Demand for CPAs remains historically high, according to the AICPA 2017 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits, and future hiring expectations continue to be positive, especially among large firms. Accounting and auditing are the eighth highest in-demand positions in Ohio, and accounting is the sixth best business job for 2017, per U.S. News & World Report.
But, high schoolers still aren’t seeing the potential. At this level (and elsewhere), accounting is perceived as the introvert’s profession. But, for their business to be successful, hiring managers need accountants who are technically competent and strategic problem solvers with all personality types.
Add to that, attending college is a significant investment of time and resources. According to Complete College America, only 19 percent of full-time students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years at most public universities. Additional time needed to graduate only adds to the cost of college.
At The Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA), we know the issues high schoolers and their parents face when it comes to deciding where to attend school, how to afford it, and what degree to pursue. More important, we know firsthand how competitive the market is for firms and companies vying for the best accounting talent with the right skills needed to grow their businesses.
To change the narrative around the CPA credential, OSCPA shifted how we talk about what it means to be a CPA. We also know if we wait until college to talk to students about becoming a CPA, it is likely too late for many who have already declared a different career path.
It starts with parents, high school teachers and students. We have significantly expanded our outreach efforts to explain how becoming a CPA can set up students for long-term success, and that the ROI of an accounting career is especially attractive for recent college graduates who often face a mountain of debt.
This fall, we hosted 1,200 high school students for accounting career days on university campuses. We tap accounting majors at those schools to be student ambassadors and share firsthand what it is like to major in accounting. This puts a vibrant face on the profession, and helps high school students connect with others who recently went through the same decision-making process.
We also launched a high school student member option to keep in touch with students we’ve met. A robust social media campaign shares career and salary projections for various accounting careers, and showcases all the ways we are reaching out to students in high school and college throughout the year.
In addition to the work being done at the high school level, OSCPA has built partnerships with college educators and diversity-focused organizations to encourage more underrepresented students to consider accounting. Currently, we hold several accounting and leadership development camps for underrepresented students in high school and college. We invite young CPAs to share the message that there are exciting career opportunities in accounting at all these events. These programs are funded by Ohio CPAs and companies through The Ohio CPA Foundation.
We know our efforts are making a difference. A 2017 survey of our senior accounting student members found 75 percent had a job at graduation, 89 percent planned to sit for the CPA exam, and 59 percent planned to be licensed in Ohio. Half of the respondents said they’d remain in Ohio.
We believe this is due, in large part, to OSCPA’s efforts to put dedicated resources behind Ohio’s growing accounting talent pipeline. Our student membership has grown more than 70 percent since 2016, and we are seeing more participation at our high school and college events. Plus, we are building stronger ties with educators as we work to ensure the next generation of CPAs is fully prepared to take on the demands of business.
All these touchpoints also pave the way for student members to learn earlier how OSCPA can be a valuable professional partner throughout their careers.