Yes, automation continues to take over the accounting profession. No, that doesn’t mean you’ll eventually be replaced by a robot. However, it does mean that the job description for the average accountant will change dramatically, as artificial intelligence becomes more central to the process. Are you ready for automation, the future of accounting?

Think about it: every industry has AI involved. From finance to customer service to marketing to entertainment, automation has become a crucial part of the daily routine. This trend includes accounting, of course…meaning that you have to prepare for the AI future.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you think about automation in the accounting profession:

Don’t Panic

It’s natural to worry about the future. And automation has long been seen as a potential game-changer in the accounting world. Just as one example, in 2015, Accenture issued a report called “Death by Digital,” pinpointing the professions most likely to be impacted by automation. Accounting sat near the top of the list, just behind telemarketers.

At the time, the report suggested that 40% of transaction accounting work would be done by robots by 2020. Well, 2020 has come and gone (thank goodness). How do things look now?

In 2015, the government reported 1,226,910 jobs for accountants and auditors. By 2019, that number had grown slightly to 1,280,700, an increase of 4% over the four-year span. Guess we avoided that 40% Terminator-style robot apocalypse in the accounting profession.

Moreover, growth in the accounting profession seems likely for the next several years as well. Government data suggest 4% growth during the 2020s, about the average for all professions.

The takeaway: don’t panic about automation. It doesn’t mean that accountants will go away. The evolution in the profession will just continue, the same progress that, in previous generations, saw the integration of the adding machine, the calculator, and the computer.

Accept the Changing Accounting Profession

Did you learn about the Luddites in high school?  They were a secret society in 19th century England that despised the growing importance of machinery in textile manufacturing. They’d go around smashing mechanical looms to prevent the spread of automation.

Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. Learn from that history and don’t become a modern AI Luddite. You can’t stop the future by taking a stand against modernization. You’ll just be left behind. So rather than follow that failed example, embrace the future. Learn how you fit into the process.

Develop New Skills

Of course, automation will replace much of the rote work of accounting. Are those boring tasks really what you want to be doing anyway? If a computer is really to do all your mind-numbing chores, shouldn’t you embrace that as a good thing?

In the final analysis, automation just means a changing role for human accountants. No more time spent doing simple math or filling out forms. Instead, you’ll have to apply your knowledge in interesting and innovative ways, using technology as a tool.

Put that way, it kind of seems exciting, right? Here are a few skills that will likely become more important as automation continues to alter the accounting profession:

Data Management: Computers are good at collecting and analyzing data, but they require direction to achieve meaningful insights. Numbers are just numbers…until someone figures out what they mean. Make that your job.

Customer Service/Education: They call them “people skills” for a reason. Accounting will still require a human face. Improve your ability to interact with clients and to build relationships. It will be some time before a computer can perform those tasks as well as you can.

Tech Savvy: Get to know the new software and hardware you’ll need to use. By mastering these tools, you’ll be able to perform your job better. In this way, AI won’t replace you. It will assist you in your efforts to make the most out of your career.

Navigating the new environment in the accounting profession requires tact and in-depth knowledge. You can get that from a strong staffing firm, like SmartTalent. Let them help you drive your career forward.

Contact SmartTalent today to find exciting opportunities in the accounting profession.

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