CPA Evolution Resources
By: Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were more than 1.4 million accountants and auditors in 2019 (https://bit.ly/3DYhhSC). Based on the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) Accountancy Licensee Database (ALD) of CPAs, as of August 24, 2021, there are 669,130 actively licensed CPAs (https://nasba.org/licensure/howmanycpas/), approximately 48% of all accountants. Other researchers have estimated a substantially lower percentage. It would be natural to expect that any changes in certification testing or other requirements might have an effect on the number of CPAs.
The format of the Uniform CPA Examination is moving toward a “core”-plus-“discipline” model, called the “CPA Evolution,” to reflect an environment in which new staff accountants often have to take on roles previously handled by experienced accountants. This change is as significant as the move to a computer-based test in 2004, which introduced the element of technology skills and broadened the testing content based on the perceived expansion of accounting and business knowledge required of new CPAs. Following a similar progression, beginning in January 2024, all candidates will have to pass the three core exams of accounting, auditing, and tax, with an increased emphasis on technology across all subjects. In addition, candidates will have to pass a discipline exam of their choice: business analysis and reporting (BAR), tax compliance and planning (TCP), and information systems and controls (ISC). Regardless of which discipline exam is completed, all successful candidates will be designated as CPAs and can work in any area of practice open to CPAs.
Resources for the CPA Evolution are somewhat scattered around the internet; this month’s column attempts to provide a one-stop shop for readers.
CPA Evolution Website
The CPA Evolution is a joint project of the AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA). The website (https://www.evolutionofcpa.org/) is a good place to begin a search for information and resources. The homepage is a collection of news articles from popular accounting sources going back to May 2020. The site is further organized into sections on the new CPA licensure model, for accounting educators, for students and candidates, and CPA Exam practice analysis.
The “New CPA Licensure Model” page explains that NASBA and the AICPA surveyed more than 3,000 stakeholders, studied licensure models for other professions, and considered several options before proposing the core plus discipline model to “future-proof” the CPA profession. The webpage presents information in a 12-item question-and-answer format. It also explains that, as part of the CPA Evolution project, NASBA issued approved amendments to the Uniform Accountancy Act Model Rules in October 2020 (https://bit.ly/3kUHPLu).
Two short documents summarize the purpose and process. A two-page summary, “CPA Evolution: New CPA Licensure Model” (September 2020), is available (https://bit.ly/3DUzgJv). A six-page version, “CPA Evolution: New CPA Licensure Model” was slightly updated, and includes some links to helpful resources in the last section, “What’s Next” (https://bit.ly/3jgYZCw).
The “For Accounting Educators” page includes materials from the This Way to CPA website, discussed below. Although This Way to CPA has many more resources for instructors, it requires registration. The Evolution of CPA website presentation is a good starting point for readers to decide if they want to pursue these tools. The “Educators” page includes a link to the Academic Resource Hub, the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum, and the Faculty Hour webinar series.
The “Accounting Program Curriculum Gap Analysis,” available on the “Educators” page (https://bit.ly/3h7a0Gg), summarizes the results of a national survey of university accounting department chairs. The 12-page summary addresses whether accounting programs cover data analytics, predictive analytics, systems organization and control (SOC) engagements, digital acumen, cybersecurity, IT audit, IT governance, and IT risks and controls, at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Data analytics and IT audit had the highest application, at greater than 60% each; however, the other fields were substantially lower.
The AICPA main website (https://www.aicpa.org) does provide some resources that are tangential to the CPA Evolution initiative, although the most directly appropriate materials are on This Way to CPA (next topics). The AICPA CPA Exam Toolkit (https://future.aicpa.org/resources/toolkit/cpa-exam) houses substantial materials referencing the current state of the CPA exam, with a link to the CPA Evolution website (discussed above); this will be an important webpage to watch as 2024 approaches. A “Quick Link” connects to the CPA Exam Blueprints webpage, which links to two very important documents: First, the “Uniform CPA Examination Blueprints” (https://bit.ly/34ib3fv) clearly predates the CPA Evolution, but is the current blueprint and will be updated. Second, “Maintaining the Relevance of the Uniform CPA Examination: Practice Analysis Final Report” addresses precursors to the changes expected under the CPA Evolution model, as well as to the 2021 CPA exam (https://bit.ly/3tmC4tR).
NASBA has set up one specific webpage for future population with CPA Evolution resources (https://bit.ly/3tn2WKq). Some materials have already been posted, such as a June 2021 article, “AICPA and NASBA Release CPA Evolution Model Curriculum” (https://bit.ly/38Lwms7) loaded with hyperlinks to materials identified elsewhere in this column. “Update on CPA Evolution Initiative” (https://bit.ly/3jQ9YnT) links to several other articles, including “Evolution’s Impact on Minority Students.”
This Way to CPA
The AICPA’s This Way to CPA has been a great tool for students and CPA candidates for many years. Resources for accounting instructors are available on the Academic Resource Hub (https://thiswaytocpa.com/faculty/). Some of the resources do require registration.
The homepage covers two areas related to the CPA Evolution. The first is a link to the main CPA Evolution webpage discussed above. The second provides access to This Way to CPA’s CPA Evolution Model Curriculum webpage guide (https://thiswaytocpa.com/program/modelCPAcurriculum/) with a link to download the 94-page CPA Evolution Model Curriculum (https://bit.ly/3A8SAQo), along with a four-page CPA Evolution Model Curriculum FAQs (https://bit.ly/3zSKBr6), and an Excel supplement. The model curriculum is presented in two parts. Part I is the core that all CPA candidates must pass, covering accounting and data analytics (9 modules), audit and accounting information systems (15 modules), and tax (12 modules). Part II is the choice of one discipline: BAR (10 modules), TCP (14 modules), or ISC (5 modules). Note that the “model curriculum” is essentially a placeholder for a future detailed blueprint.
The “Faculty Hour” webpage provides access to about one dozen archived educator webinars (https://bit.ly/2WRTdzz). They address timely topics such as critical thinking and data analytics, as well as the CPA Evolution. The webinars are free and provide CPE credit.
The Academic Resource Database (https://bit.ly/3zTeYh8) provides a wide range of “AICPA-curated” materials for educators on many of the subject areas that are taught in university accounting. Readers who are currently teaching accounting should consider registering to access this resource.
Change for the Sake of Change?
The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) published a June 2021 briefing, “Concerns for the CPA Evolution Model” by Raef Lawson and Roopa Venatesh, which addresses several issues, including the reduced coverage of cost and managerial accounting (https://bit.ly/3nbvVzY). The IMA argues that “good management accounting insights create value within any industry,” along with the need for management accounting knowledge for the majority of accountants’ long-term careers. Although not referenced in this briefing, the IMA has estimated that 75% of U.S. accountants are working as management accountants, and would benefit from increased educational coverage.
Although most accounting programs do not teach to the CPA Exam, they will probably still make changes to try to address CPA Exam content. Separately, it has been reported in many outlets that the availability of accounting faculty is substantially constrained. While alternative options are being tried, such as practitioner or clinical professors, small to mid-sized schools still find themselves at a disadvantage. Even for schools that do have sufficient accounting instructors, how many are aware of the imminent CPA Evolution or have the resources ready to meet the challenges? Bottom line: all CPAs—public practice, industry, education—need to work together to ensure that candidates are fully informed and prepared.
To conclude on a reflective note, The CPA Journal published “Updating Accounting Education for the ‘CPA Evolution’: A New Framework for a New Licensure Model” (P. Neely and K. Donnelly, https://bit.ly/3DWMyoI, October 2020), a very interesting article that offers suggestions for educating students under the CPA Evolution.
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For more than 85 years, The CPA Journal has been earning its reputation as an objective, critical source of information on issues of interest to CPAs. The Journal provides analysis, perspective, and debate on the issues that affect the CPA profession. Major topics include accounting and auditing, taxation, personal financial planning, finance, technology, and professional ethics. The CPA Journal is issued monthly in print, and offers daily insight and analysis digitally here on cpajournal.com. Published by the New York State Society of CPAs, The Journal’s active editorial and review process ensures thorough technical quality and material relevant to CPAs in public practice, industry, government and education.