November 29, 2021

Opinion: The Profession Is Not ‘Diluted,’ It Is Evolving

[Ed. note: The following is a letter we received in response to a reader letter we published in September which lambasted the AICPA for diluting the profession. We are publishing it with permission from its author, who we have chosen to keep anonymous due to the anonymity of the original letter writer. We hope this further facilitates an important discussion about the future of the CPA profession.]

Dear Adrienne

I read with great interest the “Opinion” article you recently published in response to your Sept 14th column on the potential dearth of CPAs in the future.

I must make a strong objection to the anonymous writer’s take on this important matter.

He, wrongly in my opinion, equates seeking a CPA credential with being a partner in a CPA firm. The fact that other talented professionals can also become equity owners of such firms has nothing to do with the decreasing trends in accounting majors.

I also question whether the writer is currently involved in the auditing profession as this constantly evolving area of practice is what is driving a lot of the non-accounting major hires by the big firms. These firms need employees who are skilled in data analytics, artificial intelligence, IT security, and many other areas of study in order to carry out a quality audit, particularly in today’s age of remote auditing. The hiring explosion that is seen in the larger firms is also in response to their need to build teams of young college graduates to staff their ever-growing consulting services practices.

By tying partner ownership to potentially dwindling interest in the CPA as a profession is also meaningless when, if you ask entry-level accountants whether they even desire to become a partner when they begin their career, based on many surveys over the years the potential golden ring of partnership has minimal appeal to them.

I also fail to see the connection between the “CPA who worked so very hard to pass the CPA exam” and the apparent lack of interest in future students wanting to become CPAs. In fact, all the learned professionals will tell you that the CPA exam is the beacon that other professionals could only hope for. Through the years, the high standards (and low passing rates) bring great acknowledgment to those who have successfully achieved a passing grade. Further, I think that you will find that one of the major issues in the dwindling number of CPA candidates is that once they have taken an initial part of the exam, they feel that the standards to pass are so high that they no longer wish to commit the time and energy to further pursue a CPA and simply take their accounting skills elsewhere.

The writer should have looked at the economy as a whole. Where are the best and brightest students going: high tech, private equity, and Wall Street. These institutions promise significant financial rewards, but only to a certain few, and after all entry-level employees invest outlandish hours and relentless pressure to succeed.

Tell me where the profession has been diluted. Your initial attempt to slam the profession as a whole and the AICPA has fallen far short of the mark.

Photo by Dhyamis Kleber from Pexels

Related article:

Opinion: It’s the AICPA’s Own Fault No One Wants to Be a CPA Anymore

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4 Comments

  1. “By tying partner ownership to potentially dwindling interest in the CPA as a profession is also meaningless when, if you ask entry-level accountants whether they even desire to become a partner when they begin their career, based on many surveys over the years the potential golden ring of partnership has minimal appeal to them”

    Thank you for your OPINION Mr./Ms./It/They (hope I covered them all!) Anonymous – meaningless is not true…minimal appeal is not true…all the learned professionals will tell you that the CPA exam is the beacon that other professionals could only hope for is not true…

    Thank you again for an opinion that is not shared by many (see I didn’t assume all like you do) accountants.

    The economy as a whole? We are looking at the Accounting/CPA profession. The “high-tech” opportunities for an entry level accounting major a so slim you should not even have mentioned them. There is a reason the majority of the top of the accounting classes seek Big-4 positions – figure it out author. It really is simple.

    Further, I think that you will find that one of the major issues in the dwindling number of CPA candidates is that once they have taken an initial part of the exam, they feel that the standards to pass are so high that they no longer wish to commit the time and energy to further pursue a CPA and simply take their accounting skills elsewhere – WHAT SKILLS – THEY CAN”T EVEN PASS THE EXAM – Should have been a marketing major….

  2. The shortage of exam candidates is a 100% industry-created problem. Only the industry can solve it. When we had a growing population, there were enough candidates to support the “churn and burn” industry attitude toward employment. Our population growth has been stagnating to below-replacement rates for 20 years. What worked 20 years ago hasn’t been working for the last several years.

    There is more competition for accountants from virtually every industry. Why would people pay for an extra year of college to take the CPA exam, when they can get a job straight out of college making $50k with just 128 credits and a degree? Why would they put in 2-3 years of having virtually no life just to take an exam they might not every have enough time to study for and pass? Once they pass that exam, why would they continue to work in a job that will reward them with money, but destroy their personal lives and health?

    People are being worked ridiculous hours that damage bodies and mental health. Just because it’s “always been done that way” doesn’t make it a viable long-term model. Now that there is competition for workers, they have better choices that don’t mean abandoning their families and social lives in favor of jobs that frankly treat them like meat for the grinder. Being angry and disrespectful towards young workers because they have raised their standards for work/life balance isn’t going to solve this problem. Creating jobs that actually foster pride and joy without destroying people’s personal lives and bodies is the only solution that is going to fix this.

    The Great Resignation is here. The choice CPA firms need to make is how many workers they want to drive away before they change their ways. Check out Fishbowl if you don’t believe me. Check our r/Accounting on reddit. When 90% of the postings are people talking about leaving public and how much they hate the hours they work, you have a serious issue. Giving people a mental health day followed by an 80 hour workweek to make up for lost productivity isn’t going to solve this. Giving people free access to mental health counselors isn’t going to solve this- the counselors are going to tell them their jobs are killing them and they need to find new jobs. Telling people they’ll get unlimited vacation means nothing when they still have to make up all the charge hours when they return, and/or that they can’t take time off if it “affects client engagements,” (we all know it ALWAYS affects client engagements when you schedule engagements every week of the year).

    1. I’ve made on average $380,000 the past 12 years as CFO of a Family Office in Dallas, TX. I loved my 8 years KPMG and Arthur. You get out of life what you put into it. That is something of idiots of today don’t seem to understand. Before that I joined the US Navy as a lowly enlisted E-1, eight years later they were paying for my college at Syracuse University and I became a fighter pilot. Spent 12 years doing that before I retired and became a CPA. I did it all knowing a little hard work goes a long way. I could live off of my military retirement but I keep working at excelling in a profession I’m very proud of – we’ll be fine because there are enough of us still here.

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