The future of the CPA profession depends on attracting bright, highly motivated young people into university accounting programs and impressing upon them the value that becoming a CPA brings to their future career. Young people in high school and college are heavily influenced in their career choices by external factors such as having an inspiring teacher or learning in a university with a strong CPA culture. That's why CPAs can make such a difference when they volunteer or work with students.
There are many ways to engage with college students on campus, ranging from volunteering for a day to teaching full time. CPAs who work with students often find it enjoyable to talk to young people at the beginning of their career and play a part in helping them define their future. They also take satisfaction in knowing their involvement can have a significant and lasting impact on students considering a career in accounting.
Some of the many ways CPA can make a difference on campus include:
- Speaking to a class or a student club. CPAs who have limited time to engage on a campus might consider speaking to a class or a student club.
- Serving as a judge for a class project or presentation. Faculty are consistently advised that students need better communications skills, and often use class projects, cases, and presentations to achieve this objective. Having a CPA review in-class projects and offer feedback can be valuable for both students and faculty. Faculty members gain an outside opinion, and the students benefit from the CPA's depth of expertise and real-world focus on the issues, and from presenting to someone they do not necessarily know.
- Offering to attend a career fair on campus or assist with a skills workshop. Most campuses run career fairs to inform students on various career paths. Some also have workshops or special courses where they develop needed professional skills. (For an example of one university's approach, see the article "One Way CPAs Give Back: The Career Fair Skills Workshop at North Carolina A&T," page 24.)
- Heading up a donation campaign to benefit an accounting program. The decline in government and other outside funding is significantly affecting the programs on college and university campuses. Programs constantly seek funding for student scholarships, student travel, student events, and faculty resources. Assistance with donated funds can be critical to these efforts.
- Serving on an accounting advisory council or board, a college of business board of visitors, or a university board of trustees. Councils and boards are advisory groups that usually meet in person a couple of times a year. They may also schedule calls in the interim, though time commitments vary by institution. Some institutions expect board members to make a donation. Serving on councils or boards allows you to share your expertise on current trends in the profession and helps schools ensure that they are properly preparing their students for the professional world they will enter upon graduation.
- Informing faculty about the issues you are facing in practice as potential research topics. Full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty are generally required to perform research to stay current and relevant in their field. They face increasing pressure to show relevance and impact on practice through their research. Finding faculty who are interested in the area in which you practice can be mutually beneficial. You can provide them insights into the issues you encounter in the workplace, and can assist them in developing research questions that will lead to impactful studies that will interest you and your colleagues. If you do not have contact with these specific faculty at a local institution or your alma mater, contact an accounting department chair or find faculty online and contact them. Most institutions list faculty teaching and research interests on their websites.
- Teaching a course. Though teaching is a major commitment, the insights and real-world experience you can bring to students will be valuable to them as they plan their own careers. The time commitment can vary depending on whether the institution is on a quarter or a semester system, whether the class meets one, two, or three times a week, and how much credit students receive for the course. Practitioners who teach a course while maintaining a full-time career are usually referred to as adjunct faculty. These faculty can teach a single course or multiple courses at one time. Some institutions also hire adjunct faculty on a more full-time basis.
- Serving as an executive-in-residence. Executives-in-residence are typically individuals who have achieved an executive level in their career, have retired from that position, and now want to engage with faculty and students regularly. They may take on duties such as teaching, guest-speaking, advising students, and networking with the business community. (For more information about serving as an executive-in-residence, see the article "Retiring? Stay Involved With the Profession as an Executive-in-Residence," page 26.)
HOW TO GET STARTED
Practitioners can pursue several avenues to engage with a college or university, and these vary by institution. Not all institutions have each of the above opportunities. However, most do have some way for you to interact with students and faculty. To get started, the best people to contact are department chairs, deans, or faculty members with whom you already have a relationship. You can also find faculty members' contact information on a university's website. Typically, they are happy to hear from practitioners who would like to engage on campus. Student clubs also have faculty advisers you can contact about volunteering with or speaking to a club.
However you decide to engage with an institution, you will find it an extremely rewarding experience. AICPA research has found that having those currently in the profession come to campus to share their experiences and interact with students fosters a "CPA culture" on campus. That, in turn, encourages students to choose becoming a CPA as their future career path. Knowing that you are having an impact on the next generation of CPAs, whether by doing something as simple as judging a presentation or as involved as teaching full time, can be as rewarding to you as it is to students.
About the author
Yvonne Hinson (Yvonne.Hinson@aicpa-cima.com) is the Academic in Residence and a senior director at the AICPA.
To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, senior editor, at Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com or 919-402-4125.
- "Transitioning Into Academia: A New Pathway for Practitioners," JofA, March 2016
- "From Practice to the Classroom," JofA, Oct. 2012
- Student Engagement Toolkit, aicpa.org