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The CPA Exam Needs to Evolve and You Can Help It Do Just That

The conversation about “future-proof” CPAs and the evolution of the CPA exam to include skills necessary to provide exceptional client service far into the future is not a new one, we’ve been having it for years. This isn’t one of those “hey you guys, CPAs of the future better know VLOOKUP” things, it’s a bit more serious than that. In a surprising move, the typically reactive overlords of the accounting profession are taking steps to ensure tomorrow’s CPAs are equipped with the tools they’ll need to do their jobs in an uncertain, but no doubt technologically-advanced future.

Last month, NASBA and AICPA issued a Request for Input on five “guiding principles” that will shape an ever-evolving licensing model. The five principles are as follows:

  • The CPA profession must adapt quickly due to the technological disruptions in areas such as data analytics, robotics, AI, and more. As such, the competencies, services, and attitudes of CPAs need to continually evolve in order to protect the public interest.
  • The CPA profession and state boards of accountancy recognize that technological and analytical expertise is essential to performing assurance work, as well as the other services that are currently, or will be in the future, core to professional accounting.
  • The CPA profession and state boards of accountancy acknowledge that sustaining the profession and continued public protection require rethinking initial licensure requirements.
  • The profession, and therefore entry into the profession, must be redesigned to attract individuals with technological and analytical expertise. This includes non-CPA professionals whose technology and analytics skills are critical to the performance of assurance and other core services, as well as nonaccounting major students. All must demonstrate minimum required competencies necessary to perform professional accounting services as a CPA.
  • The changes must be rapid, transformational, and substantive without negatively impacting candidates currently in the pipeline.

Giving them a piece of your mind on the matter is as simple as filling out a quick form, or shooting them an email if you prefer. While no doubt some of you are thinking “why would I give a crap about this?” I imagine still others understand that we’re at a kind of exciting fork in the road that future generations of CPAs might look back on fondly to thinking “man, those old folks really made our lives better by changing things when they did.” Or something all sunshine and rainbows along those lines.

The fact that NASBA and AICPA are putting so much effort into an evolving licensure model is a clear signal that they are fully aware of important shifts in how the world works, and more specifically how accountants are impacted by rapid changes in technology, communication, and even work itself. This isn’t a bunch of old dudes sitting in a darkened conference room somewhere telling themselves maybe they should embrace this internet thing, it’s a concerted effort by The Powers That Be to change the entire game.

Feedback is requested until Aug. 9, after which responses will be used to steer decision-making and help develop next steps. It isn’t often you have an opportunity to have a say in the future face of your profession, so get on it.