The CPA Pipeline — Addressing the Decline
It’s been said many times in emails to members and in these pages: the accounting profession has a pipeline problem. The demand for CPAs is high, but the number of recruits is low, and the situation was exacerbated even more by the pandemic as workers’ priorities shifted and career paths were re-evaluated.
The NJCPA Board of Trustees and other stakeholders in the profession are focused on addressing these challenges along with anticipating the ongoing changes shaping the Society. As the pace of change increases, we are accelerating our efforts on initiatives that attract, inspire and engage the next generation of CPAs.
The first step is reevaluating the NJCPA’s membership classes: Fellow, Associate (for Chartered Accountants), CPA Candidate and Student. The categories have been in place for decades, and, in all cases, the category definition or even the category name itself needs to be updated to align with today’s accounting profession. The NJCPA Board recently approved the following membership structure changes, all of which will require approval by the membership via a bylaws vote:
- The CPA Candidate and Associate membership classes will be eliminated.
- A new membership class named Affiliate will be created.
- The definition of Student Member will be changed to “An undergraduate or graduate student who has an interest in accounting, finance, business or information systems.”
- The Fellow member class will be renamed to CPA member (criteria and pricing remain the same).
Seizing the Opportunity
The membership structure change with the biggest opportunity for impact is the creation of the new Affiliate category. For more than 20 years, the Society’s CPA Candidate class has welcomed graduates who have completed the academic requirements to become a CPA and are pursuing further requirements necessary to become a CPA. But times and attitudes have changed. Less than 10 percent of graduating NJCPA Student members move up to the CPA Candidate category, and there’s been a 45-percent drop in CPA Candidates since 2016.
Our greatest opportunity for bringing new candidates into the pipeline is to focus on supporting students and those who are still unsure about becoming a CPA. According to the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA), the average age of successful CPA Exam candidates is 29. But our current membership structure for graduates is based on what we want them to do right away, not what they want out of their careers long-term.
The NJCPA needs to hold onto graduates and young professionals by removing membership barriers. Establishing the new Affiliate class and providing one year of free membership for graduating Student members will enable young professionals to take advantage of the benefits of membership (e.g., discounts, training) while the NJCPA showcases to them the relevance and benefits of the CPA credential.
In addition to including graduates who have completed the academic requirements to become a CPA and are pursuing further requirements necessary to become a CPA, the Affiliate class would also be available to the following professionals:
- Professional staff working in an accounting or finance position under the supervision of a CPA
- Instructors of accountancy
- Non-CPA owners, partners, shareholders or principals of firms licensed by the New Jersey State Board of Accountancy
According to research conducted by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), two of the biggest influencers on a graduate’s decision to pursue the CPA Exam are their employer and college professors. As Affiliate members, educators and non-CPA owners would be able to participate in education, outreach and other critical programs designed to showcase the relevance and bene.ts of the CPA credential. These individuals are valuable members of the accounting and finance profession, and, thus, can be valuable members of the NJCPA community.
To create a clear distinction between the CPA and Affiliate classes, Affiliates will not be eligible to vote on ballot measures presented to the full CPA membership and will not be permitted to serve as officers on the NJCPA Board of Trustees.
Information on all the changes detailed above will be provided to members over the course of the summer and fall via this magazine, email, webinars and the NJCPA website. The bylaws vote is currently scheduled to take place after Oct. 15, 2022. In the meantime, for more information, visit njcpa.org/bylaws.
This article appeared in the Summer 2022 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.