Among the key takeaways from the American Institute of CPAs' (AICPA) 2019 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report (Trends) is that the hiring of non-accounting graduates by CPA firms rose markedly over the last two years. View the full report here (PDF).
The Trends report, issued every two years is based on university responses for the 2017–2018 academic year and firm responses for the 2018 calendar year. According to the 2019 report, released Aug. 13, non-accounting graduates comprised 31 percent of all new graduate hires in public accounting in 2018, up 11 percent from 2016. All told, hiring of accounting graduates at CPA firms is down approximately 30 percent from 2014.
As data analysis technology grows in importance in audits, firms are turning to non-accounting graduates with data science and analytics skills on audit teams. The AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) responded with the CPA Evolution initiative, formed in part to investigate whether the licensure requirements for CPAs should better address technology and analytics.
“CPAs have an unmatched reputation for trust and integrity, earned through decades of working in the public interest,” AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, said in a release. “However, to play this vital role in the future will require an increased focus on technology. It is incumbent on the profession to ensure accounting graduates and newly licensed CPAs have the skills and expertise needed to support the evolution of the audit.”
Among other highlights from the Trends report:
- Nearly 208,000 students were enrolled in undergraduate accounting programs in 2017–2018, the second-highest number on record
- Enrollment in master's accounting programs declined 6 percent from the previous report, possibly due to more students opting to enter the workforce instead of pursuing further degrees
- The combined projected 76,542 degrees in bachelor's and master's programs represents a 4 percent drop from the previous report, but remains above pre-recession levels
- Nonwhite students make up 44 percent of enrollees in undergraduate accounting programs, an all-time high, and 42 percent of total graduates
- Bachelor's and master's enrollees were split nearly evenly along gender lines
- The number of CPA candidates and newly licensed CPAs fell to the lowest level in 10 years, possibly related to the launch of the new CPA Exam in 2017, which led to a significant increase in the number of CPA candidates in 2016