Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.

Where Are All the CPAs? The Crisis and Opportunity of Rebuilding the Accounting Pipeline

Jennifer Cryder, CPA, PICPA CEOBy Jennifer Cryder, PICPA CEO

PICPA Insights produces research, analysis, and resources on cutting-edge issues impacting the accounting profession. In our most recent study, we took a measured, data-grounded look at the dearth of incoming accounting talent into the profession in an effort to find the reasons for our leaking pipeline, but more importantly to offer new perspectives and potential solutions we all can take to help rebuild and strengthen the process of bringing in and growing new accounting talent.

The CPA Pipeline: Crisis and Opportunity is our most recent Insights white paper, and it is dedicated to delving into the factors that have been drying up the talent pipeline for some time and the persistent difficulties at trying to find a sustainable fix. There is no sugar-coating: we look at several prominent socioeconomic factors, education requirements, perceptions of the profession, and other factors, including the difficult reality that the profession cannot replace current CPAs in the marketplace on a one-to-one basis.

Cover of Insights white paper: CPA Pipeline - Crisis and OpportunityOur Insights research and analysis show that there are at least three evidence-backed actions that the profession can take to improve the pipeline, which are explained throughout the report. In brief, they are:

  • Understand that there are really two pipelines and unique solutions are required for each.
  • Begin building awareness of the profession and the accounting major in high schools with the right messages delivered the right ways.
  • Change firm business models and create expedited pathways to licensure to maximize the return on the time invested to become a CPA.

A clear-eyed look at U.S. demographics (i.e., the birth rate is dropping, and fewer people are enrolling in college) combined with in-depth surveys of accounting and business administration majors provide a basis for our discoveries on where the professional market is going and how younger generations truly view and weigh accounting and the CPA credential. The answers may rattle our preconceived notions, but there is hope and an outline for truly effective fixes inside this data if we choose to make the necessary changes.

Through the Insights The CPA Pipeline: Crisis and Opportunity white paper, we believe we have been able to home in on some critical inflection points and provide potential solutions based on the data accumulated. Here is just some of the vital information our research has identified for which we provide key tips to the accounting profession on how to have the most beneficial impact on prospective talent:

  • The best time to build awareness of the profession and encourage more participation.
  • Why students choose an accounting major or nonaccounting majors.
  • The perceptions/misperceptions about an accounting career.
  • The biggest obstacles to pursuing a CPA license.

Of course, knowing when to reach these students is one thing, but knowing what to say to them is quite another. The CPA Pipeline: Crisis and Opportunity shows that the CPA profession needs to reach the younger generations both through emotion (stories) and through intellect (facts). But there is much more in the white paper to help guide your actions.

All PICPA members have access to the full Insights white paper. Nonmembers can review an abridged version, but if you are concerned about the future of accounting we encourage you to join the PICPA and gain access to the full report and other professional resources.

If you have any comments on The CPA Pipeline: Crisis and Opportunity white paper, or have thoughts on future accounting profession topics for Insights to investigate, please send them to insights@picpa.org.

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