CPA licensure: one step closer to change

GettyImages-615258648 (1)You may be familiar with CPA Evolution, a joint initiative of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA that we’ve been discussing for more than a year.

In May, I wrote about the AICPA Council voting in support of advancing CPA Evolution. On July 24, NASBA’s board of directors also voted in support of advancing the initiative. Thank you to AICPA’s board of directors, AICPA Council, NASBA and NASBA’s board of directors for their support and the leadership they’ve provided since our two organizations began this initiative in 2018. I’d like to thank all of you as well for providing us with advice and ideas along the way.

With the votes of AICPA Council and NASBA’s Board, it’s official: we are pursuing a new model for CPA licensure.

This is a historic moment for our profession. The CPA licensure model is transforming — the Uniform CPA Examination is changing to better reflect the skills that newly licensed CPAs need today and will need in the future.  

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We are moving forward with a core + discipline model for CPA licensure, with a goal of launching a new exam in 2024.

In this model, all candidates will complete a robust common core of accounting, auditing, tax and technology. Then, each candidate will choose a discipline in which to demonstrate deeper skills and knowledge. Regardless of chosen discipline, this model will lead to full CPA licensure, with rights and privileges consistent with any other CPA.

This new licensure model will continue to place our profession in the best position to meet the needs of firms, organizations, clients and the public we serve. And the model will be flexible enough to evolve as those needs and CPAs’ roles evolve in the future.

The changes to exam and education requirements won’t happen overnight. For the next few years, NASBA and the AICPA will work together along with the accounting academic community, state boards, state CPA societies, students, practitioners and other stakeholders to implement changes and ensure the successful rollout of the new licensure model.

What’s next for accounting academic programs and educators

A gap analysis with accounting program department chairs will be conducted in August to determine where curriculum changes are needed. This process will inform the tools we’ll develop for faculty to support them through the entire transition process, including a resource library, a high-level model curriculum, a model internship program and other faculty resources for the core and the disciplines.

Leadership of NASBA, in collaboration with the AICPA, determined that the Uniform Accountancy Act Model Rules around educational requirements for licensure need to be updated to create more consistency while incorporating additional subjects and skills reflective of the evolving profession. Those changes, which were endorsed by the AICPA’s Board of Directors, are currently exposed for public comment through August 31, 2020.

What’s next for the Uniform CPA Examination

The specific content of the core and the disciplines will be determined by a CPA Exam practice analysis, which is currently underway.

Practice analyses — gathering information about the current state of the profession and the work of newly licensed CPAs — are conducted by the AICPA periodically as part of ongoing efforts to maintain the validity and reliability of the Exam. The current practice analysis will likely wrap up in 2022, and an exposure draft laying out proposed changes to the Exam will be made available for public comment in mid-2022.

However, we don’t want to disrupt the pipeline of candidates who will have started their CPA journey before the new Exam launches. Accordingly, we’ll be working on a transition plan with state boards of accountancy for candidates who have started, but not completed, the CPA Exam process by January 2024.

A bright future ahead for the CPA profession

Thank you again for sharing your feedback on evolving the CPA licensure — we’ve heard from more than 3,000 CPAs, members of the accounting academic community, practitioners, students, technology experts, state CPA society leaders, state boards of accountancy and more stakeholders. Your feedback, questions and dedication to the profession helped guide us toward this solution for evolving CPA licensure. Together, we’ll keep the CPA strong for the future.

Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, EVP — Public Practice, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants