CEO Compass - Winter 2024

by Aiysha (AJ) Johnson, MA, IOM | NJCPA CEO and Executive Director | January 22, 2024

New Year, New Beginnings

When I reflect on this new beginning, thoughts of humbleness and gratitude come to mind. Thank you to all who have offered words of encouragement and constructive feedback. I appreciate the efforts to get involved or continue engagement. We are a community, and, through our collective efforts, we convey the great relevance the NJCPA and the profession continue to offer. I want to extend my wishes for a happy new year and a successful busy season! 

As we begin 2024, the profession’s pipeline challenges remain front and center. Declining high school graduation sizes, increasing retirements and a drop in the number of candidates sitting for the CPA Exam are converging to severely restrict the number of CPAs who provide critical financial services and advice to communities, businesses and individuals. 

The NJCPA, along with the AICPA, NASBA and other state CPA societies, have studied ways to increase the number of students becoming CPAs, including the 150-hour education requirement. The additional 30 hours are not specific to accounting or related disciplines, and some believe that the additional year of education and costs associated with it are a significant barrier to potential accounting students and those who may sit for the CPA Exam. 

We recently asked members to weigh in on the 150-hour requirement:

  • More than 40% of the 1,060 surveyed say, historically, new hires working in accounting-related roles and without 150 hours of education “rarely” or “never” pursue the CPA certification.
  • Sixty-two percent see no noticeable difference in preparedness of staff who have accounting degrees with 120 credit hours versus those who have 150 credit hours.
  • Nearly 80% believe it would be beneficial to the profession to provide alternative pathways to certification where 150 hours is one option but not the only option. 

It’s clear that CPAs want to explore other options to certification. What’s also clear is that CPAs don’t want to jeopardize their ability to serve clients and provide services across state lines without getting licensed in each jurisdiction (i.e., mobility). In considering changes to the 150-hour requirement, 88% of respondents say that it is “very important” or “somewhat important” to protect CPA mobility. 

In late December, NASBA said it was discussing a “structured experiential learning program that would provide for education, documented experience, and other elements that would provide an equivalent path to licensure without the need of having a fifth year to complete a 150-hours education program that would appear on an accredited transcript.” This additional path would include an education and experience component to measure a participant’s competency to be licensed as a CPA and would be considered equivalent to the current 150-hour pathway defined in the Uniform Accountancy Act. NASBA acknowledges that this would require legislative and other changes in some states and may impact interstate mobility until all have adopted the new equivalent path.

The NJCPA Board of Trustees and Pipeline Task Force are exploring all options to attract more students to the profession while maintaining the highest standards expected of a CPA. 

The profession is facing a challenge and, potentially, a crisis if we don’t make changes. We invite you to share your thoughts on broadening the pathways.

Aiysha  Johnson

Aiysha Johnson

Aiysha (AJ) Johnson, MA, is the CEO and executive director of the New Jersey Society of CPAs.

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