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CPA Evolution: What’s Next?

Apr 21, 2021, 05:30 AM by Matthew McCann
The AICPA is working with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy to enhance CPA licensure through the joint CPA Evolution project that aims to transform the licensure model by recognizing the changing skills and competencies accounting requires today and into the future. This new licensure model will continue to place the CPA profession in the best position to meet the needs of firms, organizations, clients, and the public. It is also flexible enough to evolve as market needs and roles change.

Susan CoffeyBy Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA

CPAs are trusted professionals who enhance stability and opportunity among organizations while also protecting the public interest. The AICPA supports the CPA profession by maintaining, promoting, and advancing that trusted adviser role as the marketplace evolves. A big part of this effort is making sure entry-level CPAs have the requisite skills and competencies that the marketplace requires. That’s why we are working with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to enhance CPA licensure through our joint CPA Evolution project. CPA Evolution aims to transform the CPA licensure model by recognizing the rapidly changing skills and competencies the practice of accounting requires today and into the future.

Under the new CPA licensure model, all candidates will be required to demonstrate a core knowledge of accounting, auditing, tax, and technology. Then, each candidate will choose one of three disciplines – tax compliance and planning, business analysis and reporting, or information systems and controls – in which to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge. Regardless of the discipline chosen, the model leads to full CPA licensure, with all the rights and privileges consistent with any other CPA.

Chart illustrating proposed revisions to the CPA Exam

This new licensure model will continue to place our profession in the best position to meet the needs of firms, organizations, clients, and the public we serve. It is also flexible enough to allow us to continue to evolve as market needs and our roles evolve in the future.

Changes to exam and education requirements don’t happen overnight. For the next few years, we’ll be working with the accounting academic community, state boards, state CPA societies, students, practitioners, and other stakeholders to implement changes that ensure the successful rollout of the new licensure model.

The Uniform CPA Examination

The specific content within the core and the three disciplines will be determined by a CPA Exam practice analysis, which is currently underway.

Practice analyses – gathering information about the current and future state of the profession and the work of newly licensed CPAs – are conducted periodically as part of our ongoing effort to make sure the exam is current and maintains its the validity and reliability. The current practice analysis will likely wrap up in 2022, and we will seek public comment on proposed changes to the CPA Exam in mid-2022.

We expect to launch a new exam in January 2024.

Students and CPA Candidates

Aspiring CPAs who are college freshmen now will be among the first to take the revised CPA Exam when it launches in 2024. Current CPA candidates will be able to sit for the current CPA Exam until the launch of the new exam. A transition plan is being developed for candidates who will have started, but not completed, the CPA Exam process by January 2024. Under the new model, we expect to attract students that today wouldn’t necessarily choose the CPA route, but who are becoming more critical to the success of our profession. For example, depending on the educational requirements in their jurisdiction, students who major in management information systems and minor in accounting could focus on their area of interest while demonstrating knowledge in core business and accounting subjects.

Accounting Programs and Educators

Accounting educators play a vital role in preparing students to pursue the CPA under this new licensure model. The AICPA and NASBA will help educators every step of the way.

In fall 2020, we launched the Academic Resource Hub, a free database of content from the AICPA, accounting firms, academics, and AICPA teaching-award winners to help faculty prepare students for the evolving demands of the profession. The hub contains over 200 resources for a range of topics, including data analytics and cybersecurity. They can be used in classroom instruction, in research, and for general guidance.

Throughout 2021, we will hold a series of faculty webinars, including regular updates on CPA Evolution and deep dives into emerging topics to include in accounting courses. We’ve also formed task forces of accounting educators and practitioners to build a model curriculum that aligns with the new licensure model. This will launch this June.

Moving Toward Change

CPAs are vital to the effective operation of our economy. As a profession, we have a huge responsibility to the businesses and the public we serve. I’m proud of the steps we are all taking to help uphold our trusted adviser role as the marketplace continues to evolve.

As we work through the next couple of years in defining the new CPA Exam, developing academic resources, and preparing students and CPA candidates, we want to hear from you. Please continue to ask us questions and share your feedback by reaching out at Feedback@EvolutionofCPA.org.

Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, is chief executive officer – public accounting for the Association of International Certified Public Accountants in New York. She can be reached at Susan.Coffey@aicpa-cima.com.

If you would like to hear more from Susan Coffey, join us at PICPA's Women's Leadership Conference on June 22, 2021, where Susan will be discussing The Future of Women in Public Accounting. 

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