African American Students and the CPA Exam: Mentoring, Internships and Scholarship Programs Can Draw Students into the Profession

By Booker, Quinton | Journal of Accountancy, May 2005 | Go to article overview

African American Students and the CPA Exam: Mentoring, Internships and Scholarship Programs Can Draw Students into the Profession


Booker, Quinton, Journal of Accountancy


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* DESPITE DECADES OF EFFORT by organizations such as the AICPA and NASBA to bring more minority candidates into the profession, the numbers are still small. Still, there were 5,731 African American candidates for the CPA exam in 2002--the largest for any year since 1997.

* THE DATA SUGGEST A SEVERE SHORTAGE of African American males under age 25 holding graduate degrees.

* SINCE MANY STUDENTS DECIDE TO major in accounting as early as high school, employers should begin to build relationships with high school juniors and seniors through summer job opportunities.

* THE VAST MAJORITY OF CANDIDATES are concentrated in 10 states. Employers in other states need to be more creative in finding and hiring CPAs.

* PROGRESS IS BEING MADE. Much of the success can likely be attributed to mentoring, internship and co-op programs, and scholarship programs at the undergraduate, master's and doctoral levels.

**********

The news is good--more African Americans than ever are taking the CPA exam. But it could be better--the profession has a long way to go before it is fully integrated. This article highlights the performance of African Americans on the Uniform CPA Examinations for 2000, 2001 and 2002, using data extracted from candidate-supplied questionnaires collected by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). We'll look at the number of African Americans sitting for and passing the exam to help determine how best to attract minority students to the profession, and provide commentary on the research results to help employers, accounting educators and candidates adapt to the new computerized exam format.

THE NUMBERS

There's very little hard evidence about the numbers of African Americans who are CPAs, even after decades of effort by the AICPA (see "AICPA Diversity Initiatives," page 63) and NASBA to bring more minorities into the accounting profession. African Americans in 2000 made up 12% of the U.S. population, but only 5% of CPA exam candidates. Fortunately the statistics for CPA candidates are better-documented. An average of 2,598 African Americans--653 first-time and 1,945 repeat candidates--sat for each exam between 2000 and 2002 (see exhibit 1, page 61).

The data for 2000, 2001 and 2002 show no consistent trend for first-time candidates. Comparing them with the 1997-1999 exams does reveal a decline, however. The number of first-time African American candidates fell sharply from 2000 to 2002--a worrisome trend. But the total number of candidates rose steadily from 1997 to 2002, hitting a new high of 5,731.

Commentary. About half the states that enacted the 150-hour education requirement made it effective between 2000 and 2002; several of those states had significant numbers of African American candidates. This may explain the decline in first-time candidates. States typically have a bulge in the first-time category before their 150-hour rule takes effect, since sitting prior to the effective date allows candidates to be grandfathered in under pre-150-hour rules.

A CLOSER LOON AT THE CANDIDATES

Sex. A majority of African American candidates--between 62% and 65%--were female. While the percentage of males did increase in November 2001 and all of 2002, females still clearly dominated the African American candidate pool.

Age. The age of the candidate pool has been fairly consistent over the six exams, with about half the candidates less than 30 years of age (exhibit 2, below). Nearly one-third of all candidates were in the 30-39 age group. The under-25 group, which includes recent college graduates, made up between 19% and 24% of candidates on each exam.

Education. Three of every four African American candidates--73% to 80%--held bachelor's degrees only, though 40% had earned 150 or more semester hours of college credits. Many candidates completed more accounting hours than the 24 to 30 hours typically required for a bachelor's degree; the majority completed 31 hours or more and about a third completed 37 or more.

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