It’s no secret the number of CPAs and accounting professionals entering the workforce is not keeping up with the growing demand for CPA services. Generational shifts, changes in higher education enrollment and an ever-changing labor market have all impacted the CPA profession pipeline. Boosting the numbers, though, isn’t just about meeting consumer demand; it’s crucial to safeguarding the public’s interests, a cornerstone of the CPA profession.
CalCPA is working with stakeholders on collaborative initiatives that redefine perceptions about the profession, emphasize unique career opportunities and enhance the candidate experience as they move through the education, licensure and recruitment process.
CalCPA’s advocacy work is embedded across these efforts as we translate pipeline initiatives into policy solutions. This means working with regulators to maintain a licensure framework that balances appropriate rigor with streamlined entry into the profession. As the profession evolves and consumer demand and expectations change, licensing rules, regulations and procedures need to evolve. With pronounced pipeline challenges, this work becomes even more critical. Here are some of the latest efforts:
Exam: Early Entry, Evolution Transition and Longer Testing Window
CalCPA collaborated with the California Board of Accountancy (CBA) to bring about important updates to exam regulations. These updates have been consolidated into a comprehensive regulatory package that is set to come into effect on Jan. 1, 2024.
First, the package contains details on early entry to the CPA Exam. A couple of years ago, we worked on getting a law passed that lets candidates start sitting for the exam early—a full 180 days before they finish their education. This package adds regulatory specifics on how this early entry works.
Second, it makes changes necessary for a smooth transition to the new CPA Evolution exam. This includes outlining how old exam sections match with their equivalent sections in the new format. It also includes a one-time exam credit extension for those testing during the transition period.
Lastly, it includes language that adopts a longer testing window—from 18 months to 30 months.
So, what does that mean and how does it help the CPA pipeline?
Students early in their academic journey will have greater clarity on what they will need to do to take full advantage of the early exam entry and start testing in their final semester or quarter.
For those who are in the testing process, any exam credits obtained from passing a section of the current exam that are current as of Dec. 31, 2023, will be extended until June 30, 2025. This extension provides candidates who are utilizing test credits from both the existing and the new exams with additional time to manage the transition period between the two exams. So, a candidate that has earned credits as far back as July 2022 will have until 2025 to use them.
For those embarking on the testing process, starting next year, they will now have 30 months, which is a full year longer than before, to successfully complete all sections of the exam. This provides greater flexibility for candidates as they balance personal and professional obligations with their career aspirations.
All told, these exam changes reflect the current realities within the profession and provide CPA candidates with greater latitude as they work through the exam process and ultimately to licensure.
CalCPA is also assisting the CBA with a newly launched initiative known as SURE CPA—Students Understanding the Requirement to be a CPA. The goal of the multi-year program is to make the education requirements for becoming a CPA easier to understand, giving CPA hopefuls, schools, professional groups and others a clearer picture of what they will need to meet education requirements and simplify the CBA’s approval process.
The CBA has put together a survey to capture feedback from high school or college students interested in an accounting career, recent graduates pursuing a CPA license, and newly licensed CPAs who just completed the process.
While this project is in the early stages of gathering data and input, it has the potential to fundamentally shift—for the better—how CPA candidates document their education and how the CBA verifies education for licensure. CalCPA is encouraging all members to share their thoughts by completing the survey at cba.ca.gov.
CalCPA is also active in Washington, D.C. and is supporting bipartisan, bicameral legislation that allows the addition of accounting education to STEM curricula for K-12 students. This would help reinforce the relationship between accounting and technology, while exposing diverse students to potential careers in accounting, growing the profession’s pipeline.
A discussion on the horizon is the possibility of reinstating exam credits that expired during Covid shutdowns. Thousands of California candidates lost exam credits between 2020-23 and there is a growing conversation about whether those credits should be reinstated and if so, how. CalCPA is actively working with regulators to explore scenarios that could provide the most relief without being overly disruptive to the licensure process. Keep an eye out for more on this in the coming months.
Jason Fox is CalCPA’s vice president of advocacy and government affairs.