AICPA Report Shows High Level of Accounting Degrees, Enrollment

The number of students who graduated with accounting degrees in the 2007-08 school year surpassed the previous year’s record level, according to a new report by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. More than 66,000 achieved bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting, 3.5% higher than in 2006-07.

This represents the largest number of graduates since 1972, the year the AICPA began tracking the data, according to the report, 2009 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits. The gender ratio is 51% female, 49% male, a 1% uptick in the male cohort.

“The historic growth of accounting degrees is especially significant now because it coincides with the CPA profession’s programs and efforts to attract young talent,” said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president – students, academics and membership. “Students clearly recognize the attractiveness of accounting as a rewarding and fulfilling career path.”

Other important findings include:

Accounting degree enrollment (bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral combined) climbed 4.7% in 2007–08.

A strong demand for hiring in firms with 50 to 200 CPAs and a reduction in hiring among smaller firms from the previous year’s totals. The demand forecast for the coming year shows that among all firms, 64% expect hiring to remain the same as this year with 26% predicting a decline.

Universities are preparing for the U.S. transition to IFRS: 80% of accounting programs surveyed indicated that they offer courses in IFRS material; 15% plan to add IFRS to the curriculum by fall 2009.

Larger firms have more than 500 full-time employees, on average, currently enrolled in classes to satisfy CPA license requirements – suggesting that firms support employees’ efforts to obtain the CPA credential, according to the AICPA.

Although the hiring of new graduates has declined overall as a result of the weakened economy, midsize/large regional firms (50 – 200 CPAs) did report an increase in recruiting new accountants.

As the U.S. capital market system readies for a transition to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), 80% of the accounting programs participating in the Trends study reported that they currently offer IFRS material in their curricula, and an additional 15% said they will add it by Fall 2009.