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Investing in equity, inclusion and the future of our profession

Creating alternative pathways for CPAs to complete their education requirements is key to empowering the next generation of leaders.

In brief

  • To obtain CPA licensure, individuals must complete a total of 150-credit hours of education to sit for the CPA exam.
  • The financial and educational barriers students face have impacted the pipeline of the accounting profession.
  • The EY Career Path Accelerator will help remove financial and academic barriers so students can jump-start their careers. 

At a time when the need for certified public accountants (CPAs) is growing, the number of people joining the profession has been declining.

The number of college graduates from accounting programs is down across the country with many opting to enter or remain in the workforce in lieu of pursuing an advanced accounting degree, according to the AICPA Trends Report 2019.

We continue to hear that accessibility and affordability pose barriers to entry for far too many students, particularly those from marginalized or socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Qualifying for CPA licensure is rigorous. To acquire the technical competence and develop the skills required, individuals must complete a total of 150 credit hours of education. Unfortunately, the academic-hours requirement can be a hurdle for many aspiring CPAs. Many undergraduate programs across the country typically include only 120 credit hours, leaving students to figure out how to complete the remaining requirement.

As a leader in the profession, Ernst & Young LLP takes a direct interest in maintaining a vibrant and growing pool of future CPAs. That is why we created the EY Career Path Accelerator, a first-of-its-kind program  for EY interns who want to major in accounting as undergraduates with the ambition of becoming CPA-eligible, but need a more accessible and affordable path to that goal than what currently exists.

Today, approximately 55% of our CPA track hires come to us through a traditional master’s program — typically accounting or tax. These graduate students not only meet the CPA credit hour requirement through their studies, but they also use their fifth year of collegiate-level studies to build the business knowledge and leadership skills that will help them to succeed in the workplace. For students who can devote the time and cover the cost of tuition, the master’s track continues to be an excellent pathway to a career in accounting.

The other 45% of our aspiring CPAs find other ways to earn the extra credit hours. They tend to leverage a combination of Advanced Placement (AP) credits, summer semesters, heavy course loads during the academic year, community college classes and post-baccalaureate course work to obtain the additional credits needed for CPA licensure.

Time and financial resources can limit the choices or feasibility of completing additional courses for a significant number of students. A concern we repeatedly hear from potential hires is how to balance their desire — or need — to join the workforce as quickly as possible with the need to complete the extra credit hours. As first-generation college students ourselves, we understand this desire and need quite well. EY Career Path Accelerator will help students jump-start their careers by entering the profession earlier.

As we thought about the future of our organization and the profession, it became clear there was an opportunity to help remove this barrier to entry and to attract talented individuals who might have otherwise been deterred. Now more than ever, our society and economy need the unique skillsets that auditors can offer, and we want to be sure individuals of all backgrounds have the opportunity to join this vibrant and rewarding profession.

The EY Career Path Accelerator provides accredited business and elective post-baccalaureate courses — administered by Hult International Business School — toward the 150 credit hour requirement. It offers hands-on learning through our EY internship, ensures participants receive the guidance they need to be successful, and equips students with the future-focused skills and subject-matter experience that they’ll need upon entering the workforce.

The Ernst & Young Foundation is also providing more than $100,000 in need-based financial aid to 75% of the inaugural EY Career Path Accelerator cohort.

“This opportunity would save me from being further in debt and would guide me in meeting my 150 credit hour requirement sooner, and at a cheaper cost, to be able to obtain my CPA licensure,” said one program participant.

We believe that, in providing a pathway that makes the profession more relevant, accessible and affordable, we’ll be able to attract and grow the next generation of transformative leaders — not only for the benefit of our firm, profession and people, but also for the communities where we live and work.


The 150-credit hour requirement to earn CPA licensure is a hurdle many aspiring CPAs face. EY created the EY Career Path Accelerator, a hands-on program providing accredited business and elective post-baccalaureate courses, to help remove this barrier.