The Uniform Certified Public Accountant Exam (CPA exam) is a rigorous and challenging test that accountants must pass to obtain their CPA license. It requires extensive knowledge, dedication and commitment to prepare for and to pass.
For decades, public accounting firms offered a few small perks to their CPA exam candidates such as a small bonus upon passing the exam or offering an advance of their salary to help fund the purchase of CPA exam study materials. In recent years, the retirement of Baby Boomers and the COVID pandemic’s impact on candidates who were unable to test due to center closures have created a shortage of CPA applicants. This has prompted public accounting firms and the profession to reassess their CPA exam support policies. Here are some of the trends we are seeing as firms increase support for staff pursuing their CPA license:
Preparing for the CPA exam often involves investing significant resources, such as study materials, review courses and exam fees. Many accounting firms understand this financial burden and take steps to alleviate it for their employees. They offer financial assistance, such as reimbursing exam fees, providing study material allowances and offering paid time-off on the day of the exam.
Flexible Work Arrangements and Study Time on the Clock
Recognizing the demanding nature of CPA exam preparation combined with the importance of work-life balance, some firms offer flexible work arrangements, such as adjusted hours, reduced workload, or even temporary leaves of absence. In addition to the above, our firm allows CPA exam candidates to study up to two hours a day during off-peak periods of time while still getting paid. Although not guaranteed, our first and second year staff often can take advantage of this study time.
Collaborative Learning and Resources
Public accounting firms are fostering a positive study environment by encouraging collaboration among their employees. Study groups and peer support systems are being established, creating a space where aspiring CPAs can exchange knowledge, seek guidance and celebrate small victories together. A firm-provided meal or snack also helps to create a productive study environment. This camaraderie not only enhances the learning experience but also cultivates a sense of community and support within the firm.
Mentorship plays a vital role in professional development, and public accounting firms are increasingly recognizing its significance for employees pursuing their CPA certification. Firms establish mentorship programs that pair experienced CPAs with exam candidates, providing guidance, support and valuable insights. Mentors offer advice on study strategies, share their own exam experiences and provide motivation and encouragement throughout the process.
Incentives and Recognition
To motivate and reward employees on their CPA exam journey, public accounting firms have introduced incentives and recognition programs. These programs could include bonuses or salary increases upon passing the exam, public acknowledgment of employees’ achievements and career advancement opportunities. At Weinstein Spira, we offer a $10,000 bonus to employees who pass the exam. Wow!
Public accounting firms are stepping up their game by going above and beyond to support their employees to achieve their CPA exam goals. With compensation, recognition, flexible work schedules, dedicated study time, collaborative learning environments and mentorship programs, firms are cultivating a supportive and empowering workplace culture.