Last month, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) released its 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report (PDF), showing record hiring of accounting graduates in 2014.
Enrollment in accounting programs also reached an all-time high, with the national population of accounting undergraduate and graduate students crossing the 250,000 mark for the first time. Educators expected the trend to continue, with 97 percent of bachelor’s programs and 70 percent of master’s programs stating that they expect their enrollment to hold steady or increase over the next two years.
Master’s programs saw a particularly marked increase in enrollment, with 23 percent growth at public universities and 50 percent growth at private universities. On the hiring side, master’s degree hires were up 11 percent from 2012, with bachelor’s degree hires increasing 5 percent in the same period.
Overall, 253,082 students were enrolled in accounting bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate programs in 2013–2014. Total bachelor’s and master’s in accounting degrees awarded in 2013–2014 was less than 1 percent off the all-time high from the 2011–2012 academic year.
The Diversity Picture
Overall growth in hiring was up 7 percent since 2012, with 43,252 accounting graduates joining the work force. New hires are the most diverse subset of the accounting community — 31 percent of new hires were ethnic minorities, compared to 15 percent of professional staff, 12 percent of CPAs and 7 percent of partners.
Professional staff at all firms is now 52 percent male and 48 percent female, while the profession became less ethnically diverse, based on the sample. The white ethnicity category increased by 10 percentage points, while the Asian/Pacific Islander category decreased by 9 percentage points. The survey showed a 5 percentage point increase in female partners from 2012 to 2014.
The population of accounting students is more diverse than that of accounting professionals. Ethnic minorities made up 43 percent of enrollment in bachelor’s programs, 46 percent in master’s programs and 53 percent in doctoral programs. Overall, the Southern region (Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Puerto Rico) was the most diverse, with nonwhite students constituting 32 percent of total enrollment in both bachelor’s and master’s programs. The Pacific region (Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) had more diverse bachelor’s programs (36 percent nonwhite), but was less diverse in master’s programs (20 percent).
Minorities were equally likely to enroll in a public or private bachelor’s program (27 percent public, 28 percent private), but were more likely to choose private school for their master’s degree (21 percent public, 41 percent private).
The supply survey drew 166 responses from 937 colleges and universities for a 17 percent response rate. Survey results were weighted by the number of accounting faculty, with a margin of error of +/- 8 percent at the 90 percent confidence level.
The demand survey drew 404 responses from 34,120 accounting firms for a 1.2 percent response rate. Survey results were weighted to reflect the entire public accounting population, with a margin of error of +/- 4.1 percent at the 90 percent confidence level.
All surveys were completed online between Dec. 16, 2014, and April 10, 2015.