The CPA Shortage is Growing: Here’s How to Win Qualified Accountants for Your Firm

by Blair Turley on January 3, 2024 in Finance & Accounting



We don’t often hit the panic button at Concero. But when leading accounting publications claim that the profession is in crisis, we tend to take notice—and take action.

Long story short, there’s a CPA shortage because of a notable decrease in individuals pursuing accounting credentials. The decline is driven by several factors, including a hefty 150-hour requirement for CPA licensure. With the additional educational costs and delayed entry into the workforce, it’s no wonder accounting careers have lost their luster for some. And we haven’t even mentioned issues with work/life balance and low starting salaries.

But we’re not here to tell you the sky is falling. As elite recruiters, it’s our job to help put you in touch with the finest CPAs still in the game. Let’s break down some ways to win qualified accountants for your firm amid the ongoing CPA shortage.

Enhance Recruitment Strategies

People may think of accounting as a stuffy profession, a perspective that no doubt plays into the CPA shortage. We happen to disagree, and if you want to attract the best accountants to your organization, it might be time to upgrade the way you recruit. Three surefire ways to do that are to establish university partnerships, develop an attractive work culture, and build real rapport in your hiring process.

Establishing University Partnerships

Rich relationships with universities can provide a pipeline of fresh, qualified talent. By offering internships, scholarships, and CPA licensure assistance, firms can attract individuals to the profession and alleviate some of the financial burdens associated with obtaining CPA certification. It all comes down to providing a smoother runway for the next generation of talented accountants to land at your firm.

Developing an Attractive Work Culture

At Concero, we know a thing or two about cultivating great culture. You might even say we wrote the book on it. Making your workplace as pleasantly dynamic as it can be goes a long way in attracting elite talent from any field, let alone accounting. But trust us when we say it’s doubly important amid a CPA shortage.

We’ve worked diligently to establish the ideal work hard/play hard office environment. But that may not suit everyone. Thankfully, there are a number of ways to make your culture more attractive. For example, to court Gen Z, the fastest-growing generation in the workforce, you’ll want to make sure you have user-friendly technology that integrates seamlessly into workflows. This generation also prefers flexible work environments in addition to prioritizing mental health and wellbeing initiatives. Adapting to these preferences can help you attract young professionals who now represent 11.6% of the U.S. employee pool.

For workers of all ages, you can use techniques such as anonymizing job applications to counter unconscious bias. Some firms even offer something called a returnship, a process of recruiting people who have been out of the workforce for more than two years. These rusty employees (we use the term lovingly) are then partnered with an onboarding buddy to help with the transition.

Building Rapport in Hiring

Put simply, you need to sell potential CPAs and current experts on the opportunity as soon as you connect. Personalize your recruitment process and highlight the dynamic, challenging, and rewarding aspects of a career in accounting. Consider the following: accounting is one of the few professions that truly promises consistency. For younger workers who may be wary of burnout, the idea of simply working hard for a set amount of time without disturbing their work/life balance can be a massive draw.

For those more interested in challenge and advancement, showcasing successful accountants and the diverse career paths within accounting can also help in attracting top talent. We all have a responsibility to make our companies more attractive to potential hires—with a little creativity (and a lot of transparency), there’s no limit to how we can improve the perception of accounting opportunities.

Addressing Educational Barriers

Did you know there are organizations dedicated to making life easier for accountants? In the United States, we have the American Institute of Certified Public Accounts (AICPA), which has introduced initiatives to address educational barriers that may deter potential CPAs. Efforts like increasing flexibility and accessibility in the licensure pathway and promoting a broader range of career pathways are all on the table. Such initiatives aim to create a more robust supply of new CPAs, but they of course depend on the generosity of others to keep the lights on.

Consider giving time and/or resources to organizations like the AICPA. You may just play an indirect part in solving the CPA shortage in the long run.

Embracing Digital Transformation

Accounting firms are increasingly embracing digital transformation as a response to the CPA shortage. Investments in technology such as cloud-based solutions and automation tools not only improve efficiency but also make the profession more attractive to new generations of accountants. Firms that fail to modernize risk falling behind in the race for elite CPAs.

Think of it this way: when your job is number-crunching, those numbers never stop coming. Everyone in a given organization looks to you to make sense of money coming in and out. Automation in accounting has the dual benefit of offering overworked accountants a lifeline and attracting new accountants to the fold.

In addition to general automation, AI in accounting practices can enhance efficiency while fulfilling a need for the most tech-savvy professionals. Rather than replacing human accountants outright, AI systems enable CPAs to analyze huge financial data sets to identity actionable insights and trends in record time.

The CPA shortage presents both a challenge and an opportunity for accounting firms. By adopting strategic recruitment practices, embracing technology, and fostering a dynamic work culture, your firm can position itself as a desirable destination for top accounting talent. These measures, coupled with industry-wide efforts to make the CPA pathway more accessible, are key to navigating the current talent landscape effectively.

Writing about these initiatives in a blog post is easy, but executing is another matter altogether. If you feel overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating the CPA shortage yourself, reach out to a reputable recruiting firm like Concero. Our reason for existing is finding good humans for great companies like yours, and if you ever find yourself in need of a top-notch number-cruncher, be sure to reach out.

Want to learn more about building a dynamic work culture? Download our latest guide, The Company Culture Playbook.

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