School’s in: Inspiring the next generation of CPAs

With school back in session, hundreds of thousands of students are embarking on their college careers. It’s a date with destiny that will culminate in the answer to the question they’ve been asked a hundred times: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Where kids and young adults get their ideas for the occupation that will define their adult lives varies widely. Some follow the footsteps of parents or other family members. Some find themselves attracted to a profession through something they learned early in their education. Still others admire a public figure, CEO or fictional character who inspires their choices (if you’re having trouble believing that last one, check out this story).

But if you want to help set your student (or someone else’s) on a career path they’ll find rewarding, interesting and lucrative, accounting is a natural suggestion. And encouraging them to pursue the CPA will help keep them in demand well into the future.

Advantages to the accounting profession are numerous, and they only multiply for those who seek the CPA credential. If you’re a CPA and you’re having a conversation with a student about their possible career choices, here are a few things you might want to point out about the advantages of becoming a CPA.

You’ll do well for yourself.

One of the top reasons for students to choose a particular career path is salary, and being a CPA can offer an attractive compensation. New CPAs average $66,000 annually, but experience and career path can drive that number much higher. In the U.S., average CPA salaries are well into the six figures. A wide variety of corporate leadership positions covet the CPA, many of them offering exceptional salaries, benefits and bonuses that compare favorably with those of any profession.

Accounting is a growing profession, and CPAs are where the action is.

Demand and job stability are also attractive factors for students choosing an occupation, and accounting offers both. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for accountants and auditors is projected to grow 10% faster than the average of all occupations through 2026. For employers, the CPA represents additional mastery and adherence to an ethical code of conduct that makes for an excellent job candidate.

The job prospects are diverse and interesting.

CPAs work in a variety of fields, and young people might not be aware of all the options the profession affords. While auditing and tax are well-known to the general public, fewer are familiar with the roles CPAs can take in other areas. The Spencer Stuart Fortune 500 CFO Index for 2017 found more than a third of Fortune 500 CFOs held a CPA. Additionally, the analysis reported one of the most common routes to a CFO position is an accounting background. Emerging areas such as IT and cybersecurity are also seeking CPA expertise, meaning prospects can be on the cutting edge of new technologies.

As education and business change to meet the needs of a world that looks vastly different from just a few decades ago, a number of new occupations are capturing interest as others wane. But accounting and the CPA have remained reliable career choices all along, not just keeping pace with change, but also driving it.

Inspiring the next generation of CPAs is one of the most important things you can do to contribute to the future of the profession. Help them see the possibilities. Share your experiences. If the student is in high school, have them check out StartHereGoPlaces.com, a fun, interactive site built to teach them about careers in accounting. If the student is in college or a recent graduate, tell them about ThisWayToCPA.com, a site created to help them on their way to CPA licensure. You can also help them prepare for the CPA exam by hooking them up with the CPA Exam Blueprints, which detail the content and skills eligible for testing on each section of the exam.

Adam Junkroski, Lead Manager – Communications – Tax & PFP, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants