669,130. That’s how many licensed CPAs there are in the United States as of August 24, 2021 per NASBA. This only counts CPAs in 54 of the 55 licensing jurisdictions, Hawaii is not included in the data.
Nearly 20 years ago, the number of licensed CPAs was 639,628 (2003) and 646,520 by 2006.
Interestingly, the sentiment back in 2006 wasn’t much different from that of today. Check out this Kaplan news release from exactly 16 years ago:
And even though the number of CPAs is at a standstill, the national pass rate for the exam has actually increased. The pass rate for each of the four parts is roughly 43%, which is a 10% rise since 2004, when the exam became computerized and more user-friendly by separating the sections and providing windows of time for each part.
So, the problem is that candidates are simply not taking the exam.
“It can be difficult when a CPA candidate is working 60-plus hours a week and trying to fit in study time on the side,” Riley said. “Smart employers will provide the tools — a time and place to study, and company-sponsored classroom test prep — to help their CPA candidates succeed.”
When more candidates take the test and become CPAs, accounting firms will have a bigger pool of talent.
“The top two problems today in the accounting and financial industry are recruiting and retaining employees,” Riley continued. “When there is a shortage of talent, the workload on the existing CPAs increases, and many leave the industry. It becomes a downward spiral where it is difficult to attract — and then keep — talented professionals.”
Ooooh, foreshadowing! Or perhaps the only difference nowadays is that the internet has allowed students to be better informed and hear all about the downsides of a career in accounting (well, specifically public and specifically your first few years).
Believe it or not, accounting graduate numbers were significantly lower back then than they are today. 55,936 in 2005-06 versus 72,923 in 2019-20. Is everyone freaking out over nothing?