New Study Sheds Light on Accounting Image Among Students



A new study released by the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) gauges the attitudes and perceptions of accounting among high school and college students (both four-year and community college) with a focus on diversity, perhaps shedding some light on the kinds of barriers impacting the pipeline. An increasing concern within the profession, the CPA pipeline has become something of a focal point in recent years and while this report serves to confirm some theories, it also provides insight into what educators (their institutions), professionals and employers can do to further the ongoing effort to expand the pipeline and change the face of accounting. For educators in particular, the MICPA has found a few key takeaways worth exploring.

One of the more interesting extrapolations is the pattern of drop-off when it comes to college students’ interest in accounting. According to the CAQ study, “…more than eight in 10 Black and Hispanic students are open to the idea of accounting and half or more are interested in exploring the degree.” However, when it comes to choosing between accounting and other areas of business, the numbers show that students are opting for the alternatives. Data collected during the study cites the top reasons for this shift include a lack of interest or passion and misconceptions about the skills required1.

Further, industry leaders have long understood that the accounting profession has a problem with image, a sentiment echoed quite clearly by one Black high school student that participated in the CAQ study. “If it [accounting] were more flexible. If there were more people of color in the field, if it was a more positive thing to be looked at. It just looks boring. It sounds boring. And, quite frankly, it is boring.”

Another survey respondent, a Black four-year college student majoring in business, responded, “One of my roommates is an accounting major and I think of her just being very stressed out and up late working on stuff. I’ve taken a few classes as well and it’s something that I always was kind of good at, but it never interested me just because of the stress of it.”

While the study does state that additional research would be necessary to fully understand the factors causing the disconnect from initial interest to pursuing the degree, there are some actionable opportunities. The CAQ findings indicate that fulfilment, stability and culture are among the top concerns among students when considering a career path, and college faculty and staff could focus on these factors when crafting materials for courses or recruiting. Further, the CAQ suggests that introducing educational and licensure requirements as early as possible will help students coordinate a clear pathway to pursuing the degree, license and career that follows.

Finally, students indicated that they want to hear from people working in the field willing to share their experiences about what their job is actually like, rather than networking with firm recruiters. For educators and college department directors, this presents an opportunity to invite speakers working in different areas of the industry to demonstrate that a career as a CPA is not only flexible and rewarding, but also decidedly not boring.

Are you interested in growing the CPA pipeline? Contact for information on the how you can help our Educator Task Force or join the conversation on MICPA Connect and bring your questions, strategies and insights to the forum. 

  1. Increasing the Diversity in the Accounting Profession Pipeline…CAQ. Jan. 2022. Accessed on 21 Jan. 2022.

Source: MICPA

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