Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

The Talent Pool Is Shrinking

“The climb might be tough and challenging, but the view is worth it. There is a purpose for that pain; you just can’t always see it right away.” – Victoria Arlen

I received the following press release from the Illinois CPA Society. They are unveiling the findings from research they have done relating to the decline in CPA candidates. If you think finding and hiring future leaders is difficult now, just wait.

How will your firm prepare for the future? It seems that accounting students don’t see the value in devoting the time and energy to become a CPA.

My advice? Share your partners’ salaries with your future CPAs and with college students you talk to or interview. Is it worth it to become a CPA, in public accounting, when average partner compensation in $5 to $20M firms is half a million? In many larger firms, partner compensation is over $1,000,000. Plus, flexible work arrangements make public accounting very attractive.

Illinois CPA Society Releases New CPA Pipeline Report

CHICAGO, June 14, 2021– Unveiling the findings of its previously announced research into the decreasing supply of new certified public accountants (CPAs), the Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS)—one of the largest state CPA societies in the nation—is pleased to release its 2021 Insight Special Feature, “A CPA Pipeline Report: Decoding the Decline.”

The result of an in-depth survey of more than 3,100 accounting students, graduates, and professionals predominantly under age 35, “Decoding the Decline” reveals respondents’ top challenges, perceptions, and influencers impacting their decisions to pursue the CPA credential or not and what, if any, value it may bring to their personal and professional lives. The eye-opening responses—particularly among non-CPAs and those who are still unsure about becoming CPAs—provide invaluable insights the CPA profession and its stakeholders cannot ignore while trying to counter the declining number of first-time CPA exam test takers—which hit a 10-year low in 2018, and further declines are expected when new data becomes available.

“Five years ago, I delivered the warning that a stagnating CPA pipeline is a threat. It’s an issue that will only get worse and grow more troubling without action. Today the issue has, in fact, grown worse and more troubling,” says Todd Shapiro, ICPAS president and CEO. “It used to be that if you earned an accounting degree, earning the CPA credential was the given next step regardless of career paths or time commitments—that’s no longer the case.”

“From this initial survey, we learned that individuals—who we believe should be future CPAs—are not pursuing the CPA credential because they feel they can succeed in their anticipated or chosen careers without it,” explains Kari Natale, CAE, ICPAS senior director of planning and governance, who led the survey’s development alongside Association Management Center, ICPAS’ research partner on the project. “They believe any value the CPA credential holds is outweighed by its lack of relevance to their personal and professional endeavors and the time commitment necessary to obtain it. They do not see the return on investment; they do not see their employers or prospective employers supporting or requiring it; and they see other credentials or specialties as being more valuable to their careers.”

Additional notable findings in “Decoding the Decline” include:

  • The costs associated either with obtaining the additional credit hours to meet the educational/licensing requirements or preparing for and taking the CPA exam were not the top barriers cited by any respondent category.
  • The likelihood of becoming a CPA drops dramatically after age 22.
  • Many respondents do not have an interest in pursuing a credential at all.
  • Accounting, auditing, and tax preparation are the words most associated with the CPA credential, further narrowing the credential’s scope and attractiveness.

“As the survey findings shared in ‘Decoding the Decline’ show, reversing the CPA credential’s downtrend will not be without its challenges,” Shapiro cautions. “The CPA credential and the CPA profession are in a race for relevance, and the time to act is now.”

Decoding the Decline” is available now in PDF and digital formats at www.icpas.org/cpapipeline, and print editions are available upon request. Both Natale and Shapiro welcome reader feedback and are available for further commentary on the factors impacting the CPA pipeline.

  • "There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."
  • Beverly Sils

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