You can’t fix a problem if you don’t understand the cause. The accounting talent pipeline issue is complex and multifaceted, but one path toward a solution is to develop a better understanding of the attitudes, goals and motivations of future talent.
In spring of 2023, the Indiana CPA Educational Foundation surveyed Indiana college students currently enrolled in accounting and business programs in order to answer these key questions:
- What are their interests and ultimate career goals?
- What do they expect of their future workplace?
- What external factors influence their career decisions?
Students from 11 colleges and universities participated, with the majority of respondents in their sophomore, junior or senior year. Their responses revealed three key findings and takeaways that can help guide solutions that position accounting as an attractive career.
Key Finding #1: Hands-on experience through work and internships is a driving influence on career choice
While the classroom proves to influence career decisions, only 43% of respondents ranked a class as a significant influence. That’s compared to 50% who indicate their work or internship experience has made a significant impact on their career choice.
"Creating strong internship and apprenticeship programs is paramount for helping students make critical career decisions."
A parent, guardian, teacher or other person of influence in their life also ranks high, but it’s important to remember not all students have access to individuals who work in the accounting profession.
More traditional career introductions like assessments or guidance and career counselors ranked the lowest for influence.
Takeaway: Creating strong internship and apprenticeship programs is paramount for helping students make critical career decisions. Introductory courses should also consider ways to incorporate hands-on learning and a “show and tell” approach to help them understand what working in the profession is really like.
Key Finding #2: Culture matters, with respondents expecting creative, healthy environments
Traditional career factors like stability and growth opportunities rank high for today’s students, but lifestyle factors were also critical. 91% of respondents reported work-life balance was important to them, and 72% rated it very important.
"The emphasis on work-life balance as an 'ultimate career goal' suggests students are aware of the traditional stereotypes of a job in accounting: high stress, long hours and burnout. As firms continue to modernize, moving toward flexible and supportive cultures is critical to success and the health of staff."
Work enjoyment/fulfillment was also near the top for importance, ranking just behind job stability when taking into account the “very important” rankings.
Takeaway: The emphasis on work-life balance as an “ultimate career goal” suggests students are aware of the traditional stereotypes of a job in accounting: high stress, long hours and burnout. As firms continue to modernize, moving toward flexible and supportive cultures is critical to success and the health of staff.
"My ultimate career goal is to find fulfilling and rewarding work in the field of accounting that will enable me to positively influence the operations of a business or society and comfortably support a future family." —Survey Respondent
Key Finding #3: Indiana’s accounting and business students are invested in staying in Indiana
Indiana has long battled Brain Drain. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce reports an approximate 29% workforce retention rate of students who go on to start their careers in the state. However, accounting and business students are exceeding the norm.
"Indiana’s students are ready to connect and find opportunities within the state’s borders."
59% of our survey respondents expect to establish their career in Indiana. 28% are undecided, indicating a possibility they might stay. Only 12% responded that they didn’t intend to stay afterward.
Takeaway: Indiana’s students are ready to connect and find opportunities within the state’s borders. They're also ready to work in the field; 68% of respondents indicated they were interested in a job in the profession, particularly within public accounting and corporate finance.
How INCPAS is working to support a thriving talent pipeline
INCPAS is proud to have developed ongoing programming over the past decade to support a strong talent pipeline in Indiana, including the INCPAS Scholars Program, CPA Week, and free membership for high school and college students.
But there is still work to do.
Using these survey results as a guide, we will continue to help our members attract and retain talent in their firms and organizations:
- The INCPAS team will continue creating ongoing messaging, programming and opportunities that showcase accounting as a career that aligns with students’ career goals and preferences.
- The Indiana CPA Educational Foundation will explore investments in students and pipeline programs, including the addition of a CPA Exam Scholarship.
- The INCPAS Board of Directors will discuss these survey results in-depth in their pipeline task force work.
- INCPAS will collaborate with ALPFA and NABA to holistically address accounting pipeline issues and initiatives across the state, with a stakeholder Diversity Summit in May 2024.
- Finally, INCPAS will consider any new insights and recommendations from the AICPA’s National Pipeline Advisory Group, including modernizing the CPA license requirements.
We look forward to working alongside you, our valued members, partners, and friends, over the next year and beyond to continue this critical work for Indiana and the profession.
Review the complete findings of our survey here.