Updated February 2023
You may have heard that thanks to artificial intelligence, bookkeepers and accounting technicians are being automated out of existence.
The World Economic Forum identified accounting, payroll and bookkeeping clerks as the second most at-risk jobs in Canada, set to become increasingly redundant by 2025.
But that's based on the notion that bookkeepers are little more than data entry clerks. For those who are eager to take on more analytical and advisory responsibilities, the move to automation can actually be a good thing.
"The current automation of accounting is mostly on repetitive tasks,” says Cindy Cao. She’s a curriculum designer who has developed college courses for accounting and payroll as well as business administration programs.
“This can be a positive change for students who want to pursue a career in accounting. They can focus more energy on analyzing the accounting information rather than being trapped in repetition."
The bottom line? Accounting professionals are still in demand, but the way they do their jobs is changing.
SHIFTING FROM DATA ENTRY TO DATA VALIDATION
Increasingly, automated tools allow processes like invoicing, bank reconciliations, and expense categorizations to happen with minimal human intervention.
However, to ensure compliance, an actual person still needs to verify that the numbers make sense and that the system is doing its job properly.
Exceptions invariably come up that take the expertise of a skilled pro to resolve.
And any automated system is only as good as the data that fuels it—so bookkeepers and accounting assistants will need to be on guard against the “garbage in/garbage out” phenomenon.
ANALYZING THE INFO AND DRAWING CONCLUSIONS
Rather than being preoccupied with recording past transactions, bookkeepers and accounting clerks will be freed up to evaluate the financial data and help business owners grasp what it all means.
Accounting jobs will be much more about providing context for the numbers. Why did the financial statement turn out that way? What are some best practices the business owner could implement to cut costs or budget more effectively?
Helping clients understand what the data is telling them will be an increasingly important part of a bookkeeper’s role.
Melanie Power, founder of the Bookkeeper Revolution and former head of bookkeeping at Xero Australia, puts it this way:
“We have never competed with one another on our ability to crunch numbers faster than the next bookkeeper, but on the quality and accuracy of the information and advice we have provided to the business owner.
Making our practices more efficient through software can only increase the time available to us to do exactly that.”
MANAGING TECHNOLOGY INTEGRATION
It goes without saying that bookkeepers and accounting clerks should be comfortable with accounting software like QuickBooks and Sage.
But there’s a whole world of additional apps that tie into those software packages and offer greater efficiency and productivity. And companies increasingly need accounting pros who know how to choose and implement the right tools so that everything works together seamlessly.
To some degree, bookkeepers may become system administrators. They could be called upon to integrate and manage different technologies—or even provide training and ongoing support to clients who choose to do their own books.
FOCUSING ON PROVIDING A HUMAN TOUCH
Computers are great at crunching numbers and managing vast sets of data. But some aspects of accounting work will still require the empathy and understanding that only a human can provide.
Say a client is trying to decide which charity to donate to.
An objective analysis of the numbers and online ratings of various charities might suggest a particular organization. But a human bookkeeper can weigh more intangible factors like the client’s preferences and values, and perhaps current trends or events.
Even as accounting becomes more automated, bookkeepers will still be needed to offer professional advice with a personal touch.
WHAT DOES THE DATA SAY ABOUT THE OUTLOOK FOR ACCOUNTING JOBS?
According to data from the Labour Market Information Council, there were over 19,000 online job postings for bookkeepers and accounting technicians across Canada in 2022—an increase of more than 30 per cent over the prior year.
And accounting techs and bookkeepers get the Government of Canada Job Bank’s highest or second-highest rating for growth and demand in most areas of the country.
Ontario alone expects to see up to 15,000 openings for bookkeeping and accounting technician jobs between 2021 and 2025.
So the profession certainly isn’t going away anytime soon.
INTERESTED IN PURSUING ACCOUNTING JOBS?
You don’t need a university degree to get started in this field. A college diploma in accounting or business administration is excellent preparation for entry-level roles.
Want to learn more? An admissions advisor can review your goals, answer your questions, and help you choose the program that’s right for you.
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