By Oliver Arthur, CPA
For more than a decade, the PICPA and American Institute of CPAs have been discussing the shortage of CPAs in the profession. At this time, the CPA pipeline issue hasn’t improved; in fact, it has gotten worse. The number of accounting students pursuing the CPA credential is at a 10-year low, and we are also seeing an overall decline in accounting students over the past few years.
The PICPA and many firms have been working on ways to change the prospects for the CPA profession. But what can you do, as an individual CPA, to positively impact the pipeline and the profession’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts? A lot, actually. Individual CPAs and small firms can work together and move things forward more quickly than the bigger entities. Small firms and sole practitioners may not have the vast resources that large firms have, but every effort you make, no matter how small, adds up.
Here are some ways all of us can help the future of our profession!
Mentor – Whether you have been a CPA for decades or are a newly certified accountant, you can bring value to a mentorship opportunity. By being a mentor, you can provide guidance by sharing your experiences. Even those who just passed the CPA Exam and are not yet certified can be great mentors to those preparing for, or considering, the examination. The PICPA offers a Mentor Match program. Its website cannot be more on the mark: “Mentors offer crucial support at many stages of a professional's career. They are role models. They are motivators. They are trusted advisers who provide honest and constructive feedback.”
Internship – Providing internship opportunities is a fabulous way to share the daily work life of a CPA with someone in an accounting program. What better way to show the advantages of achieving the CPA license? Many businesses offer internships to students near the end of their college program, but perhaps one of the longest-lasting impressions can be achieved by providing internships earlier in a student’s career. Consider offering a summer internship to a high school senior. By allowing someone who is precollege to see what CPAs do, you may be the one who guides them toward majoring in accounting in college rather than finance.
Recruiting – People get into routines. They frequent the same coffee shop; they buy the same breakfast cereal. It happens to recruiters too, as they limit the number of colleges they visit because they had success there before. Stepping out of our comfort zone, though, could make a lasting difference in our profession’s pipeline of talent. Consider attending job fairs at colleges at which you might not normally recruit, especially a college that doesn’t have a high level of graduates pursuing the CPA license. Why? In certain areas, especially underserved communities, students may not be aware of the possibility of becoming a CPA or of the benefits of the licensure. Another reason students at these schools may not be moving toward their CPA might be because of funding – it can be financially difficult to pursue a license right out of college. If your business offers benefits such as study materials, exam reimbursement, and continuing education credits after licensure, you may gain a valuable employee for the future by offering that person the opportunity of a lifetime.
Reach Out – We can help people consider a CPA profession well before they enter college. By being involved in the community, we can share the importance of our profession and how we impact the community. One way is to get involved in underserved communities by hosting a tax preparation day for low-income families. This is a great opportunity for new staff members because tax returns are normally not complex. Plus, a family member who is considering a career path might see how CPAs make a difference in their community and choose to pursue the CPA career path.
These are only a couple ways we can help increase the number of CPAs in our profession while, at the same time, improve on our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. What steps will you take?
Oliver Arthur, CPA, is manager of auditing for Berks County, Pa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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