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Employment outlook appears good for Mississippi accounting graduates

Beth Burgess

Beth Burgess

School’s out and accounting graduates — like all graduates — are looking for employment. What’s the status of the accounting job scene? Three accounting professionals from different backgrounds are optimistic about accounting jobs.

Beth Burgess, CEO of the Burgess Group and current president of the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants, has spent her career in public accounting since age 20.
“I think the market is good. I am being contacted more frequently by businesses with job openings for accountants,” she said. “More firms and companies seem to be hiring accountants this year. The great thing about an accounting degree is the flexibility offered with career choices. Many graduates go into public accounting but there are also opportunities in other areas with large and small businesses, education, banking and government. Everyone needs an accountant. Even if a graduate wanted to start their own business, having an accounting degree is invaluable.”
Karen C. Moody, a CPA for 30 years, is director of accounting for Lampton-Love, Inc. and will begin a term as president of the MSCPA on July 1. She worked in public accounting eight years and says they were exceptional years. “I recommend that career path to accounting graduates as it allows them to explore and discover their true interests and make business contacts,” she said. “I was fortunate to be offered the position with Lampton-Love, Inc., one of my clients, and the past 25 years here have also been exceptional and fulfilling.”

Karen Moody

Karen Moody

Steve Jackson, Ph.D., CPA, is an associate professor in the School of Accountancy, College of Business at the University of Southern Mississippi.
“I think this year is one of the best we have had for placement of our accounting grads,” he said. “Over the last few years we have seen an increase in the number of students finding jobs.”
He sees more options available. On the Coast these positions include accounting work with casinos and growth industries such as ship building. “Accounting degrees are flexible in that managerial trainee-track-type positions also look at accounting graduates,” he added.
When Burgess graduated, it was basically engrained that the only “real” accountants were the ones who worked in public accounting. “Obviously, that is not true and Mississippi is blessed with thousands of CPAs working in all facets of business,” she said. “I think the best change that has been made in the last 30 years is the flexibility offered with accounting positions. In 1980, everyone was expected to work the hours that were set. Very little or no flexibility existed with how and when these hours could be worked. Part time accountants were treated as second class citizens.
“Now, men and women alike are given the flexibility to spend time with their families and get their work done around family activities and responsibilities. The job demands are certainly still there but there are more options for how and when the work is done.”
Burgess feels technology has allowed great advancement of how and when work is completed. “Many firms and offices allow telecommuting which allows employers to retain valuable employees who work too far to commute on a daily basis or need to care for children or elderly parents at home,” she said. “My firm is composed of all women. All of my six employees work a reduced schedule to fit their personal or family needs. Thankfully, they are all professional enough to get their work done timely.”
Moody agrees that the accounting field is more diverse now in public and industry practice. “I understand the universities are pleased with the placements of their accounting graduates this year,” she said. “Those graduating with Masters degrees have fulfilled the requirement of 150 additional course hours to sit for the CPA exam. They have secured jobs at national, regional and local firms. Industry hires will lag as business owners continue to evaluate the economic recovery and the effects of new legislation.”
Asked about the most lucrative positions for accounting majors, Moody said, “In today’s environment, I think working in industry allows more opportunity to fulfill lifestyle demands.”
Jackson has been a CPA 41 years. He practiced with a large international firm in Seattle and privately in Montana and Alaska before entering higher education.
“Most of the feedback from our alumni is very encouraging. They are getting promoted and some are moving into other fields and seem to be doing well,” he said. “We have worked hard to increase the quality of our accounting graduates in the last five to seven years and are now seeing more interest in our students from firms that were not looking at our graduates in the past. We also have an active internship program which has opened more possibilities.”
Burgess recently spoke to a group of students who were about to graduate.
“I told them two main things: one, you can’t have it all. There will be sacrifices made on every level of your career. Make sure to choose wisely,” she said. “Two, success can be defined in many ways. Each person’s success is different. For me, it’s not all about the money but more about the satisfaction I receive for doing a good job and helping others.”
Moody says it’s important for Mississippi firms and businesses to be competitive in the hiring market to retain these accounting graduates. “They are our future. Many of this year’s graduates have taken jobs out of state,” she said.

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