I am a frugal person by nature, so when I set out to pursue the CPA designation back in the Fall of 2011, I intended to devise an exam preparation strategy that would allow me to pass each section of the CPA Exam on the first attempt and do so at the lowest cost possible. At the time, I was two years removed from obtaining my college degree and like many of you reading this, I had no idea where to start. [Read more…]
A new intern recently reached out to me to ask some questions about my career path. One of the organizations we work with (LEAD Program) was hoping to have testimonials from people in the accounting field. Specifically, they wanted to increase exposure to the youth about how attractive the profession can be.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that LEAD was the reason I pursued accounting in the first place (I talked about that briefly here).
The email I got asked a couple questions and was looking for just a short blurb, but one thing inspired me to expand on my initial thoughts. He asked how I transitioned from accountant to advisor. While I didn’t see the two as different things before, the question made me reconsider my position. You can read what I concluded here:
I live in the San Francisco bay area, land of the start-up, the place where people quit full-time jobs to chase the dream of being bought out by Facebook and never working again. Who can blame these budding entrepreneurs? Every time you turn your tv on, Facebook is either buying or trying to buy some young, unproven company for billions of dollars. Consistently seeing such a lack of buyer’s discretion from cash-heavy potential suitors just makes the dream seem all the more plausible.
So where do you start on this journey to Escape From Cubicle Nation?
First, you need to understand it takes more than just a good idea to run a successful business. No matter what kind of entrepreneur you are, there are some basic accounting things you or someone you hire needs to know to keep your business from imploding.
Of course not. It felt ridiculous just typing the question but the AICPA has such a claim published on their site stating they expect minority CPA candidates to increase as more requirements to become a licensed CPA are required. I found this while reading through FAQs related to the 150 hour education requirement adopted by most states (you can read my thoughts about that here). and had to read it multiple times before being sure I read it correctly.
I really do hate to call people out who are making an honest effort…but the effort on AICPA’s part here is questionable so here we go.
A few months ago I wrote a post titled Why Are There Still So Few Black CPAs which generated some great discussion here on the blog and in other professional groups/communities I belong to, but it seems that discussion was unnecessary. As it turns out, I went over to the AICPA website to get some information on the 150 requirement in California and stumbled across the unimaginable. I found myself face to face with the answer so many have been searching for, and it was buried on the AICPA site this whole time. As you can see in the image above, students who wanted to pursue a masters will now find accounting more attractive because it requires the equivalent of a masters degree.
Who knows when this information was last updated since there’s no timestamp on the FAQs but I’m fairly sure adding requirements hasn’t and isn’t making accounting more attractive to people of color. I’m thinking maybe the problem is the bar wasn’t set high enough. Using the logic of whoever wrote the answer to that question, if the requirement to become a licensed CPA was a PhD in accounting then we’d be sure to see minorities flocking to the accounting profession.
If only it were that simple. Oh and since when and in what place is taking out 100k in debt not a barrier? I appreciate their attempt to be bold on the FAQ answer here, but that’s not even close to reality. This just goes to show the people doing the messaging for the AICPA are out of touch with the potential minority CPA audience they claim they want to reach.
What was your first reaction when reading the answer to the question? Let me know in the comments!
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You need change…so do I.
That’s why in this post I decided to try my hand at a bit of poetry to answer the question “why do CPAs take so long to file their own taxes?”
Good question but I have to warn you the answer won’t be what you think. There’s no secret hidden tax benefit which only the CPAs qualify to receive. As awesome as that would be, no such luck for us noble number crunchers. The secret answer is actually much simpler than that.
What do you think? Does this apply to you or someone you know? Do I have a shot at another career? Let me know in the comments!
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As the end of our winter break nears, I wanted to make sure I caught up on a few things on the personal front, one of which was visiting the +AICPA LinkedIn group to see what interesting discussions are shaping up there since I fell off the face of the earth a few months back. What I found was a discussion based on this blog post asking if the CPA education requirement is achieving its goal. I’ve been debating the purpose of the change in education requirement since mid-2000s when this trend got popular and nothing has happened to change my view on it so here’s my 2014 campaign:
Get rid of the 150 hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam
All states where I’ve seen this requirement for 30 additional semester hours on top of the 120 they had in the past (undergrad degree equivalent) place no restriction on how the candidate obtains those 30 hours. In other words, you can overload with a bunch of fluff classes like beginning painting (which I did) or go get a masters in philosophy and have it count towards your CPA educational requirement. Neither of those scenarios improves your capability as an accountant.
Some might argue that most people will achieve the additional hours by obtaining a masters degree in a related field, most commonly referring to accountancy and MBA programs. To that I say, if obtaining a master was the intent then the requirement should say “now on top of everything else you had to do, you also need a Masters in a business-related field.”
In addition, it has been shown that students who get a graduate education have a substantially higher rate of success on the Uniform CPA Examination. Further, master’s degree holders receive starting salaries that are approximately 10 to 20 percent higher than the starting salaries of those with only bachelor’s degrees. Finally, there is evidence that promotions to manager and partner and to corporate managerial positions are increasingly going to individuals with master’s degrees.For these reasons, leading professional organizations such as the AICPA, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, and the Federation of Schools of Accountancy have consistently supported the 150-hour education requirement for entry into the accounting profession.
That would at least make more sense than what we see now (above) which has all of this “evidence” about masters degrees without requiring candidates to have one to sit for the exam…
Even if we put all of this sensible logic aside there is another issue that many in the field seem to ignore…
For a field that already struggles to attract a lot of new blood and people from diverse backgrounds, adding additional obstacles to obtain the designation doesn’t seem like a move in the right direction. Considering how tuition skyrockets every year, this path becomes much less attractive to most prospects, especially people from lower socio-economic backgrounds. You would think a bunch of accountants would understand the numbers aspect of this requirement!
And for the nail in the coffin. I got my CPA by completing 150 hours without a masters and I subsequently went back to school for my MBA so I want to share a little secret with you from BOTH perspectives. Your most valuable learning happens on the job. Understanding the theory behind certain business/accounting practices and having some strong fundamentals to build on is great and everything but the truth is you really know nothing until you start working.
So if the goal is to have individuals better prepared to stand on their own, then the right answer is to take another look at experience requirements to sit for the CPA exam, not to spend more time studying textbook hypothetical situations.
Disagree? As always, let me know in the comments!
Since we’re all friends here, I wanted to share a little story with you. I recently got an email through the blog asking me to participant in an interview for Masters in Accounting to share some experiences about being an accountant and advice to people thinking about entering the profession or those early in their careers.
My first thought was this must be spam. My second thought was this sure would be a strange way to go about spamming/phishing someone…so I went to the link to see what was out there and then I went to LinkedIn to have a look at the person who sent the email (April Smythe, aka the interviewer). She seemed legit so I responded and got some more information about the project she was working on and her background. Both intrigued me so I agreed to participate and…yada yada yada…
You can see the final version of the interview here, and you can have a look at the other accountant interviews on the site here. And don’t forget accounting is, in fact, sexy. And if you’re one of the top 50 accountants on Twitter then that’s doubly true.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret, one which flies in the face of the core of being a management consultant.
Flying really isn’t my thing.
Yes, I do it every week but I don’t enjoy it, especially when you’re talking international flights of 7+ hours. Yet, I still deal with it – it’s one of those necessary evil kind of things. If I had to drive everywhere I needed to go, not a whole lot would ever get done, so I travel and get through it the best that I can.
A big part of how I get through the travel is having a routine. Mine was I get on the plane in this tiny seat and fall asleep until I arrive at my destination. Lots of other people seemed to have to deal with a similar commute and something about knowing that made my nook of a seat just a bit more bearable.
A couple of funny things happened though. First, I was having a conversation with one of the partners I worked with who happened to be an Irishmen. Somehow the topic of travel outside the U.S. came up and I ended up sharing that not only had I not been anywhere that required a passport, but I didn’t even have one. It never seemed worth the time to get it since I had no plans of leaving U.S. soil. When he explained how I could potentially miss a great career opportunity or conference abroad because of not having a passport, it was clear I had to get one.
Not more than 3 months later I was on a project where I was going to Paris, France every month. The second trip back from France is when it happened, the moment when my traveling life would change forever. After I hand my boarding pass for usual nook of a seat to the flight attendant, she reaches under the counter for something…another boarding pass, and tells me I’ve been upgraded to business class. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal at the time since I didn’t know what I didn’t know, but that was about to change in a hurry.
The term business class doesn’t do this thing justice – people should call it “luxury class” or “business elite” as +Delta uses on its official menu shown above. Anything you could want or need is available to you there and it’s so absurd you might actually forget you’re on a plane. Let me break it down some of the amenities for you:
- 3-course meal
- fully reclining seat
- full sized pillow
- real blanket
- excessive amounts of legroom
- wines, spirits, mimosas, etc. to your heart’s desired
- noise cancelling headphones
Black representation amongst CPAs is HORRIBLE.
According to this article from Accounting Today, less than 1% of CPA firms are black and this article from the Washington Business Journal had the number of black CPAs overall stagnate at 3% for 10+ years. While I respect both of these sources, especially Accounting Today, there is another section in that article I wanted to ignore but after looking at it over and over again for the last couple of weeks, I just can’t.
Minorities tend to have a lot more single mothers,” said Ross. “As a result, job demands have a significant impact on their needs.”He noted that there is often a cultural problem for many minorities fitting into the culture of an accounting firm, especially with the long hours in the workday. As a result, many minority accountants take the first job offer that comes along after they arrive at a public firm, often landing at staff accounting jobs in various industries
I mean, wow. I guess they have it figured out. Black accountants apparently are oversexed AND lazy. Amazing. At least that was the thinking at the end of 2011 when that article was written. I’m not sure how the editor let that slide but I’m not going to harp on it too much here, at least not in this post. The fact is that people across all backgrounds struggle with the CPA exam and the hours. Both are a challenge and the lifestyle isn’t for everyone but to say somehow black people are somehow predisposed to dislike long hours lacks reason. There’s more to the story than that.
We NEED more diversity in accounting classrooms.
- One of the faculty members at CMC heavily involved in diversity recruiting made an instant impact on me. He hails from Egypt and his passion for making an impact on the profession has stayed with me since the day I met him.
- I attended an AICPA leadership conference and received a copy of this book talking about the struggle of Blacks in the early 1900s and the lengths they went through to achieve the CPA designation.
The reason we don’t have the desired diversity in accounting classrooms or in the profession comes back to a simple fact….
Accounting is never considered a sexy profession.
And by sexy of course I mean the profession most associated with affording a few luxuries, not just being able to pay your bills on time. Doctors and lawyers, professions requiring the most school (and most debt) tend to be held in the highest regard. The truth is in many black communities, there’s a focus on being able to say, “I made it” AND show it. Getting your CPA is an accomplishment but doesn’t have nearly the same cachet as saying you’re a doctor or attorney. And to be clear, it’s not like people come up with this notion on their own.
I went to a boarding high school through a scholarship program based out of Chicago and my wife and I both have spent time volunteering with them since graduating from college. While in the office one day, my wife heard someone within the organization openly question a student’s ambition of going to a great school and being an accountant as if somehow these two things are mutually exclusive.
I don’t understand why he wants to go there. He could go to a state school and be an accountant.
The young man in question here happened to be Hispanic but you get my point. I’d also add this comment wasn’t made in front of the student, at least not this time but it certainly helps to provide an example of how certain notions get perpetuated across generations. After all, if someone working at an organization working to provide opportunities to the low-income, largely black demographic, imagine what kind of messages are being sent by the general public.
So what can you do about it?
Well I’m glad you asked. The most important thing you can do is foster an environment of sponsorship. While you won’t ever be able to convince me of there being a cultural difference in work ethic as noted above, I realize life can be different when you’re surrounded by people who don’t look like you and may not have some of the same life experiences as you. There’s no denying it. I lived that and continue to live it. Having a someone with a genuine interest in keeping you around, can go a long way. People will likely find they have more in common with their colleagues than they thought, skin color aside.
So if you see anyone (doesn’t just have to be a black person) in your firm who looks aloof and not quite fitting into the firm culture, look to become that person’s sponsor. Find a way to establish a relationship and see if you can’t be that difference that changes helps that person avoid a premature career change.
You’ll learn a lot. You’ll teach a lot. And the firm will be better off for it. Who wouldn’t want that?
If you want to bounce ideas on how to get this started, or want a sounding board before you take any action reach out to me. I’ll be a sounding board for the cause if nobody else will.
Diversity Inc also shares some thoughts on the topic here.
The National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) also has an advocacy program to foster the sponsorship I mentioned above, which you can read about here.
What am I going to do about it?
First, I have to take my own advice about being a sponsor. I’ll be honest with you – a few weeks ago I received a LinkedIn request that said we should connect because this club of black CPAs has very few members. I accepted the invite to connect with no hesitation. Call it what you will, but if the simple act of helping to create a critical mass in the social space helps grow this community I’m all for it.
The other thing I’m going to do is look for teaching opportunities so I can be the face in the room to show black accounting students (and anyone else who wants to listen for that matter) where you can go in this profession and more importantly that accounting is in fact sexy.
I’ve looked at different options in the past like teaching a Becker review course or getting involved with some of the local colleges in the area but didn’t find anything that made sense. But now that I’m moving to the bay area, the hunt is back on. It’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
Complaints? Feedback? Questions? Leave them in the comments section below.
Oh and here’s a link again to the book that started it all for me. Enjoy.