With its newly-launched Career Path Accelerator, Ernst & Young aims to close the gap between accounting degree and CPA licensure — and the identity-based wealth gaps traditional programs enable. Upon graduating the Accelerator, CPA candidates will have reached the 150-credit mark which is necessary for licensure. This is noteworthy, as undergraduate accounting programs typically require just 120 credit hours.
EY's program offers accredited business and elective courses, along with "hands-on learning" through an EY internship. (Currently, about 60 EY U.S. interns comprise the first program cohort.) Professors at Hult International Business School, a private institution with campuses in New York City, Dubai, and Shanghai, among others, administer the classes.
The goal of the Career Path Accelerator is two-fold. One, EY aims to equip program participants with "targeted skills in business, technology and leadership" as they enter the workforce. Paired with courses on topics like data visualization and digital learning, EY academic counselors and learning pods with EY professionals provide program participants with development opportunities.
The program's focus on upskilling tracks with available research, including 2019 AICPA data illustrating a bit of an identity crisis regarding the "ideal" accounting new hire. AICPA's most recent report showed a dip in accounting graduates at both the bachelor's and master's levels, and projected a downward trend from there.
"Across the last two Trends reports, we have experienced an approximate 30% decline in hiring of new accounting graduates," the AICPA report said. "The marketplace continues to demand different competencies and, while accounting graduates are still being hired, firms are seeking other skill sets to expand services." The association observed that the skills gap had led to non-accounting graduates taking the place of accounting graduates.
Additionally, EY's program was structured with distributive justice in mind. To make up the 30-credit difference between undergraduate degree completion and CPA license eligibility, students often enroll in graduate school. This privilege is inaccessible for CPA hopefuls without a financial safety net.
It's for this reason the Accelerator is geared toward CPA candidates who aren't pursuing a master's degree. Likewise, according to the press release, the Ernst & Young Foundation has awarded $100,000 in financial aid to 75% of this year's cohort.
"While there are several different pathways for students to meet the requirements to be eligible for CPA licensure, time and financial resources can limit the choices or feasibility for a significant number of students, particularly those from marginalized or socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds," EY Americas Talent Vice Chair Ginnie Carlier said in the program announcement.
Looking forward to the "next generation of CPAs," EY Americas Assurance Vice Chair John King said in the press release, "This program is one step toward improving diverse representation across the EY organization and within the field of accounting."
"With this program we're not only helping students jumpstart their accounting careers earlier, but we also hope to attract the next generation of transformative leaders, while equipping them with relevant, future-focused skills and the mentorship necessary to succeed," Carlier said.