National CPA Student Recruitment Campaign

Want an exciting business career? Interested in working with high-level people in diverse industries such as entertainment, sports and fashion? Want a career in a people-oriented profession? Then pursue an accounting degree and become a CPA. These are among the messages being delivered to millions of high school and college students nationwide as part of the AICPA’s new student recruitment campaign, “Start Here, Go Places.”

The five-year, $25 million commitment is designed to address the perilous downward trend in students’ interest in accounting careers by specifically targeting generation Y students, ages 16 to 22. The goal is to increase the number of individuals enrolled in accountancy programs nationwide.

Recent AICPA research showed that from 1990 to 2000, the percentage of college students majoring in accounting dropped to 2% from 4%. During this same period the percentage of high school students majoring in accounting dropped to 1% from 4%. In addition, according to the most recent AICPA report, T he Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits—2001 (available online at ), the number of bachelor’s degree recipients decreased by another 10 % from the 1998–1999 academic year to the 1999–2000 one. “We know that students do not perceive accounting as an exciting career choice, and this is affecting enrollments,” says Jo Ann Golden, CPA, a partner with Demody, Burke & Brown, PC, and the incoming president of the New York state society. “We need to energize student thoughts and perceptions about the profession, particularly students in high school. This campaign is a step in the right direction.”

Campaign Visuals
Top row: The recruitment campaign’s print ads target Generation Y, students between the ages of 16 and 22. Bottom row: Screens from the Web site, —featuring a game and career-based tips on education, scholarships and the profession.

Research conducted by the Taylor Research and Consulting Group showed most high school and college students were ignorant about careers in accounting, had limited knowledge, were misinformed about what CPAs do and possessed negative perceptions of the profession. To address these issues the campaign establishes an ongoing dialogue with high school and college students to encourage enrollment in accountancy programs.

The campaign’s overall message is that the skills acquired while studying business and accounting and obtaining the CPA credential prepare you for any possibility in the world of business—a message that resonated well with students in focus groups.

The AICPA, working with Wunderman, New York, a direct-marketing agency, designed a campaign that directly involves students in their own environments through the Internet and enables them to experience the kinds of roles CPAs play and the work they do. In March the AICPA launched a Web site, .

The Web site features information to assist students in their career decision making by providing tangible resources, such as information on scholarships and internships, tips on getting through college and preparing for and selecting a career. As students move through the stages of their education from high school to their early and late college years, the site delivers more career-relevant information while educating them about the CPA profession and how to get ready for the CPA exam. It also features an online business simulation game, “BizzFun,” that can help students recognize their skills and potential for success as a CPA in business or public accounting.

The campaign to drive students to reached 8 million high school students and 1.2 million college students during March and April when it

Delivered posters to more than 8,000 high schools and 45,000 teachers across the nation.

Placed ads in 20 college newspapers in 12 pilot states.

Mailed postcards to 300,000 high school and college students.

Sent e-mails to 400,000 high school juniors and seniors and 1 million college students.

This recruitment campaign is unprecedented in its direct outreach to students. However, these efforts need to be complemented by the active involvement of the profession at all levels. CPA societies also received these materials so they could use them in their own recruitment efforts. And CPAs themselves can help by speaking about the benefits of an accounting career and the flexibility, diversity and potential for career advancement. “The questions I most frequently am asked by students is, ‘What does a CPA do?’” states Dennis Echelbarger, CPA, a partner with Echelbarger, Himebaugh, Tamm & Co. and a past president of the Michigan Association of CPAs. The “Start Here, Go Places” Web site does an excellent job of answering that question in an entertaining and engaging way.”

Students who visit the Web site register and supply demographic information that will be used to develop materials that are appropriate for them at their particular career decision-making stage.

The AICPA developed a database infrastructure to provide the means for measuring audience response to the media used, the creative execution and the game playing and to monitor demographics, top schools’ activity by state and Web site usage and student behavior. These results will assist the AICPA and state societies in refining their recruitment messages to achieve the goal of increasing the number of students pursuing accounting degrees and CPA certification.

How CPAs Can Help
No one can better explain to students what CPAs do than CPAs themselves. The recruitment campaign’s success can be greatly enhanced by CPAs who
Participate in state society recruitment activities as a classroom speaker, mentor or committee member.
Reinforce the positive messages delivered through the campaign.
Encourage high school and college students to visit the “Start Here, Go Places” Web site.
Include links from your firm’s or other relevant Web sites to .
Encourage your company or firm to offer student internships.


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