Graduates with an associate’s degree from an accounting program at one of Iowa’s 15 community colleges are now eligible to apply for some of the jobs in the state auditor’s office. State Auditor Rob Sand says Iowa has a shortage of people with four-year accounting degrees.

“There are a ton of people out there who have a lot of intelligence and a lot of common sense who choose to get a two year degree instead of a four year degree. We shouldn’t discriminate against them,” Sand says. “We should welcome them into the office just like we would anywhere else.”

W.D. Isley, vice president of academic affairs at Des Moines Area Community College, says there are 365 students in DMACC’s accounting program and, once they graduate, they’ll be in high demand.

“The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting strong job growth for accountants and auditors,” Isley says. “In fact, over the next decade, the bureau is projecting nearly 82,000 (employees) will be needed in the accounting and auditing field.”

Will Bond, the chair of DMACC’s accounting department, says accounting practices for state and local governments were added to the curriculum a few years ago, “so today, the graduates coming out will have that governmental accounting which will help position them for auditing jobs, such as this one,” he says.

Mariah Mullins is president of DMACC’s Accounting Club and she’s already employed full-time as a property manager. She was invited to speak during a news conference in the state auditor’s office.

“I’ve learned to, for lack of a better phrase, ‘speak money,'” Mullins said. “As long as equity and revenue and even things as simply as inventory are part of everyday life, an accountant has a job. The deeper I get into my education with accounting, the more opportunities I develop for myself.”

After one more semester, Mullins will finish her associate’s degree.

“Yeah,” Mullins replied when asked if she’d apply for a job in the auditor’s office, then she laughed along with a crowd of office employees and DMACC officials.

The number of people working in accounting jobs in the United States has declined 17% since 2019. Sand said that makes hiring and retaining staff difficult in the public and private sectors.

“What we see when we don’t have enough people in accounting is reports that are getting done more slowly and people who are doing the work who are carrying a bigger workload, who are more stressed,” Sand said. “That makes it harder for them to stay in the industry.”

According to the American Institute of CPAs, the number of students graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting peaked in 2012 and, by 2018, had already dropped by seven percent.

Sand indicated staffing levels in the state auditor’s office fluctuate and there could be as many as 15 current job openings, some of which will now be open to applicants with an associate’s degree.