Successful young man sitting on top of orange bar graph while looking down against light yellow background

National Pipeline Advisory Group seeks strategies to address the talent shortage 

By Lexy Kessler, CPA, CGMA 

A perfect storm has converged over the past few years, resulting in a significant talent shortage in most professions. While accounting remains an attractive career choice for tens of thousands of graduates each year, the volume of new entrants to the profession has declined. That’s why I agreed to chair the National Pipeline Advisory Group (NPAG), a group convened in July by the AICPA to develop a strategic plan designed to attract more people to a career in accounting, and to encourage more to go on and become licensed CPAs, too.  

The NPAG has been immersed in listening and learning, studying events ranging from COVID-related disruptions, to shifting trends and demographics in the labor market, understanding the new expectations of younger graduates entering the workforce, and the spiraling cost of higher education — all of which have impacted the pipeline of accountants. In addition, volatile macroeconomic conditions, the impact of new technologies such as AI and robotic process automation (RPA), and an increasingly intricate tax and regulatory environment add to the complexity behind the current shortage.  

The advisory group’s National Pipeline Strategic Plan will incorporate short-term, intermediate, and long-term recommendations. To hear as many voices as possible, the NPAG is conducting or collaborating to conduct polls, forums, and focus groups, to incorporate a comprehensive cross-section of professionals with insight into the challenges facing the profession today. So far, more than 1,300 people have already weighed in to help shape the NPAG’s focus and direction, providing input into the greatest talent challenges the profession faces.  

The advisory group’s goal is to compile a set of data-driven best practices and impactful recommendations from expert stakeholders, and to issue a draft report of findings and recommendations by the end of May 2024. 

Taking a data-driven and inclusive approach 

NPAG’s discussions on identifying the pipeline challenges reinforced the idea that there’s not a single cause of the shortage. Rather, causes range from a diverse collection of root causes, including: 

  • Lower birth rates 
  • An underrepresentation of diverse groups 
  • Higher cost of education, as well as concerns about the expense of the additional 30 credit hours of education required for CPA licensure
  • Lagging starting salaries, and 
  • Concerns over the profession’s traditional workplace culture, along with issues relating to image.  

NPAG’s core mission includes reaching out to the entire profession to get a better understanding of current trends, opinions, and ideas. Early polling reveals that: 

  • Employers are seeing the highest rates of turnover at the three-to-five-year experience level, followed by one-to-two-year staff 
  • Employers feel the deepest need for experienced CPAs when they consider their current capacity levels 
  • Poll respondents overwhelmingly say that addressing retention and keeping accountants in the profession is as important as attracting new talent to the profession.  

Also, polling data reveals these and other important points: 

  • The high volume of work and potentially long hours makes an accounting career feel more challenging than other careers. 
  • Inconsistency in the makeup of the additional 30 hours required for CPA licensure detracts from its value. 
  • Students perceive starting salaries for accountants as uncompetitive when compared to their peers in other fields of study. 

Polls have shown that respondents feel that both the pre-college years and the college to graduation journey should be high priority areas for national pipeline solutions.  

Forging a path forward to ensure the long-term success of the profession 

In the coming weeks, the NPAG will develop and refine solutions, conduct additional polls and forums, and look for your input and ideas on the highest-priority solutions to serve our profession. In 2024, the profession will be invited to take part in a national pipeline survey. We look forward to including your valuable feedback in our strategy. Share your thoughts at  

Lexy Kessler is the chair of the National Pipeline Advisory Group. She is the Mid-Atlantic Regional Leader for Aprio and is a member of the board of directors of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.