I'm going through the AICPA 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits (aka, uh, TITSOAGADFPAR?) report and it's a doozy.
The good news, I guess, is that enrollments have never been higher with over 250,000 students across five different kinds of programs:
Master's degrees still lead the charge and, as we've discussed, there's no sign of it slowing down:
This growth pleases AICPA president, CEO and part-time tattoo artist Barry Melancon, however, he admits a troubling issue:
“The data in the Trends report is very positive overall, and the outlook for accounting students entering the profession is bright,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon in a statement. “At that same time, we’ve continued to see a slight widening of the gap between the number of students who are graduating with accounting degrees and the number of candidates sitting for the CPA Exam, although the growth of the gap has slowed. It is critical that we’re producing enough CPAs to replace the retiring baby boomers and that the profession is continuing to meet the ever-changing needs of the U.S. capital markets. We’ve been looking into this issue in great detail, and are considering a number of profession-wide initiatives to complement our existing programs and ensure that qualified accounting graduates are earning their CPA license.”
The Trends report has a visual for this, too:
The growing gap between the number of accounting graduates and those sitting for the CPA exam has been a notable story this year and with these latest numbers, the topic won't be dying any time soon.
What's striking about this final table of numbers is that for more than two decades, the number of CPA candidates was well above 100,000. But since the arrival of the computerized exam, only in 2010 did the number of candidates eclipse it again.
The most important issue that isn't mentioned in the report or in the AT post is the fact that most accounting firms are desperate for talent right now and none of them know how to get it. To make matters worse for these firms, the Big 4 will continue to aggressively pursue the best candidates and those candidates will continue to accept their offers, regardless of whether it's the right fit for them.
Schools will continue to tell the best students that starting with a Big 4 firm will give them the best chance for a successful career while the rest of the accounting graduates won't work for a public accounting firm at all because most firms lack good career options.
So, yes, there will be more accountants hitting the streets than ever. The problem for most firms is, that's still not enough.