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Blog: Increasing Diversity in the CPA Profession

Increasing Diversity in the CPA Profession

Increasing Diversity Overtime

The AICPA formed the Minority Initiatives Committee in 1969 to increase diversity in the CPA profession. Their goal was to provide opportunities and promote the hiring of qualified minority accounting students.  As a result, the number of minority CPAs climbed from 150 to 1,000 in ten years. Although a significant increase, minority CPAs only accounted for 2% of the industry

Today, minorities only represent 4.3% of the accounting profession and African-Americans make up 3% of the new hire population for CPA firms.  This means that within 40 years, the African-American percentage in the accounting profession only rose by 2%.

Recruiting Accounting Students

The CPA journal surveyed undergraduate African American students and found the combination of a more captivating introductory accounting course combined with personally knowing an accountant could potentially stimulate more interest in the profession. 

For many colleges, majors are not declared until students arrive on campus. Offering high school accounting courses or more exciting and captivating introductory accounting courses could contribute to a higher percentage of minorities majoring in accounting. It might also prove beneficial for firms to send minority employees to college campuses to serve as role models and even mentors to undergraduate students.

A Generational Profession

A similar idea was mentioned in another article posted by the CPA Journal.  This article spoke about how the CPA profession is considered a generational profession. Most current CPAs have a family member who is or was a CPA.  Since minorities have always made up a small, single-digit percentage of the accounting profession, and since this profession is generational, it makes sense that the number of minorities within the accounting profession remains low.  Since minority groups do not receive the same exposure to the accounting profession from their personal life, it is up to accounting firms to create this exposure during their undergraduate tenure.

The CPA Exam

The exam dropout rate might also contribute to the low number of minorities in the accounting profession.  After sitting for just one exam, 12% of Caucasian exam candidates, 24.5% of Hispanic candidates, and 32% of African-American candidates drop out. One reason for this high dropout rate could be the cost of the CPA exam process. Some of the most advertised review courses are priced around $3,000.  One exam alone costs hundreds of dollars. The candidate must repay this fee if they fail the exam. Lack of mentors along with the high cost of the exam process might contribute to the high dropout rate.

Next Steps

In order to stimulate a desire to both major in accounting and become a CPA, students need to be provided with exposure in the classroom, mentorship, and financial resources.  Introductory accounting courses should be offered in high schools and advertised more heavily in the first year of college. Firms can partner with both high schools and colleges to begin a mentorship program for potential candidates with mentors helping CPA candidates see the big picture. Candidates facing financial hardships could choose to work at firms that reimburse employees for CPA expenses.

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