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Why Former CPAs are Leaving and What Existing CPAs Want: CPA Talent Retention Survey from the PICPA Sheds Light On Accounting’s Retention Challenges

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants Latest Survey and Insights Report Emphasizes Need for Changing Business Models in the Accounting Profession

Apr 25, 2024, 00:00 AM


PHILADELPHIA- The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is pleased to share the latest of its closely-followed Insights Report series: CPA Talent Retention 2024: Keeping Your Best Performers. This incisive report delves into the dual challenges of why entry- and mid-level CPAs are exiting the profession—labeled as "Career Changers"—and offers actionable strategies for firms aiming to retain their existing talent, referred to as "Current Talent." Anchored by robust data, this two-part survey provides eye-opening insights and practical solutions to enhance talent retention within the accounting profession.

"The findings from our latest report emphasize the complexity of talent retention and the necessity for firms to adopt innovative strategies that address both individual and organizational needs," says Jennifer Cryder, CPA, MBA, CEO of PICPA. "We want to make sure that the ‘Current Talent’ group does not become ‘Career Changers’. This report aims to guide accounting firm leaders towards effective strategies that we believe, when properly implemented, will enhance both retention and firm performance."

Notable topline findings from the survey include responses from 323 accounting professionals nationwide—Career Changers—who have 0-15 years of public accounting experience and have left their firm or profession within the past five years:

  1. When asked to complete this statement “My desire to stay at my previous firm or in the accounting field would have increased if…” the leading response was higher salaries (39.7%).
  2. Other top responses were: “there were more flexible work options” (35.6%), “entry- and mid-level employees were more valued” (33.5%) and “there were better benefits offered” (30.4%).
  3. When provided the same statement but specific to work-life balance, the leading response was: “there were more flexible work options around hours and location” (35.6%).

In the Current Talent group, which surveyed 449 Pennsylvania CPAs with 3-10 years of experience, notable findings included:

  1. The majority of respondents (56.7%) stated they have a higher desire to stay in public accounting, with 73% stating they would like to stay with their current firm.
  2. Career development is a critical factor for retention with 85% of respondents saying their firm actively supports their career development, and 78% saying their firm offers interesting career opportunities.
  3. Still, the number one response to the question “What would increase your desire to stay at your firm in the accounting field?” was “there were higher salaries” (46.9%), followed by “my working hours were capped” (42.3%) and “there were better benefits offered” (37.4%).

The survey also provides unique demographic breakdowns between male and female respondents and a breakdown of respondents by ethnicity.

With over 70% of CPAs nearing retirement and a notable decrease in accounting graduates and CPA exam takers, the need for firms to fundamentally move away from the traditional "pyramid" model to a more robust "pentagon" model, better leveraging automation, AI, and outsourcing is critical to long-term success. This shift reduces reliance on a broad base of entry-level talent, allowing firms to focus on hiring fewer, but better retained staff while fortifying the middle managers with higher compensation and more diverse career opportunities. The PICPA believes this approach not only can help meet client needs effectively but also aligns with salary expectations and improves work-life balance, ensuring high-quality work without compromise.

PICPA’s insights reports are representative of the organization’s mission to provide education, training and key resources for success on behalf of its members and the broader professional community. You can learn more about the PICPA here.

About the PICPA

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) is a premiere statewide association of nearly 20,000 members working in public accounting, industry, government, and education. Founded in 1897, the PICPA is the second-oldest state CPA organization in the United States. To learn more about the PICPA visit www.picpa.org.


Trevor Davis
Gregory FCA for PICPA

PICPA Staff Contributors


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.

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