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September 22, 2023

Accounting Bottoms Out the List of Master’s Degrees That Offer the Best Salary Boost (Read: It Doesn’t)

The AICPA finally got around to releasing its Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report (hereby referred to as the Trends report), which we’ve been waiting to see since last August, but hey, I get it, people are busy. As we work on crunching the data and plucking out any relevant bits, we know without even glancing at it that CPA candidate numbers are down, and we know this because leaders from around the profession have been pulling their hair out over accounting graduates not taking the CPA exam for years. Well, the ones who still have hair anyway.

Allow me to refer back to this quick video put out by the Illinois CPA Society last year that offers just a few reasons why today’s accounting students are choosing not to head straight for the CPA as has been tradition since the dawn of (billable) time:

  • They feel they can take off in their anticipated or chosen careers without it.
  • They believe that any value the CPA credential holds is outweighed by its lack of relevance to their personal endeavors and the time commitment necessary to obtain it.
  • They don’t see the personal or financial return on investment.
  • Their employers or prospective employers aren’t supporting or requiring it.
  • They see other experiences as being more valuable.

I’d like to add a data point to that list. I found this today in my “crap worth writing about on Going Concern” file, which is really just a bunch of screenshots littered throughout my pile of cat pictures and maybe a couple links buried in my 108 open Chrome tabs. It’s only a single screenshot but why waste time say lot word when few word do trick. This is from a CNBC article on master’s degrees that give the best salary boosts:

CNBC list of master's degrees that pay best

That’s $1,982. The government gave people more than that in stimulus checks in 2020. You can’t even purchase this (obviously) used 1995 Buick LeSabre I found on for that:

1995 Buick LeSabre for sale

I mention this as a tie-in to the ongoing issue of lower CPA exam candidate numbers because both issues are directly related to a single pervasive issue: perceived lack of value. You’re accountants after all, of course you’re going to consider more than anyone else whether or not something is worth it.

As we work our way through the AICPA Trends report data, I guess we’ll find out just how many people have decided 4% isn’t worth investing all the time, effort, and student loan debt into a master’s. While a master’s isn’t technically required for licensure, it’s historically been a good option to meet the 150-hour rule which some have pointed out is yet another deterrent to licensure after you get past that whole “not getting paid what I’m worth” bit, but that’s a topic for another day.

We’ll update this space with the Trends report master’s graduate numbers shortly.

Photo by Jeff Weese from Pexels

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