How the skills shortage within public practice can both damage and enhance the career prospects of accountants looking for a new job

What the Skills Shortage Really Means for Recruitment 

It’s no secret that public practice – and the global marketplace as a whole – is experiencing a major skills shortage. Businesses operating in every industry are scrambling to fill vacancies as the candidate talent pool is running dry. 

According to a recent survey by outsourcing specialists Advancetrack, 45% of accountancy firms are “severely” or “significantly” affected by skills shortages. Out of those surveyed, 74% state that shortages within the sector have worsened significantly over the last three years, with 61% agreeing that the pandemic made an “appreciable difference” to accessing talent.  

While the skill shortage is a pain felt by most firms, it’s something job-seeking accountants can use to their advantage.  

Now that we’re nearly halfway through 2024, we’re seeing firms move heaven and earth to secure talent. The old tricks no longer work – firms are repositioning themselves as employee-centric businesses and readapting their recruitment strategies to offer talented candidates like you what they really want. The skills shortage has opened a gap between employer and employee, allowing candidates to be pickier with what firm they want to work for. This is great news for job seeking public practice accountants 

So, how easy is it to find an employer that reflects your principles, recognises your talent and rewards you with the salary and benefits that you know you’re worth? 

Today’s blog will explore the current state of the recruitment market within public practice, how it affects auditors and tax professionals, and what the skills shortage could mean for the future of both employers and employees.  

The Skills Shortage Within Public Practice 

The understaffing within public practice isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s an issue that’s been getting increasingly worse for a number of years, even before the pandemic. It’s a topic widely discussed across the sector, but there’s so many factors at play that it’s challenging to identify its root cause.  

Back in January 2024, the Financial Times published an insightful article that attributed the “dire shortage of accountants” to the lengthy training processes required to become a qualified accountant. This theory is plausible when you consider the years of hard work and sacrifice that one needs to commit in order to become an accountant.  

In support of this, Stephen Foley, Accounting Editor for the Financial Times, stated, “fewer university students are taking accountancy courses, and under current rules they need the equivalent of a whole extra year of study before they can qualify – a costly deterrent, especially for those from diverse backgrounds.”  

The harsh truth is that the current recruitment economy within public practice has subsequently created a culture of deception. Firms are offering candidates the world in a bid to retain talent, but we’re seeing time and time again that candidates are feeling misled, where their employer isn’t delivering on their promises or staying true to their word. 

Many firms are vowing to improve their employee benefits to prevent their current staff from leaving and finding a job that offers more elsewhere. Whether that’s promising to increase salaries or update employee perks, we’re seeing a huge number of firms pledging to give their staff more. However, a lot of these employers are falling short of the mark and setting expectations that they cannot meet let alone exceed. 

Staff resignations, especially if they’re long-serving members of the team, are enough to unsettle an entire department. The departure of a respected member of staff plants the seed of doubt in other people’s heads, causing them to question their own standing within the firm, and if they can too find a better place to work for. Therefore, it’s in a firm’s best interest to do everything they can to nurture and retain its team. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.  

So, how does the skills shortage both benefit and damage the prospects of audit and tax professionals searching for a new role within public practice? Let’s talk about it. 

Benefitting from the Skills Shortage 

Do you feel like the only time you have or will have a voice within your firm is when you resign? If the answer’s yes, it could be time to consider working for someone else. 

Whether you’re a Tax Semi Senior or an Audit Director, the skills shortage affords you flexibility. Firms are desperately trying to fill empty seats and keep up with workloads, which gives you the luxury of choice. The ball is in your court to choose a firm that can meet your professional and personal requirements.  

Think your LinkedIn profile may be holding you back from securing the best job opportunities? Optimise your online presence to start gaining traction.  


Auditors are some of the most highly sought after professionals within the public practice space. Firms are aware of how in-demand auditors are and will do just about anything to retain experienced staff who can ensure the smooth running of their audit function. 

While a career in audit can be lucrative, it’s an extremely demanding job with imbalanced risk and reward. It requires a technical skillset and involves on-site work with some auditors visiting several client sites a month, which is not ideal for those looking for a work-life balance or to prioritise home life.  

Back in October 2023, Joe Longer, the Chairman of ASIC, summarised during a parliamentary inquiry that auditing has “become an unattractive profession to enter.” Both Longer and Deborah O’Neill, Labor committee Chairman, agree that “the once sought-after and safe career choice of auditor did not have the same appeal it did in decades past” due to the profession now being considered high-risk.  

O’Neill expands on this, offering that the key reason for the auditor staffing crisis is due to the “low pay of junior auditors compared with the oversized pay packets of Partners at large auditing firms’.  

Despite the Government’s public recognition of the audit skill shortage, some firms still aren’t doing enough to provide initiatives for professionals working or looking to work within the audit field.  

So, if you’re an auditor that’s considering moving firms, don’t settle for less than you deserve. Your skills are valuable and the right firm will recognise and reward them by offering the salary and employee benefits that your experience entitles you to.  


Are you a tax professional currently working in a varied role, but the mix isn’t right for you? Or maybe you’ve asked your firm repeatedly for exposure to advisory but they’re not delivering on their word? 

Unfortunately, this seems to be the story for a lot of tax professionals working at or below the Senior level right now. Tax professionals looking to diversify their skillset are being misled by empty promises. In a bid to prevent talent from leaving, firms are offering on-going training and further learning opportunities without making it a reality, which is leaving a lot of tax specialist feelings disheartened and disregarded. 

If you possess a solid technical knowledge across taxation, why not seize the skills shortage as an opportunity to find a firm that can offer you more than the bare minimum? 

To bridge the employer and employee gap, some firms are offering full study support to allow tax specialists to acquire in-demand qualifications such as CTA. If further learning is something you want to pursue, but your current employer cannot or will not offer it, we encourage you to seek professional opportunities elsewhere. After all, your firm should be someone you work with, not for 

While we appreciate that changing career direction can be easier said than done, we encourage all our candidates to never let their standards slip for an employer that doesn’t value them. Your skills will be much appreciated and financially rewarded elsewhere if you remain patient with your job search and seek guidance and advice from a specialist recruiter. 

Not sure how much you should be earning in 2024? Negotiate the salary you deserve according to the current market 

Navigating the Skills Shortage Whilst Looking for a Job 

We know that the current climate within public practice poses many challenges for accountants working in the profession. For junior staff, it may even cause them to rethink their career choices completely. 

However, we’d like to remind you that a career in accountancy is lucrative, engaging and rewarding in both a professional and personal sense. Accountants are entrusted to improve the financial health of individuals, families and businesses, and the work they do changes people’s lives for the better. It’s a profession that will always be held high in regard and something that existing or aspiring accountants should feel proud to do. 

Here at Public Practice Recruitment Ltd, we don’t see the skills shortage as a hindrance. Instead, we view it as an opportunity to empower our candidates, help them realise their potential and secure the job opportunities that they deserve.  

Are you an experienced auditor or tax professional looking to work for a firm that recognises and rewards your hard work? Get in touch with our team today.  


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