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Attracting, Engaging and Inspiring Future CPAs

Pipeline picOur commitment to the CPA pipeline is stronger than ever. Efforts of the AICPA, firms, state societies and many others have led to the number of accounting college graduates growing in the past 12 years from 45,000 in 2001-2002 to 82,000 in 2013-2014. Additionally, while about 24,000 candidates successfully completed the CPA Exam in 2008, we have averaged slightly over 26,000 since then.

The profession’s focus on the CPA pipeline has long been a priority. That will continue, with new approaches to attracting, engaging and inspiring the future generation of CPAs. We are constantly creating, implementing and evaluating programs to build the pipeline.

Over the past year, we have launched or refined many AICPA programs to align better with our goals. Our initiatives are focused on three themes:

1) Increasing the recognition of the CPA on campus;

2) Expanding reach beyond 4-year colleges; and

3) Building relationships with academics.

Our programs are based on a research-backed strategy that calls for us to help develop a pro-CPA culture all along the pipeline, featuring continuous engagement with students and those who influence them.  

Reaching college students. The College Initiatives team kicked off 2015 with enhancements to ThisWayToCPA.com. Because approximately 25% of our website traffic comes from a mobile device, the site is now fully responsive. Since the site’s launch five years ago, we’ve seen mobile traffic continue to increase and just this past year the number of new website visitors reached an all-time high at 325,820.

To engage college students with multiple touchpoints, we launched Need to Know News in August.  The ThisWaytoCPA branded newsletter covers topics such as job searches, the CPA Exam and career pathways for accountants. It also keeps students up-to-date on AICPA news and scholarship and competition opportunities.

Additionally, this is the sixth year of the AICPA Accounting Competition. The three-round competition encourages students to use their skills to find a solution to an accounting-related issue.  Participants are presented with a case and must first provide a short executive summary with their team’s action plan.  If chosen as a semi-finalist the group must create a video presentation. The public is then allowed to vote on each video to ultimately help choose the top three finalists. The three finalists then present in front of a judging panel.

In December, this year’s three leading teams from the State University of New York at Brockport, University of Portland and University of Kansas will travel to the AICPA’s headquarters in Durham, N.C., to present their case to an impressive panel of CPAs. Each team will take home $10,000 and compete for additional cash for their schools in this year’s management accounting-themed competition.

Since inception, 2,724 students have participated – representing 843 teams and 420 schools. Seventy-six percent of past competitors have reported that participation in the competition influenced their decision to pursue the CPA.

Finally, we have developed a professional skills video series that will be used in Beta Alpha Psi Chapters around the country as the basis of a training session by local CPAs/CGMAs. The videos will help BAP chapters fulfill their essential skills requirement and provide the AICPA with an increased presence on campuses.

Our work in high schools. The award-winning Start Here, Go Places website is a hub for students and teachers. The site features tools and resources for students, including “Bank On It,” an online game that reinforces accounting concepts. The game, which now features financial literacy questions, has been played by more than 25,000 students so far. Research shows high school teachers play an important role as student influencers. As a result, The Start Here, Go Places website also features a new Educator Resource Library. This teacher section includes more than 60 classroom resources that help further engage students in the study of accounting. These activities highlight accounting principles, discuss career options and help prepare students for college – all vital to ensure their students’ success as potential future CPAs.

Additionally, the AICPA has partnered with National Academy Foundation’s Academy of Finance in high schools in an effort to educate and prepare a diverse workforce that is ready to enter the accounting profession. The AICPA/NAF Recognition Program will teach students both soft skills – such as communication, time management and leadership – and technical accounting and finance skills that will encourage and prepare students to pursue an accounting degree at a post-secondary institution.  

Communication to accounting educators. To strengthen our relationship with academics, the Academic Initiatives team launched Extra Credit, a newsletter for accounting educators. This monthly newsletter includes articles on education and profession-related topics. To date, Extra Credit is one of the AICPA’s most valued newsletters, with an open rate averaging 45%-- way above the industry average. The Academic Initiatives team also recently re-launched the new Accounting Education Center on AICPA.org. It features a more organized layout for educator content, videos on education-related issues and a new classroom materials section, which houses an innovative academic-submitted curriculum.

These programs are only a snapshot of how the AICPA protects, promotes and grows the CPA. This infographic paints a more holistic picture of the specific programs aimed at powering the CPA pipeline. You can also reference this recent Journal of Accountancy article to see what else we are doing to respond to the gap between the number of recent college graduates with accounting degrees and candidates sitting for the Uniform CPA Examination.

If you have any questions or comments about pipeline initiatives and programs, please share them in the comment section below.

Joanne Fiore, JD, Vice President of Professional Media, Pathways and Inclusion, American Institute of CPAs.

Students image courtesy of Shutterstock



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