How the CPA Evolution Might Affect Accounting Curriculum


The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) recently agreed to move forward with the CPA Evolution initiative and timeline. The goal for both organizations is to update and restructure the CPA Exam to align with the new core-plus-discipline licensure model. They hope to have the restructured exam ready to roll out to CPA candidates by January 2024. The CPA Evolution initiative is aimed at evolving CPA licensure to reflect the skills and knowledge CPAs increasingly need in a technology-driven marketplace.

So, what does the proposed CPA Exam model look like? The new CPA licensure model requires CPA candidates to be skilled in accounting, auditing, tax, and technology.

Image Credit: Journal of Accountancy

CPA candidates would also need to be knowledgeable in tax compliance and planning, business reporting and analysis, or information systems and controls. The good news is that CPA Candidates will be able to choose different disciplines in the new licensure model that results in one CPA license.

As the CPA Exam starts evolving, academic institutions, particularly accounting professors, might wonder how the new CPA Exam will affect their accounting curriculum.

We sat down with Dr. Marcus Odom, Ph.D., CPA, CFE, Full Professor, Deloitte & Touché Faculty Fellow, and MAcc Director for the School of Accountancy at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale to get his perspective on how the CPA Evolution might affect accounting curriculum at the university level.

As an accounting professor and program director, what are your initial thoughts about the CPA Evolution?

Dr. Marcus Odom: I think that the CPA Evolution changes will be positive for the profession.  Based on my understanding, the changes will maintain the foundational elements currently necessary for those students taking the CPA Exam and will stack on the new focus areas. This will allow more specialization in one of the areas while ensuring that the baseline is not compromised. I expect this will cause students to be more conscientious in the selection of the courses to obtain the 150 hours focusing on those courses that will best prepare them for their choice of specialization. This may serve to increase the number of students that obtain the Master of Accountancy degrees.

Do you think the new CPA Exam model will encourage accountants to obtain CPA licensure?

Dr. Marcus Odom: I don’t know that it will encourage it more, but I do not believe it will hinder it either.  Since, if they pass the exam, they will be certified and will be able to work in any of the different accounting specializations, it should not deter anyone from taking the CPA Exam.

Do you think the new model will help to future-proof the CPA as the profession continues to evolve?

Dr. Marcus Odom: I believe it will add a little more confidence in the profession primarily due to the perception that this change is allowing the individual accountants to specialize while stressing that the foundation is not being relaxed. That increased perception goes a long way.

How do you think the new CPA Exam model will change accounting curriculum?

Dr. Marcus Odom: I would not expect the undergraduate accounting curriculums to be much different than they are now. In my opinion, the undergraduate curriculums will continue to prepare the students for the foundational requirements which will still be tested in the CPA Exam of the future. I do believe that the Master’s programs will make sure that they are preparing the students for the specialization areas. For those schools without a Master’s program, they may add some elective courses to prepare students for the specialization areas. It will be good to see what information is provided by the CPA Evolution committee in the next year in regard to what they recommend for the accounting curriculum.

How and when do you, or do you at all, plan to change anything you’re doing in your classroom or your program?

Dr. Marcus Odom: Again, I believe that our UG program will not change. We already modify the courses as we see that we need to cover new items such as data analytics. That is a regular process that we have always done. We also have a MAcc program with two options, Taxation and Auditing/Accounting Information Systems, which I don’t foresee us changing due to CPA Evolution.

We would like to thank Dr. Odom for both his time and insights provided for this interview.

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