May 17, 2024

Shortage of accountants hits US

Shortage of accountants hits US

By Biodun Busari

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants has considered cutting the education requirements for becoming an accountant, as scarcity of accountants ravages the United States.

According to the Financial Times, the US is battling a shortage of new recruits into the accounting profession compelling AICPA to reduce the amount of university education needed to qualify as a CPA. 

Currently, to become a certified public accountant in the US is set at the equivalent of five years, and one year longer than a typical bachelor’s degree.

The report said the declaration is a watershed moment in what had become an increasingly tense struggle between the professional body and reformers.

Calls for reform have been gaining momentum as the number of US students taking accounting courses and going on to sit professional exams has plummeted.

This challenge has left some accounting firms struggling to recruit replacements for the elderly who are retiring.

FT said an AICPA advisory group that included representatives from large and small firms said on Tuesday that the profession needed to “address the cost and time of education” as a priority for fixing the shortage.

It called for “a competency-based licensure model not tied to university credit hours”, among other reforms. The AICPA, in turn, expressed “directional support” for the group’s recommendations.

“While expanding approaches to CPA licensure alone will not solve the accounting talent problem, we believe our licensure process does need to acknowledge changing market conditions,” the AICPA said.

Also, accounting groups in Minnesota are among those debating to review state laws to reduce the educational criteria for a licence, a movement that the AICPA said threatens long-established reciprocal agreements enabling accountants to practice across state lines unless change is co-ordinated at a national level.

Chief executive for public accounting at the AICPA, Sue Coffey said it targeted to propose an alternative to the current requirements by this time next year, but getting state accountancy boards or state legislatures to embrace the changes could take significantly longer.

The currently mandated fifth year of education would need to be replaced with skills requirements, she said, including technical knowledge and communication and strategic thinking skills.

“I really hope Minnesota and others talking about this see value in working with the rest of the country,” Coffey said. “This is our attempt to bring everybody together.”