The American Accounting Association (AAA) and the AICPA created the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education to:

 “study the future structure of higher education for the accounting profession and develop recommendations for educational pathways to engage and retain the strongest possible community of students, academics, practitioners, and other knowledgeable leaders in the practice and study of accounting.”


Phew! That sounds like a huge task and frankly kind of idealistic, but in fact, the recommendations of the commission are specific and reachable if actions are taken and momentum isn’t lost. The commission released their report this past July and it’s an important document that outlines major changes needed in strategy and tactics if the CPA profession is going to remain just that – a profession.

There is really valuable information in this report and it is well worth reading, but here’s my summary and thoughts …

  1. Focus more research on relevant practice issues. Produce more research that practitioners (not just other academics) would actually want to read.
  2. The Ph.D.: it’s hard to get and what else would work? Allow flexible content and structure for doctoral programs and alternatives to the Ph.D. for tenure-track positions at universities.
  3. You show what you value by what you reward. The current system greater rewards research vs. good teaching even though good teachers are the ones who are educating the people you are hiring and that you expect to be outstanding future CPAs.
  4. Become a learned profession. Engage the accounting community to define the body of knowledge that is the foundation for accounting’s curricula of the future (like law and medicine – you deserve it.)
  5. The profession should reflect society. The profession should improve its ability to attract high-potential, diverse young people into the profession.
  6. We need to know where the profession is headed. There is a need to project the future supply, demand and competencies for accounting professionals in order to see the urgency in new practices.
  7. It won’t be easy. Institutions and individuals often hate to change until it’s a necessity. There are a lot of traditions and egos (arguably rightly so) at institutions of higher learning, and change will not happen without a push from the people who hire their graduates.

The profession needs to take action soon to specifically address and make progress on the recommendations; the profession should not let the commission’s ideas sit in a 135-page report that gathers dust.