How insights from Gen Z are helping to shape the accounting profession of the future
Accounting and STEM students¹ and senior executives agree: Although the accounting profession offers long-term stable career benefits, it still needs a makeover to move beyond misconceptions and attract the next generation of accounting talent.
For those interested in a profession in business, accounting is a great way to kick-start a well-rounded career. According to recent survey data shared by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (AICPA & CIMA), the top undergraduate major among CFOs is accounting. Additionally, of the 652 CFOs surveyed in that study, close to 45% are current CPAs.
“Students should understand that the value accountants bring starts with deep technical expertise but extends far beyond that. We bring an independent, objective perspective to the boardroom and C-suite that business leaders can use to navigate risks and plan for growth. While our teams execute high quality audits that bring trust and confidence to investors and the capital markets, the profession is also poised to provide assurance and confidence across a wider spectrum of financial and non-financial measures that matter most to investors,” said Dante D’Egidio, EY Americas Vice Chair of Assurance.
Fewer students are pursuing accounting degrees and CPA licensure
Over the last 30 years, the accounting industry has continued to see a steady decline in the number of students pursuing accounting degrees and becoming CPA candidates. Since 2015, the number of students completing a bachelor’s degree in Accounting has dropped 7%, and according to a recent report by Accounting Today, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s data indicates that the number of people taking the CPA exam fell by almost 50% between 1990 and 2021.² Despite these disconcerting trends, a recent study by the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) and Edge Research³ found that 82% of undergraduate accounting majors and 74% of recent accounting graduates find value in the CPA exam, citing respect, career advancement and higher earning potential as the top motivators for obtaining CPA licensure.
Closing the perception gap — and positioning the profession for the future
The EY Accounting Professional of the Future survey points to several notable gaps in the perceptions of a career in accounting among students and senior executives and identifies opportunities to strengthen the CPA pipeline with an increased focus on students’ career priorities. As finance and accounting leaders innovate to meet future business needs, they also have an opportunity to address the priorities of today’s students.
“Workplace expectations have evolved. Not only do people want to be supported personally and professionally, but they also want the work they do to align with their personal purpose,” said Ginnie Carlier, EY Americas Vice Chair – Talent. “As the competition for skills and talent continues to grow, organizations need to stay attuned to the workplace preferences of their next generation leaders, foster a culture of care and offer career opportunities that align with employee aspirations.”
Learn more about our survey findings here: