Letter from the CEO: Marketing the ROI of a CPA Career

Written on Sep 21, 2016

Our team has been assessing the entire spectrum of the Ohio talent gap—from driving students to accounting to helping CPAs develop the non-technical skills needed to drive business success.

It’s a conversation that is gaining momentum across the profession. Attendance in accounting programs at U.S. universities reached an all-time high in 2014 and demand is on the upswing. Accounting and auditing jobs are the eighth highest in demand positions in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

But we’re losing ground on encouraging grads to pursue the CPA credential. With attractive starting salaries and niche advisory services on the rise, accounting grads are being lured to lucrative jobs in nontraditional accounting paths before they reach their senior year. When grads go to corporate industry directly following graduation, they are far less likely to pursue the CPA credential… ever.

That’s a trend we need to change and recently, we pulled together a working group of the OSCPA Executive Board, Ohio CPA Foundation Trustees and statewide Ohio Young CPA Leadership Board to discuss possible solutions.

This group identified ways OSCPA could change this trajectory. We defined the CPA pipeline as the flow of talent and skills necessary to sustain and grow the profession and prioritized our strategic work for the future in five areas.

Changing the CPA narrative with influencers. We need to shift how we talk about what it means to be a CPA starting with parents, high school teachers and guidance counselors. Accounting has too long been perceived as the introvert’s profession. Today’s successful businesses need accounting graduates who are both technically competent and outgoing, strategic problem solvers.

We need to make the world understand accounting is the entry point for any number of exciting careers. We can’t be shy about marketing accounting as a lucrative career with excellent ROI for college grads. We must compete head-to-head with STEM fields for the top students.

This year, we started welcoming high school students as members, and will use this messaging as we talk to them on their own turf—at high school events, on social media and through the important adult influencers in their lives. We hope to engage member CPAs and other volunteers in our outreach as we expand efforts in this area.

Define the status of Ohio’s pipeline. We will be building partnerships with college educators, organizations focusing on workforce development and diversity, and employers to better analyze the potential future CPA pipeline in Ohio. It will involve research as well as face-to-face collaboration to build initiatives that recruit students and properly prepare them to take on the business challenges of tomorrow. This will partly address another priority: eliminating the gap between academic curriculum and marketplace needs.

Supporting the current credential pipeline. We will continue providing resources to those already on the path to earning the CPA. The Ohio CPA Foundation currently employs 20 Student Ambassadors on campuses across Ohio. We will plan more networking and CPA roundtable events which connect students with CPAs to answer questions about the exam and a typical day’s work. Events that position strong CPA role models will be critical to our recruitment efforts.

Identify alternative pathways to the credential. Finally, the group discussed opportunities for filling the talent gap by looking at the current workforce to tap military veterans, non-licensed professionals already working in bookkeeping or other related fields and individuals exploring career changes.

Moving the pipeline needle is an ambitious goal, and our work will involve a multi-year effort that will start with a focus on the top two priorities. I look forward to your ideas and feedback as we begin to frame a plan of work that supports repositioning CPA careers as the premier path in business.

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