projections from the BLS.

The Big Misunderstanding about AI: Confusing Pop Culture with Reality

Whether they agree or not, the ones who made flamboyant and panic-inducing predictions regarding machines replacing human jobs largely believed that the rise of artificially intelligent software would be akin to what we see in movies or on TV. They thought that the intelligent software would be so intelligent that the need for human employees to manage accountancy departments for companies would be non-existent. As most of their expectations were clearly based on pop culture rather than hardcore facts, none of them came to be.

The Reality of AI in Business

Artificial intelligence is extremely misunderstood in both its applicability and present state of development. Consider the smartphones we all use on a daily basis. They too are getting smarter all the time, and what we are experiencing on our smartphones via various applications is, more or less, representative of what AI can do, albeit on a much smaller scale as compared to enterprise-grade business automation. It still is extremely impressive, but just not to the degree that people thought it would be.

We can shop online, order food and find information with the help of our smartphones, but can any of that be done without active input from us? Sure, you can pre-program an app to pay your electricity bills in time, or order food automatically, but that is only possible when you provide all the inputs necessary and pre-program it to function in a way that you would like it to.Can it make better suggestions regarding how to proceed with that pre-programing? Most certainly, and that’s what makes the process feel so much better, more productive and naturally intuitive. The software learns about our preferences and attempts to replicate behavior that it deems would be appropriate for the user’s specific situation.

This type of learning is highly useful in marketing as well, which is why it’s possible to send out automated emails at the right time, to the right customer. Those timely emails convert into sales with a very impressive rate of success in fact.  However, without someone actually writing the marketing email’s content, and someone else programming the automation software to send out those emails to qualifying leads with minor automatic changes (name of the recipient, subject line, etc.), the automated emailing software will not be able to send a qualifying lead that well-timed, targeted email.

Tools of the Trade

In other words, software intelligence is nowhere near a place where it can replace a highly skilled human being. They can finish repetitive, boring and time-consuming tasks much faster, but they cannot make key decisions without prior human input. If they were allowed to make such decisions without any built-in stops within the architecture, then the number of errors which they would make would put the term “human error” to shame! That would happen because even a learning algorithm exists in the digital world, and it has no means of taking real-life scenarios and factors into consideration while making real-life decisions. As finance professionals are highly skilled human beings who must conduct their jobs by taking in and considering real-time, real-life situations in order to be successful, their career prospects will keep growing unhindered.

Comparing modern AI-powered software resources for accounting to a calculator would be a laughable understatement, but there is at least one similarity that the ancient calculator still shares with sophisticated accounting applications; they are both tools that are meant to be used by human workers for faster completion of their workload.

Certain requirements have changed because of the sophistication of those accounting tools though, and we will discuss those changes next. These are not to be taken lightly and must be adopted even by experienced accountants if they wish to stay relevant in 2020 and beyond.

Accountants Must Keep Themselves Updated to Stay Relevant

Despite everything that we discussed about people misunderstanding the nature, function and evolution of machine learning, there is little doubt about the fact that digital tools have become inseparable from modern accountancy as a whole. While the software cannot itself replace human accountants, new accountants who are more proficient and well-acquainted with the latest accounting tools, most certainly can. Keep in mind that this bodes well for new and upcoming accountants who often find it hard to land a job immediately after college, due to a lack of experience.

What that means is, if an experienced financial manager or even a chartered accountant wants to ensure that their job remains untouchable, they should consider keeping themselves updated with a crash course on digital accounting. They do not necessarily need to learn how an accounting forecasting system works at the programming level of course, but they should be able to use the forecasting tool to its full extent for maximum benefits.

AI was always meant to aid skilled professionals, so now that it has managed to reach a position where it can do that on a massive scale, modern or senior accountants alike stand to gain by taking the time and training necessary for learning about these modern tools of the trade.

A Strong Accounting Base is Still the Primary Requisite

As readers may have noticed, the title mentioned that accountancy remains a lucrative career for the right candidates. A right candidate for any accounting job should ideally be someone who is good with numbers like it has always been. However, the accounting sector is not exactly how it used to be a decade or even five years in the past. New branches, job opportunities and cross-departmental posts have been added to the sector, so that the professionals can be further divided and subdivided into more suitable categories that are in sync with their education, capabilities, experience, training and aspirations.

On taking a look at the Accounting Principles concentration for MBA students, you’ll see it is a cleverly crafted program that merges business management with accounting seamlessly so that the professional’s potential employment field becomes much wider than the average accountant, or the average MBA graduate.

If on the other hand, the student is interested in building a more accountancy focused career for themselves, there is also a dedicated financial accounting, cost and managerial accounting and federal taxation programs. Do keep in mind that while these are exceptional courses in their own right, you may or may not need additional qualifications and training to sit for the CPA or CMA exams. Confirm the same and decide accordingly before joining any accounting program.

Accounting and Finance Jobs are Here to Stay

As long as human civilization stands, the accountant is also going to be here to manage money and improve the condition of a business’s finances. There will be unforeseen and unpredictable changes down the line for sure, but at no point can core financial professionals become obsolete.

The job of the accountant is as solid as business itself because without the right heads to manage money, investments and taxes, no company can possibly grow or even survive after it has reached a certain size. A small company with two employees may not exactly need an accountant, but when that same establishment decides to expand and hire 20 more employees to handle the significant increase in their business, they will be looking for accounting managers to help them.

The coronavirus has put millions of people out of a job and accountants were not exempt from the layoffs either. In fact accountants, along with teachers and engineers were among the worst-hit professionals in all of the US during the early layoffs. Things changed, however, for finance professionals, when roughly 17,500 accounting jobs were soon added in June and thousands more followed from thereon.

Closely related to an operating market, it needs to be admitted that financial professionals cannot thrive in an economy that has ceased to function altogether. However, the complete quarantines proved to be predictably unsustainable, and now that business is slowly getting back to its usual status globally, accounting professionals are also bouncing back the fastest. This bounce back is evidence of the fact that this is a sector which is so intricately connected with each and every industry as a whole, that it simply cannot sink without the economy of an entire nation sinking with it.