Magazine article The CPA Journal

The CPAs of Tomorrow: Graduate Student Perspectives on the Value and Purpose of the Profession

Magazine article The CPA Journal

The CPAs of Tomorrow: Graduate Student Perspectives on the Value and Purpose of the Profession

Article excerpt

As an accounting professor at Mount Saint Mary College, the author teaches a graduate accounting research course. Students in this capstone seminar are all working towards their master's in business administration and interested in becoming CPAs. As part of the course, the students shared perspectives regarding the accounting profession that reflect the views of many of their peers. They explored both academic and professional research, investigated current topics like IFRS and sustainability accounting, reviewed CPA exam questions, and focused on their writing skills. This article shares their views on the value of the CPA license and the priorities of today's millennial accounting students as they prepare to become the professionals of tomorrow.

The Value of the CPA License

According to Christopher Hecht, "Having the CPA license will give me greater flexibility; not having the CPA can make accounting a dead-end job." Derrick Moran, who also works as a staff auditor at PKF O'Connor Davies, pointed out that being a licensed public accountant comes with greater credibility and greater expectations. He further stated that the "public" in "public accounting" means that auditors have an obligation to protect the community by helping to keep the financial industry transparent and stable. Reinforcing that point, Danielle Soto noted that "CPAs need a stronger moral compass, and the greater responsibility comes at a price." That price is often dealing with the stress associated with working longer hours with greater workloads.

Another consideration for students is the cost-benefit analysis of obtaining the license. In 2008, New York State revised its licensing requirements to mandate that students fulfill 150 credit hours in order to sit for the CPA exam. Colleges and universities in New York responded by marketing BS/MBA five-year programs whereby accounting students could complete the requirement with a graduate degree.

The first group of students subject to this new five-year requirement in New York State graduated with their MBAs as recently as 2014. It remains to be seen how the actual cost of an additional year of tuition for graduate studies, as well as opportunity cost of possibly postponing full-time work for another year, will impact potential accounting students. Although it maybe difficult to quantify how many students opt out due to the cost of the 150-hour requirement, students currently enrolled in accounting programs remain motivated to get their license. Their perception, which research supports, is that they can expect to earn significantly more over the course of their careers with the license. At this point, the master's has become the new undergraduate degree.

Millennials and Work-Life Balance

According to studies published by the AICPA, Millennials have a different perspective on how they live and how they work, ranking the balance between work and family as their main priority. Ryan Ciancanelli made the point that "young professionals of the Millennial generation want a job that can promote a healthy work-life balance, and the accounting profession makes it very difficult to reinforce this balance."

The work-life balance in public accounting is indeed a challenge, and the subject of many studies that consider how professionals manage the workload demands of the busy season while still allowing time for family and personal responsibilities. Alternate work arrangements, such as flexible hours or working from home, seem to be a potential solution. …

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