Although accounting remains a popular undergraduate major, there is a growing shortage of talented accountants in the profession—and especially of CPAs. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), over 300,000 accountants left their jobs in 2022, a decline of 17% from a peak in 2019. And while Baby Boomers are retiring in droves, it’s not the only reason for the career exodus; an almost equal number of mid-career professionals and younger generations are also leaving the profession.
This gap has not remained unnoticed. Several industry-leading groups, including the National Pipeline Advisory Group, are exploring solutions to the accounting talent and CPA gap. And while there’s no magic wand to fix the lack of CPAs in the near-term future, there are many strategies that may provide an answer.
Strategy 1: Personal Outreach
It’s old-fashioned but effective: the direct, personal approach. Members of the National Pipeline Advisory Group, as reported in the Journal of Accountancy, are taking a direct approach to encouraging young and mid-career professionals to become CPAs. The direct approach includes speaking to people at conferences and events, joining local organizations and attending meetings, and simply speaking to people who are talented at what they do, enjoy accounting, and may be interested in becoming CPAs.
It may seem obvious that a good career step for an accountant is to obtain their CPA license, but sometimes, people just need a little inspiration. That’s where the direct approach comes into play. Having someone mention it may be just the thing someone needs to explore their next career move. It can’t hurt, and it certainly leads to many industry connections, which benefit everyone in the conversation.
Strategy 2: Remove Obstacles to the CPA License
As with any professional accreditation, the CPA exam requires an intensive amount of study and preparation. Some suggest changing the 150-hour post-graduate study requirement, for example, which adds approximately one year onto the bachelor’s degree. Perhaps other means of achieving the same high level of education and professional expertise can be explored so that more people can pursue the CPA path. Removing limitations without compromising integrity or quality may be an important path to increasing the number of CPAs.
Strategy 3: Augment with Technology
Technology cannot replace an accountant or CPA. No matter how good the platform, program, or system, it cannot and should not be used as a substitute for qualified accounting advice.
That said, technology can augment your existing accounting staff and improve efficiency by taking repetitive tasks off the plate of your current team. For example, automating legal disclaimers or routing emails that must be sent to clients can save up to an hour per day from a busy company’s time, freeing that time up for more advanced tasks. Other automations such as sending reminder invoices to clients for past due invoices, routing approvals automatically, and running reports can all be done by technology and save time for more advanced tasks for your current staff.
CPAs Matter to All Organizations
CPAs perform vital and irreplaceable functions for organizations of all sizes, including nonprofits. Students view the accounting profession favorably, citing ample job opportunities and room for career growth and interesting career paths as reasons they chose to enter the profession.
However, something is stopping these bright young minds from acquiring the advanced education to become CPAs. If we can work together within the profession to explore why this is occurring and remove potential barriers, we may be able to solve this crisis together.
Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact us for more information.