Emerging CPAs must educate themselves on the impact innovative technological advancements will have beyond their day-to-day office work, particularly in the areas of licensure requirements, certification examinations, and the future of the profession.
Potential Licensure Changes
Since 2018, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA have been working to incorporate technological proficiencies into CPA license requirements. Their CPA Evolution Working Group has recommended that “the CPA Exam evolve to test a candidate’s ability to use emerging technologies, audit systems, and controls, and to examine and report on systems.”1
State boards of accountancy will need to review education requirements to ensure that newly licensed CPAs meet the need for technological and analytical expertise in this evolving profession. While the exact licensure changes have not yet been announced, the CPA Evolution Working Group has released five principles to guide the new model:
- To protect the public interest, CPA competencies, services, and attitudes need to continually evolve and adapt to technological disruptions.
- Technological and analytical expertise is essential in performing assurance work and other professional accounting services.
- Continued modification of licensure requirements is necessary to sustain both the profession and its provision of public protection.
- The profession must be redesigned to attract individuals with the necessary technological and analytical expertise.
- Changes must be “rapid, transformational, and substantive,” while also considering those candidates already in the pipeline.
The working group has additionally called for a “common core in accounting and technology,” both in the education and examination requirements. The CPA Evolution initiative anticipates releasing updates at the NASBA annual meeting in October 2019 and at the fall AICPA Council meeting. Emerging CPAs should stay current on the working group’s developments since certain elective credits in some areas may soon become required.
While more changes are in the works, the CPA Exam has already started to incorporate recent technological components. Last year, CPA candidates saw the addition of big data and data analytics on the exam’s Business Environment and Concepts section. Effective July 1, 2019, data analytics was also incorporated into the exam’s Auditing and Attestation section.
The CPA Exam is not the only professional certification exam to undergo modification. With the release of the 2019 Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Management Accounting Competency Framework, the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam will also incorporate innovative tools. This framework identifies “six domains of core knowledge, skills, and abilities that finance and accounting professionals need in order to remain relevant in the digital age and perform current and future roles effectively.” Technology and analytics is one of the key domains advising accounting professionals to obtain the “competencies required to manage technology and analyze data to enhance organizational success.”2 Starting in January 2020, 15% of part one of the CMA exam will focus specifically on technology and analytics.
Because CPA and CMA candidates will now be required to use business intelligence, data analytics, and statistics to support accounting and business decisions within their respective exam materials, it is critical for candidates to be proficient in these areas.
Recommendations for Emerging CPAs
While current students can gain exposure to technological innovations in the academic setting, emerging CPAs already working in the profession may not get regular exposure to new technologies. There are, however, options for CPAs to elevate their technical proficiency:
- Firm trainings – Many public accounting firms offer in-house training, webinars, and white papers for staff to become more proficient in emerging technologies. Emerging CPAs should use these resources to learn how automation, data analytics, big data, blockchain, and artificial intelligence may affect particular industries or clients.
- Continuing professional education – There are many training and webinar options offered by professional organizations, such as the PICPA, the AICPA, and the IMA. Each has resources to provide enrichment relative to recent advances. For example, the AICPA released several (some free) resources to help CPAs learn about these emerging resources, including an audit analytics webpage, a blockchain white paper, multiple podcasts, and a cybersecurity resource center. The PICPA has compiled resources on its website dedicated to data analytics and cybersecurity.
- Additional credentials – Emerging CPAs may want to consider earning additional credentials to bolster their digital acumen, either through a professional organization, their own respective firms, or pursuit of advanced degrees. Credentials and digital badges are available, such as AICPA’s Blockchain Fundamentals for Accounting and Finance Professionals and Cybersecurity Advisory Services Certificate programs.Demonstrating mastery over a particular technological competency not only will help CPAs become a “go-to” firm resource, but also will help them to better serve their clients. Many of these certificates are available on PICPA’s website at www.picpa.org/certificates.
- Trade publications – Publications such as the Pennsylvania CPA Journal frequently publish articles on changes affecting the profession. Emerging CPAs should consult trade publications for the latest technological developments influencing their professional requirements. PICPA members can also subscribe to a weekly email highlighting recently published blogs and podcasts.
Given the ever-evolving nature of technological and analytical advances within the accounting profession, it is critical for emerging CPAs to stay abreast of these changes and develop the skills necessary for continued professional growth.
1 NASBA and the AICPA, CPA Evolution (2019). www.evolutionofcpa.org.
2 Institute of Management Accountants, “IMA Releases Enhanced Management Accounting Competency Framework for Professionals in the Digital Age,” (2019). www.imanet.org.
Ashley L. Stampone, CPA, is a faculty specialist in accounting at the University of Scranton in Scranton. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amanda S. Marcy, CPA, is an assistant professor of accounting at the University of Scranton. She can be contacted at email@example.com.