AICPA, NASBA launch CPA Evolution Model Curriculum

By Courtney L. Vien

The AICPA and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) on Tuesday launched the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum (CPAEMC), a recommended blueprint for an accounting program designed to help educators prepare graduates for the changing demands of the CPA profession. The CPAEMC outlines suggested courses colleges and universities can offer to align their accounting programs with CPA Evolution, a new CPA licensure model expected to debut in 2024.

Under the CPA Evolution model, CPA Exam candidates will all take three Core sections, which will test their fundamental knowledge in the areas of accounting, audit, and tax/regulation, with a recognition of the ways technology has impacted these three areas. They will then take an Exam section in their choice of one of three Disciplines: tax compliance and planning (TCP), business analysis and reporting (BAR), or information systems and controls (ISC). The AICPA anticipates rolling out a new version of the CPA Exam based on this model in 2024.

Task forces of educators and practitioners, representing schools and employers of all sizes from across the United States, developed the CPAEMC in a months-long collaborative process. They examined the most recent CPA Exam Blueprints and lists of learning objectives and decided what material to retain, leave out, or add, while considering insights from the most recent practice analysis.

Their goal, said BAR co-Chair Kimberly Swanson Church, Ph.D., director of the School of Accountancy at Missouri State University in Springfield, Mo., was to include the topics that new accounting hires most needed to know during their first two years of employment. The material that was taken out “is still important, but it’s material they are less likely to be exposed to” early in their careers, she said.

The CPAEMC is meant to serve as a starting point for how schools can reimagine their curricula, said Core co-Chair Wendy Tietz, CPA, CGMA, Ph.D., professor of accounting at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. “Every curriculum is going to reflect that model curriculum differently,” she said. Schools will need to take a look at their resources, students, and local employers and determine how to shape the CPA Evolution Model Curriculum to best fit their programs’ needs, she said.

The CPAEMC includes an increased emphasis on technology. The ISC Discipline is heavily technology-focused, and the BAR Discipline includes data analytics.

TCP co-Chair Stephanie Saunders, CPA, owner, Saunders and Saunders in Virginia Beach, Va., approved of the prominence of technology in the CPAEMC and said it would help the profession remain relevant.

“All of a sudden, we saw that firms were hiring IT professionals and not accounting graduates,” she said. “It was a wake-up call. What we need to do is make sure the CPA Exam and education are aligned with what’s really happening in practice today.”

Audrey Katcher, CPA/CITP, CGMA, ISC co-chair and partner and leader of IT Risk Services, which includes Assurance and Advisory Services, at RubinBrown in St. Louis, said that the CPAEMC would ultimately help employers hire candidates with the right skill sets. “It’s become hard to find candidates with the necessary understanding of IT,” she said.

Task force members kept the needs of smaller schools in mind throughout the process of developing the CPAEMC, Church said. “We were always very mindful of budgets and resources,” she said. “Every time we added a learning objective, we’d have a discussion about how it could be implemented,” she said, considering such factors as whether free or low-cost software was available to teach certain technological skills.

Smaller accounting programs may decide to partner with other schools or departments to give students more exposure to the topics covered in the three Disciplines, Tietz said. For instance, some of the material in the ISC Discipline might be covered in computer science or management information systems classes, she said. Church said that CPA Evolution has inspired her “to reach across the aisle to the IT department” and confer with that department’s head about how they can work together.

Practitioners will want to pay attention to the CPAEMC because “it’s a signal as to where the profession is headed and gives you an idea of what your new hires will be prepared to do,” Church said. “It reveals the evolution in the profession that we’ve all been observing over the last 10 years.”

“I’m glad the fundamentals of accounting have been retained,” she added, “but I’m also excited to see the profession embracing emerging and disruptive technologies.”

The AICPA and NASBA are introducing the CPAEMC to educators during a free two-day launch event in which members of the CPAEMC task forces discuss topics and learning objectives for their subject areas in depth.

The AICPA is providing educators with resources they can use to help implement the CPAEMC at their schools and integrate more technology into their courses. Educators can access these resources through the Academic Resource Hub and receive updates by signing up for the free Extra Credit newsletter, joining the AICPA’s Academics LinkedIn group, or visiting EvolutionofCPA.org.

— Courtney L. Vien (Courtney.Vien@aicpa-cima.com) is a JofA senior editor.

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