For the past few years, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) have collaborated with stakeholders to reimagine CPA licensure through the joint CPA Evolution initiative, an effort to transform the CPA licensure model. The organizations have now reached the critical implementation phase of this initiative, which addresses the rapidly changing skills and competencies required of a 21st Century CPA.
Many of the students slated for Spring and Summer 2022 internships will sit for the new, CPA Evolution-aligned CPA Exam, which is expected to launch in early 2024. This has implications for firms in a variety of areas, from recruiting considerations to engagement with academia. The time to start plotting out your firm’s strategy is now.
CPA Evolution will bring about some of the most substantive changes to licensure in decades, including a new Core + Disciplines licensure model, increased coverage in areas like information systems and data analytics, and the addition of personal financial planning.
But what does it all mean for your firm? Here are some top considerations to aid your hiring and recruitment strategies.
Students are more interested in pursuing CPA under the new licensure model
In a Fall 2021 AICPA-NASBA survey of accounting students, 85% of respondents indicated the new approach to licensure either increases their interest in pursuing CPA or keeps their interest at a very high level. In discussion groups with students, common themes surrounded their heightened interest in areas like data analytics, cybersecurity and information privacy, all of which are expected to be addressed in the new CPA Exam based upon preliminary practice analysis research.
This may represent an opportunity for firms when recruiting new staff. In addition to highlighting the earnings power of CPAs and the impact they can have on society, consider discussing the impending changes to the licensure model and how they reflect the exciting work firms are doing in emerging areas. For students interested in technology, there has never been a better time to pursue CPA.
Universities are changing their curricula to incorporate emerging topics
In another Fall 2021 pulse survey, the AICPA and NASBA asked accounting faculty about their plans relative to CPA Evolution. Here’s what they heard:
- 88% of respondents indicated their accounting program will be making curriculum changes based on CPA Evolution
- 81% said they expect to make curricular changes by Fall 2022
To inform hiring decisions, firms may want to reach out to the universities they recruit from to determine what, if any, curriculum changes are being made. Practitioners may also consider aiding the academic community in the transition, as nearly half of the faculty that won’t be making curriculum changes cited challenges in finding qualified personnel to teach emerging topics. Subject matter experts at your firm might consider serving as guest lecturers or adjunct professors to ensure the next generation of CPAs has the skills and competencies they need to be successful.
Many accounting program graduates will have different skillsets
As academic programs evolve, students are expected to pursue learning tracks aligned with their interests. In a 2020 AICPA-NASBA survey of students,
- 54% of respondents indicated they plan to pursue the Business Analysis and Reporting discipline,
- 24% plan to pursue Information Systems and Controls, and
- 22% plan to take Tax Compliance and Planning.
To pass these disciplines, students will need more knowledge and skills in the related subject matter, and firms will be the beneficiaries. In fact, in an April 2021 AICPA-NASBA survey of firm hiring directors, 83% of respondents from firms with 11 or more personnel indicated that if accounting programs were aligned with CPA Evolution, their hiring of new graduates from accounting programs would likely increase, accounting program graduates would be considered more valuable than they are today, or both.
Firm leaders may want to engage with the firm’s HR team to consider how CPA Evolution will impact their approach to talent acquisition moving forward.
The AICPA is currently conducting a practice analysis to determine the knowledge and skills required of newly licensed CPAs that should be assessed in the CPA Evolution aligned Exam. An associated CPA Exam Blueprint, which will detail content eligible for testing in each of the Core and Discipline sections, is expected to be issued for public comment in mid-2022 and published in final form in early 2023, with the launch of the new CPA Exam planned for January 2024.