Becker aims to improve CPA pipeline

Accounting

Becker Professional Education is hoping to expand the number of accountants and CPA Exam takers as the profession has suffered a decline in recent years.

The company, which provides CPA Exam training materials and continuing professional education courses, is trying to reverse recent declines in CPA numbers and bring more young people into the profession. An AICPA trends report from 2019 based on 2018 data showed a 7% decline in first-time CPA Exam candidates since 2017. The number of CPA Exam candidates who passed the fourth section of the exam decreased 6% between 2017 and 2018.

To reverse such declines, the AICPA as well as state CPA societies are hoping to make the profession more enticing to students, updating the CPA curriculum to make it more relevant to today’s world with an increased focus on in-demand technology skills like data analytics.

“We are working closely with the authorities on this, and there’s not a clear answer as to exactly why the numbers are going down,” said Becker Professional Education president and managing director Josh Braunstein. “Anecdotally we can look to the markets and say what are the skills that firms are looking for, and are there other certifications and other licensure that firms are now looking to. We really do believe that the value of the CPA will be just as integral in the future as it was in the past, and we’re excited to be part of that continuing journey and that change.”

Changes in the CPA Exam from the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum that the AICPA and National Association of State Boards of Accountancy have been collaborating could help build the pipeline of CPA candidates.
“With the changes that the AICPA is making and that we’re seeing around how the exam will be crafted in the future, there are absolutely opportunities for the CPA Exam to evolve as well and to be at the forefront of what people are doing,” said Braunstein. “There’s absolutely going to be a focus on data analytics and practicality issues. We do believe that there is a strong future for the CPA Exam.”

Becker is also developing more continuing education courses to help accountants learn new skills and stay up to date with changing laws, regulations and standards. “We’re very invested in the CPE market for continuing education for accountants,” said Braunstein. “There are so many places you can go for CPE, but it’s a little bit different in the lifetime journey of one of our students. When we start them with the CPA Exam and bring them through their careers, we can help them build new skills. We can help them grow in their careers or take on new roles.”

He has several other goals at Becker, including advocacy for the accounting profession. “We know we’re in a position where we’re training so many of the CPAs as they come into the market,” said Braunstein. “We’re providing the education for so many of them as they progress through their careers, individually or at whatever firm they’re at, and we’re working very closely with a lot of the small, medium and large institutions in the accounting space. We want to be much more involved and focused. We call ourselves the accountant’s champion and we’re really trying to get people excited about accounting, to help them move through their careers with new skills, helping them prepare for new roles and helping institutions prepare for the skills they’re going to need in the future. We feel really good about our place there and what we can do in the future to advocate for the profession and to help our learners and to help companies.”

Becker is planning to expand the range of formats of the courses it is offering, especially as remote learning has become more pervasive, especially after the pandemic closed many in-person classrooms and training centers last year. “We’re very passionate and focused about innovation,” said Braunstein. “The pandemic has blown this all up. It’s really rethinking what engagement means for students, thinking about multimedia, thinking about breaking up [the courses] into different lengths so they can consume them more easily, about convening better connectivity and networking between our students and our instructors, and really making sure that in a highly digital world, we are providing the best possible outcomes we can and meeting our students’ needs.”

He also hopes to get the younger generation more interested in the idea of becoming accountants and CPAs. “That excitement can ebb and flow,” said Braunstein. “There are times when there are more people entering and less people entering. We’ve been in a period where there’s been a decline in the number of people taking the CPA Exam, and we want to help there. We want to be a company that gets people excited about what they can do in the accounting industry and understand the value that accounting plays in the world and what they can do. We like to say at Becker that we keep the world of business moving forward. Without accountants, you obviously can’t get anything done, and we want to be there for our students and institutions.”

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