New Pathways to CPA

09 November, 2022

Rod Adams
PwC Talent Acquisition and Onboarding Leader

Nearly every industry has seen employee shortages across a constantly shifting labor market, and there’s an important profession at particular risk: certified public accountants (CPAs). CPAs are licensed professionals who play a pivotal role in building trust in society and strengthening our financial systems by auditing publicly traded companies, providing tax knowledge and advice and informing business strategies to drive growth and success. They are incredibly important to our economy and protecting the public interest.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of accountants and auditors has dropped by 17% over the past several years. As an industry and a firm, we’ve taken steps to help engage and encourage aspiring professionals. For example, we’re working with Forage, a digital work experience platform, to develop virtual simulations of a day in the life of various PwC professionals to provide entry-level job seekers with valuable training, while also exposing them to careers they might not have considered pursuing. However, we need to continue to innovate and focus on driving greater career opportunities, knowing that in addition to the impacts of the Great Resignation on the accounting profession, the requirements to obtain CPA licensure pose obstacles to entry, for some. 

Among the various requirements for CPA licensure, individuals must earn 150 educational credits. Some of those credits must be from courses that are required by various states’ CPA licensing bodies. Traditional four-year undergraduate accounting programs generally require 120 credits, and may include undergraduate courses in subjects unrelated to the profession. Those seeking a CPA license may have to enroll in potentially time- and cost-intensive graduate programs to earn the remaining 30 credits, or more, to meet state requirements.

Opening new opportunities

CPA licensure helps to maintain the quality and value of the profession, and having the license can open the door to various career opportunities. We’ve developed a new pilot that reimagines the path forward not only for aspiring accounting professionals, but for the accounting industry as a whole. Through our collaboration with Saint Peter’s University, graduates from the university with an accounting degree, who have 120 credit hours, can earn the additional 30 credit hours they need to become CPA eligible in New Jersey through paid, full-time work experience at PwC. 

How and why working for credit works

To prepare participants for CPA licensing, our pilot leverages the innovative “Work for Credit” option recently approved by the New Jersey State Accountancy Board, allowing individuals to earn up to 30 academic credits towards the New Jersey 150 hour CPA licensure requirement through relevant work experience. In September, we kicked-off by welcoming the six pilot participants to our firm. As full-time, entry level associates at PwC, the pilot participants can expect to cover functional and programmatic learning areas including accounting, tax, data science and organizational strategy through hands-on client work, for which Saint Peter’s University, located in Jersey City, NJ, will grant corresponding academic undergraduate credits for units successfully completed.

As a public accounting firm, we recognize and value the benefits of traditional graduate programs for aspiring accounting professionals. We also believe learning through work experience provides an alternative path to building the fundamental skills needed to become a CPA. 

The building blocks of transformation

Our new pilot with Saint Peter’s University is part of a series of bold actions we’re taking to drive the institutional change that we want to see in the workplace. Others include:

  • Supporting a more equitable future: While progress has been made in driving diversity, equity and inclusivity across our industry, we are committed to do more and build on our progress. To help address the opportunity and employment gaps in society, Access Your Potential is our $125M commitment to help 25,000 Black and Hispanic/Latinx college students prepare for and begin an in-demand career. Our goal is to provide students from all backgrounds with an equal opportunity to succeed, helping to change their trajectories and uplift their communities.
  • Empowering people to build personalized careers: We know people thrive when their daily experience matches what they value. That’s why we launched My+ to reimagine our people experience, giving people the power to build a personalized career that supports their development, well-being and ambitions. We’re creating opportunities for everyone to find success and purpose, both professionally and personally.
  • Expanding access to higher education: Higher education can provide a path to personal and professional success, however access to these resources across our society isn’t always equal. Our While You Work - CPA Acceleration Program gives rising college seniors or graduates, from underrepresented groups in the professional services industry, with eligible undergraduate degrees from accredited colleges or universities the opportunity to receive a tuition-paid, industry-recognized master’s degree from Northeastern University, while working part time at PwC. In its third year, the program continues to expand with aspirations to nearly quadruple the size of our next class and also provide new experiential opportunities across different parts of our firm.

It’s time to take bold action as we continue to cultivate a profession that attracts the top talent and is prepared to solve tomorrow’s challenges.

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