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Tackling the CPA talent shortage head on

The supply of accounting graduates into the CPA profession is decreasing. The VSCPA has a top-line goal to change that.
August 15, 2023

Across the country, dedicated accountants who have devoted their lives to the CPA profession are asking themselves an unwelcome question: Where are the next generation of talented accountants? The answer: They are there (the 27 recipients of our 2023 scholarships are just a few), but the number is dwindling. 

A myriad of factors affects the pipeline of students into the profession, from decreasing college enrollment overall, fewer students choosing accounting, fewer young professionals sitting for the CPA Exam, and a competitive hiring landscape. (We detail the statistics behind these factors in our spring 2023 Disclosures article, “Is 150 too many?”)

But CPAs love a good challenge. The VSCPA is rising to the occasion, making the CPA pipeline a top-line goal in fiscal year 2023–2024 and deploying several key objectives to help move the needle.

“Addressing the current pipeline crisis takes a multi-faceted approach,” said VSCPA President & CEO Stephanie Peters, CAE. “You can’t only do one thing and call it a day. We must focus on a variety of different tactics to help promote the accounting profession to students.”

In May 2023, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) released an updated Pipeline Acceleration Plan focusing on 12 ways to address the root causes of pipeline challenges (see more information below). The VSCPA reviewed and commented on previous iterations of the plan, and we will support various aspects of the plan as we develop our own milestones and objectives.

The VSCPA’s action items on the CPA pipeline directly support several of the areas identified by the AICPA. Here’s where we’ll put our efforts in 2023–2024.

Advocate for meaningful changes to improve the pipeline

After a special task force convened by the VSCPA Board of Directors met last year to discuss the ramification of the 150-hour requirement, the VSCPA Board updated its position on the 150 to endorse redefining the education requirement. Now comes the hard part: How?

VSCPA leaders and staff will participate in pipeline conversations in various national settings, such as AICPA Council and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) meetings. We’ll discuss areas of alignment with the Virginia Board of Accountancy (VBOA) and engage directly with elements of the AICPA’s Pipeline Acceleration Plan. Ultimately, we will evaluate options and opportunities for modernization and make recommendations to relevant stakeholders.

Increase the diversity of the profession

While diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has been a top-level VSCPA goal for several years, we are doubling down on our commitment to support diverse candidates entering the profession. We committed $15,000 over two years to the Center for Audit Quality’s Accounting+ initiative — a national brand awareness campaign focused on reaching Black, Hispanic and Latino high school and college students. As part of Accounting+, we’ll elevate and promote minority VSCPA members to inspire the next generation of CPAs.

We’ll also continue our involvement with the National Association of Black Accountants Richmond’s Accelerated Careers Awareness Program as well as develop our existing relationships with the accounting programs at Virginia’s historically Black colleges and universities. 

See all our DEI initiatives for increasing the CPA pipeline for more.

Communicate various pathways to 150 to faculty and advisors

There’s a misconception around the 150-hour educational requirement for licensure — a Master’s degree is not the only path to 150; it’s one of many. Others include graduate certificates, College Level Examination Program exams, double majoring with supplemental coursework, Advanced Placement courses for extra college credit, non-traditional credits, and more. 

VSCPA leaders and staff will discuss options for meeting 150 hours with faculty and advisors at Virginia’s colleges and universities. Students often enter accounting programs without clear knowledge of what the requirements are to become a CPA, and more may be willing to make the commitment when they realize all the various options available to obtain 150 educational credits.

We’ll also aid the AICPA in communicating its new Experience, Learn & Earn (ELE) Program, now in its pilot phase, which will blend paid work experience and online courses for the final stretch of credit hours to licensure.

Help college accounting programs become STEM-approved

Getting accounting recognized as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field will elevate its exposure and increase awareness to the profession. The VSCPA supports legislative initiatives toward this end, and urged Virginia’s federal representatives to support the Accounting STEM Pursuit Act in 2021. We anticipate more bills to be introduced allowing STEM K–12 grant funding to be used for accounting awareness and education.

Part of recognizing accounting as STEM involves urging colleges and universities to change their Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes to obtain STEM recognition. Currently, two accounting programs in Virginia have STEM-designated accounting programs, and we’re encouraging other schools to change their CIP codes as well.

Expand the CPAs in the Classroom program

We currently have a thriving CPAs in the Classroom program to connect teachers, advisors and accounting clubs with knowledgeable members who can speak about the CPA profession. This year, we will expand the program to engage even more members and increase the number of classroom visits.

Last November, we participated in a month dedicated promoting accounting education along with other state societies. This year, we’re moving Virginia CPA Week from its normal week in September to November to coincide with Accounting Opportunities Month — and encourage even more CPA firms and members to volunteer and champion the profession in the community. We’ll collaborate with college accounting clubs, conduct volunteer training, participate in educational panel discussions and more. 

Join us by volunteering for the CPAs in the Classroom program!

Learn more

We’ll be updating you on our efforts as the year progresses, but you can also check out our CPA Pipeline page to see all our efforts in this area. Questions? Contact VSCPA Vice President, Advocacy Emily Walker, CAE, at [email protected], or VSCPA Academic & Diversity Outreach Director Molly Wash, CAE, at [email protected].

AICPA & CIMA Pipeline Acceleration plan

  1. Experience, Learn & Earn Program
  2. Addressing firm culture and business model challenges
  3. 30-hour communications campaign
  4. Extending the 18-month window to finish the CPA Exam
  5. Examining Uniform Accountancy Act variances
  6. High school and college strategies
  7. STEM recognition
  8. AICPA Foundation and scholarships
  9. Expansion of 529 funds to CPA Exam costs
  10. Government audit and finance collaboration
  11.  Best practices for offshore talent
  12.  CPA image campaign

Download the full plan for more information on each of these areas.