Press release

2 Nov 2023

EY survey identifies opportunities to strengthen the CPA pipeline with increased focus on students’ career priorities

Seventy-nine percent of students surveyed say working in diverse teams and work environments is very or extremely important to their professional future; only 36% of senior executives surveyed promote diversity, equity and inclusion to recruits.

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EY Americas Associate Director

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  • Seventy-nine percent of students surveyed say working in diverse teams and work environments is very or extremely important to their professional future; only 36% of senior executives surveyed promote diversity, equity and inclusion to recruits.

Senior executives and students alike are optimistic about the future of the accounting profession, according to a new survey from Ernst & Young LLP (EY US). However, the findings also uncover a disconnect in how a career in accounting should be promoted and what the next generation of accountants is looking for in an employer.

The survey of about 500 accounting and science, technology, engineering and/or math (STEM) students and 500 senior executives revealed that 79% of students surveyed believe an accounting degree will have long-term career benefits and an overwhelming majority of senior executives (97%) are optimistic about the future of the profession and the next generation of CPAs.

The findings also reveal an opportunity to communicate with students about other benefits of a career in accounting. The survey found that students are increasingly seeking to do work with greater societal impact. For instance, many students rank engagement and involvement in the local community (76%), making positive environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts (81%) and organizational diversity (79%) as very important to their professional future.

Although showcasing those aspects of their business could help attract talent, just 29% of senior executives say they showcase positive ESG impacts as a selling point of a career in accounting; 27% say they promote local community engagement/involvement (i.e., corporate responsibility programs); and 36% highlight having a diverse and inclusive workforce.

“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.

Some students already describe the accounting profession as highly rewarding (34%) and a steppingstone to leadership positions (34%). Many more (73%) indicated a strong interest in a career that provides opportunities to work on global issues. Highlighting those initiatives in the recruiting process, in addition to ESG, community involvement and workplace diversity, has the potential to help build a stronger talent pipeline.

“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 the next generation, foster a culture of care and offer career opportunities that align with employee aspirations.”

The state of AI: Executives see emerging opportunity, but students worry

Nearly 40% of senior executives surveyed predict that the emerging use of generative AI will enable professionals to focus less on mundane aspects of their work and spend more time on tasks that require judgment and higher-level thinking, but this differs from the sentiment of students. Only 19% of students believe AI will enable professionals to focus their efforts on judgment and higher-level thinking, and 39% of students said AI could make people more expendable or eliminate many jobs, underscoring an opportunity to engage with students about how the profession can benefit from technologies like generative AI.

Alternative paths to earning a CPA license

The survey also finds a general agreement that alternative paths to CPA licensure eligibility would help strengthen the talent pipeline. Nearly 9 in 10 senior executives believe creating more options for students to earn their CPA license would be a benefit, as do 58% of the students surveyed.

“Our survey findings underscore the importance of creating alternate paths for students to become CPAs. A career in accounting can open the door for many opportunities. Organizations, academic institutions and professional associations can collaborate to demonstrate the benefits that a career in accounting provides and remove potential barriers to entry,” said Becky Burke, EY Americas Assurance Chief Operating Officer. “One of the ways we’re doing this is through the EY Career Path Accelerator, which offers an affordable alternative for students to meet the 150-credit hour requirement for a CPA licensure eligibility.”

For more information on the survey, please visit:

Survey methodology:

The surveys fielded online between June 22 and July 5, 2023, to support this research produced results with a +/- 4% margin of error at the 95% confidence level. Qualified student respondents were between the ages of 18 and 60, with 90% aged 30 or younger. Their academic focus was in business and STEM, and they planned to pursue a career in accounting, business, computer science, data science, economics, engineering, finance, math, statistics, management information systems or professional services.

The senior executive sample included qualified management leadership or executives with roles in finance and accounting or human resources and talent acquisition departments. They work full-time at publicly traded organizations with at least $1 billion in annual revenue or privately owned organizations with at least $50 million in annual revenue across 21 industry sectors.

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