Attendees at NASBA’s Eastern and Western Regional Meetings are being asked to consider the concept of a Technology Pathway leading to the CPA license. Executive Vice President Colleen Conrad and Vice President – State Board Relations Dan Dustin are presenting the basic features of what is under consideration and asking those at the meetings for their input.

CPA firms are predicted to automate or eliminate up to 40 percent of basic transactional accounting work by 2020, Mr. Dustin explained. “The Technology Pathway is an opportunity for the Boards to be pro-active,” he commented. “The firms’ hiring of accounting graduates is down, but not their overall hiring. Many of the professional hires are going to non-accounting graduates.”

Ms. Conrad added: “Skills are evolving and we need to attract the right people into the profession for public protection. If clients are to rely on the firm to look at controls, cybersecurity, etc., there needs to be a population available to look at those services.”

What is under consideration is a program of equivalent rigor to the traditional CPA pathway that would result in a CPA, not a hyphenated CPA, Mr. Dustin explained. This should be a program of interest to students as well as those already in CPA firms who are engaged in predictive analytics, data analysis and modeling, IT risks and controls, and similar activities. The pathway would include a four-part examination and require 150 credit hours of education with core courses covering business/accounting as well as IT. While the examination would still cover the basic accounting questions, it would go much deeper into subjects such as IT controls and cybersecurity. Staff and volunteers are engaged in several work streams to add details to the concept. The preliminary work streams cover: defining “it”; education –core curriculum; education – programmatic accreditation; communication/outreach; examination; education – bridge program; regulation/statute; and report signing.

This discussion has led to consideration of qualifications for those who have the ability to sign audit reports. Regional Meeting attendees are being asked to consider whether a requirement should be added for those signing reports to have had a minimum number of hours of experience in audits/examinations in the last five years. Mr. Dustin explained that if a CPA did not meet that requirement, then heir work would be subject to an engagement quality control review until the experience level was reached. This too is a concept under development that Boards are being asked to discuss.

“We are in a period of listening to see how constituents feel about the concepts,” Ms. Conrad said. She does not anticipate a decision on whether or not to move forward before the year ends, though she did underscore that there is some urgency on creating the Technology Pathway to keep pace with the evolving profession. The discussion needs to be widened to speak with educators, accrediting bodies and other regulators, Ms. Conrad noted, but the licensing model has to start at the State Board level.

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