How the Accounting Profession Is Attracting Young People

If you’re in the CPA profession, here’s the bad news: According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, 95,654 candidates took the Uniform CPA Examination in 2017. Two years later, in 2019, that number shrank to 83,000; 2018 represented a 10-year low in new CPA candidates. This number are fueling the fear that in the future, there will be a scarcity of certified public accountants.

Here’s the good news: In 2017, according to the AICPA, CPAs with less than a year of experience earned an average of $66,000 per year. In addition, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, available jobs for accountants and auditors will increase seven percent from 2020 to 2030. The bottom line: young people in accounting today are facing a future with great potential for professional development and financial security.

With that said, CPA firms would do well to ask: why are young people today choosing the accounting profession? A recent Accounting Web article entitled “The Changing Face of the CPA Profession” by Del Wright revealed some of these answers.

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A CPA Hero on a Super-Popular TV Show?

In her junior year in high school, Jalaj Haryani was converted to the world of ledgers by a hugely popular Korean drama, “Good Manager,” whose hero Chief Kim is a CPA who solves financial crimes. His motto? “Numbers don’t lie, people do.” 

“It was a simple line, but it made me think a lot about the power of the people behind the numbers,” she said. “I thought that if we had more honest people in the profession, the world could rid itself of a lot of corruption.”  

She’s now an Illinois CPA Society (ICPAS) member and an associate consultant with HKA.

“This [CPA] credential is vital in gaining the trust of your colleagues, and it helps attest to the reliability of your work,” she said. “My whole goal was to join the profession, to be an honest member and to have people trust my work.” 

Hurray for youthful idealism!

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Starletta Keene won a CPA Exam Award, and she was chosen for the Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program, named for the Chicago native who became the country’s first black female CPA in 1943, designed to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the accounting profession. The program offers a $500 scholarship, resume and interview coaching, access to a network of mentors, and the opportunity to interview for paid internships. 

Accounting appealed to her “because it combined my strengths of math and attention to detail with my desire to work in the corporate world.” 

Training to become a CPA was very challenging, but she’s now a tax consultant with Deloitte.

“I saw how much money I would be leaving on the table throughout my entire career if I didn’t pursue the CPA,” she said.

The Pandemic Couldn’t Stop Her

But what happens when you work hard to achieve the CPA certification, only for a pandemic to bring your professional momentum to a screeching halt? That was the case for ICPAS member Kiara Schuh, who finally received her CPA license in September 2020 after a nine-month delay. 

But Kiara is adept at perseverance. While waiting for her paperwork, she said, “I worked in various capacities around campus and over the summer to be able to support myself through college. During my fourth year at the University of Illinois, I was earning my master’s in accounting, serving as a teaching assistant for an undergrad accounting class and working as a resident assistant in one of the dorms. On top of that, I was studying for the CPA exam.”

It paid off.  She’s now a senior consultant in Deloitte’s risk and financial advisory practice.

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Infographic: 6 Things Successful CPAs Do Everyday

Infographic: 6 Things Successful CPAs Do Everyday After working with hundreds of successful CPAs, we have been able to see patterns in what activities successful ...
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The Altruism of Nonprofits

Some young CPAs are rejecting a future in public accounting and corporate finance in favor of nonprofits. 

Alisa Caruso, ICPAS’s accounting manager, chose accounting as a profession in college because she was a young, single mother in need of a stable career. But after working for a hedge fund, she realized, “The nonprofit world aligned with my personal and professional goals.” 

Heather Lindquist, ICPAS’s assistant director of peer review and professional standards, won her CPA certification, but when she joined ICPAS’s peer review department in 2016, she decided to combine accounting with education.

These are some of the factors that are driving young people to become CPAs today. As CPA firms look to recruit fresh talent, they might be wise to stress some of the advantages that attracted the young people in this article—the drive for integrity, inclusion, financial security, professional growth, and the ability to expand into the nonprofit field.

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