Public and private sectors continue to struggle with attracting and retaining talent—and the accounting profession is not immune.
During the 2019-2020 school year, the number of accounting graduates decreased by 3% for bachelor’s degrees and 8% for master’s degrees, according to the AICPA 2021 Trends report. Meanwhile, 43% of new firm hires have a non-accounting degree, signaling a growing demand for employees with diverse training and skillsets.
External factors contributing to these trends include an overall decline in college enrollment, rising education costs, accelerated retirement among Baby Boomers, and shifting expectations regarding work culture and starting salaries.
Time and time again, the accounting profession has adapted to economic, cultural, and regulatory changes. No single solution will solve the profession’s talent issue. Any actions must maintain the rigor needed to protect the public while providing flexibility for candidates of all backgrounds.
Implementing long-term solutions to attracting and retaining talent will require the entire profession to work together. As firm leaders, community advocates, and mentors, members play a vital role in strengthening the pipeline.
A broad profession-wide, multi-stakeholder effort to address hurdles at every stage—from K-12 to employment—is underway, and the AICPA & CIMA are playing a major role in supporting these initiatives. As a subset of this broader work, the AICPA developed a Pipeline Acceleration Plan to drive additional solutions in 2023.
The AICPA’s plan will evolve as we continue to collect data and engage with stakeholders across the profession, including state CPA societies, firms, academia, and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). Together, we can foster a sense of belonging within the profession while meeting the demands of an increasingly complex marketplace.
AICPA’s Pipeline Acceleration Plan
AICPA-NASBA Experience, Learn & Earn Program (ELE)
This new initiative blends work, experience, and online courses to help CPA candidates navigate the final stretch of credit hours. The AICPA and NASBA program will provide students an opportunity to work at a firm and gain a mix of work experience, study time, and affordable college credit hours. Students will be eligible after completing a bachelor’s degree and core accounting courses. The customizable program is not an internship or an apprenticeship. Instead, participants are first-year staff with a reduced workload and time to complete the credit hours they need to reach the 150-hour requirement.
Goals of the program include increasing accessibility to and affordability of entry into the profession for a diverse pool of candidates. The program will benefit both candidates and firms by recruiting more students into the pipeline and helping them reach their CPA licenses. CPA firms of any size and practice type could choose to recruit entry-level hires into the program.
The program will launch as a pilot in fall 2023 with up to 1,000 students and a single university partner to allow for a rapid start and testing. Proposals from universities interested in the next phase will be requested this summer.