Ohio brain power

I had the honor of visiting my alma mater this year – Miami University – to speak at Miami’s MAcc commencement. After revisiting unique aspects of life at Miami that haven’t changed in the <gulp> 20 years since my own graduation (intramural broomball has as steadfast a following as ever,) I gave the group my own spin on what it means to be a CPA.

Listening to the graduates’ responses, my first observation is that the stereotypes aren’t always true. In too many generational discussions, I’ve heard that today’s graduates aren’t serious about making an investment in their professional career – in doing what it takes to become a CPA and work toward careers as partners and leaders in business. Admittedly, MAcc graduates are the group that’s already serious enough to make the investment in a fifth year of education, but in side conversations with the students over lunch, I heard about plans to gain international experience, conduct research with the FASB, and other evidence of high interest in sometimes demanding paths to CPA leadership.

The CPA Exam Hurdle

My main point to the Miami graduates was to begin their path to the CPA exam now, and not to allow procrastination to stop their journey. With the computerized exam essentially available at any time, once focused on the daily demands of a new career, it’s easy for “anytime” to never come. Afterward, the grads were eager to share their personal plans – “I plan to take this part of the exam on x date, and finish with…” – plotting out their next four exam windows.
It struck me that everyone I spoke with now plans to take only one part of the exam at a time. For the first time, it hit me how difficult it must be trying to START the exam after entering the workforce. When I graduated, the majority of my class took the full exam in May during finals week, and November was considered clean-up for anything you didn’t pass in May. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to not at least kick off the process before becoming fully immersed in a new job.

Driving candidates to the CPA Exam was a key discussion topic at the June meeting of the OSCPA Council of Leaders, a strategic “think tank” representing the diversity of the Society’s membership. Among a number of active steps identified by the Council, The Ohio Society will be publicizing best practices of leading employers on “what works” in advancing candidates to CPA certification. If you know of an interesting practice that has been effective in your workplace, we’d love to hear about it.

If you’re a candidate questioning whether the CPA path is worth it, it would be interesting to hear your views on the hurdles as well.

Speaking with the faculty, they noted that the greatest challenge faced by educational institutions throughout the state is keeping the best and the brightest in Ohio. Far too many star performers were considering locations such as Chicago, New York, and DC as more likely to fulfill their personal and career goals. There is significant debate on the extent and impact of “brain drain” in the state of Ohio; however, faculty observed that in addition to promoting the value of the CPA designation, the Society and the profession can fill a valuable role promoting what high achievers on the path to the CPA can accomplish within our state.


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