Accounting Educators Put Renewed Spotlight on CPA Pipeline

Kathleen Hoffelder, NJCPA Senior Content Editor – May 10, 2024
Accounting Educators Put Renewed Spotlight on CPA Pipeline

A number of New Jersey’s top accounting professors came together at an NJCPA Accounting Educators Workshop on May 3 at EisnerAmper’s Iselin office to discuss what’s needed to entice more students to enter the accounting profession.

Aiysha (AJ) Johnson, MA, IOM, CEO and executive director of the NJCPA, presented along with Dr. Sean Stein Smith, CPA, CFE, CGMA, CMA, DBA, assistant professor at the City University of New York — Lehman College and a member of the NJCPA Board of Trustees, and Tara Baldwin, CPA, manager at WilkinGuttenplan and the 2023/24 NJCPA Student Programs and Scholarship Committee chairperson. Don Meyer, CAE, chief marketing officer at the NJCPA, hosted a panel on Withum’s work-for-credit program with Seton Hall University and another panel on pipeline advocacy.

“Our focus is to raise awareness of the accounting profession. We are a community. As we think about the needs of new entrants into the profession, our role is to be a connector, increasing access to networking, resources and services,” said Johnson, adding that it’s important to understand how diversity, equity and inclusion helps to expand opportunities for students, CPA candidates and newer accounting professionals.  

Building the Pipeline

The work-for-credit program established by Withum and Seton Hall University helps to alleviate the challenge to fulfill the 150-credit hour requirement for CPA licensure along with passing the CPA Exam. The one-year CPA Pathway Apprenticeship program provides an opportunity for Seton Hall graduates to gain first-hand public accounting work experience and receive the 30 credit hours. Students typically must complete 120 credit hours of undergraduate studies to graduate. 

Theresa Richardson, chief talent officer at Withum and a panelist at the event, explained that the initiative works well since it “was structured as a residency program” and the students get to experience different niche areas of the firm. Six students are currently taking advantage of the program, which is paid for by Withum.

Danielle DiMeglio, MBA, instructor of Accounting and Taxation and director of Graduate Accounting Programs at Seton Hall University, noted they are aware of students’ needs to complete these credits versus those looking for a specific master’s degree. “We had to figure out how to do this in a mindful way that makes sense for our students. We developed a process for this to be a recurring thing. We consulted with our nursing program,” she said.

Other work-for-credit programs are underway in New Jersey, such as Saint Peter’s University/PwC program, where participants also receive the 30 credits required to be licensed as a CPA. PwC covered the cost of tuition and paid the participants as full-time employees. In 2021, PwC joined forces with Northeastern University for a similar program.

Pipeline Advocacy

In a discussion focusing on the link between advocacy and increasing the number of students heading into the accounting profession, panelist Althea Ford, vice president of government affairs at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA), explained that it is necessary to incorporate awareness of the profession into everyday conversations to eliminate stereotypes about accounting and rebrand how it’s being described.

NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Christopher Emigholz, a panelist at the event, added that if it can be made clear to legislators that accounting should be treated as a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subject, more students will be able to consider the accounting profession. The NJCPA is actively supporting and advocating for initiatives that recognize accounting as a STEM subject and that allow STEM K-12 grant funding to be used for accounting awareness and education.

Emigholz explained that when employment shortfall discussions have typically come up in industry discussions, they never used to be about accounting. “Every business needs an accountant,” he noted, saying there really is an “awareness issue about the CPA pipeline for accountants.”