AICPA Report: CPA Exam Candidates Down, Hiring of Non-Accounting Graduates Up

An AICPA report says the number of CPA exam candidates in 2018 dropped to its lowest level in 10 years while hires of new accounting graduates declined by about 30% over the last four years.

This is according to the recently released report, Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits. The report, published every other year since 1971, identifies key trends in U.S. accounting enrollments and graduates as well as hiring of new graduates in public accounting. The report provides projections based upon university responses for the 2017-18 academic year and firm responses for the 2018 calendar year.

Yvonne Hinson, the AICPA’s Academic in Residence, wrote in the report that enrollments in accounting bachelor’s degree programs declined by 4% since 2016, but are the second highest on record. Further declines are seen in master’s and Ph.D. programs, at 6% and 23%, respectively.

“The more telling projections,” she wrote, come from the demand side. “The marketplace continues to demand different competencies and, while accounting graduates are still being hired, firms are seeking other skill sets to expand services. We are seeing that the gap in skills required in the profession, especially as it relates to technology needs, is being met with non-accounting graduates.”

Other results:

  • Diversity – In 2018, female accounting graduates outnumbered male graduates at the master’s level. Racial/ethnic diversity has increased in accounting graduates, with a 7 percentage point increase in Hispanic or Latino accounting graduates.
  • CPA Examination – The number of CPA Exam takers increased in 2015 and 2016 in preparation of the new CPA Exam that launched in 2017. CPA Examination candidates decreased 7% between 2017 and 2018. The number of CPA Exam candidates who passed their fourth section of the exam decreased 6% between 2017 and 2018.
  • Hiring – Hiring of new accounting graduates slowed 11%. Non-accounting hires as a percentage of all new graduate hires are up 11 percentage points to 31%. In 2018, new hires assigned to audit-related services increased by 4 percentage points, while new graduates assigned to taxation declined by 4 percentage points.

Read the full report.

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