The pandemic has made a lot of people think carefully about their careers for various reasons, ranging from redundancy to the desire to make changes to their lifestyle - and accountancy has emerged as a more popular choice.
A poll conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) revealed that before the pandemic, 21 per cent of people aged 16-24 were interested in pursuing accountancy or a similar career, but that figure has now risen to 30 per cent.
Whether faced with a job loss, furlough or a reassessment based on how much time they want to spend in close contact with others while the pandemic rumbles on, the Covid crisis has clearly got a lot of people thinking, so anyone now contemplating an accountancy career is in very good company.
Another key issue for many is financial security in their job, something 40 per cent of respondents cited as their most important consideration. How people qualify is, however, a matter of mixed opinion. Only half wanted to go to university, while just as many would prefer to qualify via an apprenticeship.
Chief executive of ACCA Helen Brand said: “This research, alongside a global survey we did earlier this year into Gen Z and their careers, shows how the pandemic has transformed aspirations about the world of work.”
She added that as well as learning plenty of skills and making swift career progress, accountancy careers would enable people ”to be paid well and enjoy greater security of employment; to enjoy a good work-life balance; with varied and meaningful work for organisations with purpose and values”.
ACCA added some case studies of people who had taken the opportunity to start studying to become accountants. Two had done so while on furlough and a third has started a university accountancy degree after working for 20 years as a baker. Two of the three were aged 37.
These examples may be an object lesson to people in very different lines of work that it is never too late, and always possible, to switch to training for an accountancy career.
Moreover, with Ms Brand reporting that the ACCA Global jobs board has seen a record 43 per cent year-on-year rise in usage, it seems many are getting the message.
A key question now is how this situation might progress now the UK economy has opened up and the strategy for dealing with Covid is now about vaccination and maintaining a reasonably low rate of severe infections.
Among the central features of this change of plan is the end of furlough, which is just weeks away. This means any remaining workers still inactive but getting paid will need to either return to their jobs or find new ones. While that removes the opportunity to send time thinking about the future, it also means now is the time to make active decisions about what to do next.
The good news is that this is happening as the number on payrolls is growing consistently. The latest government data shows 182,000 more people in work this month than last, the eight successive month of increase.
As the economy recovers, there will be more opportunities for accountants, making now a particularly opportune time to make the jump into a new career.