Sixty years ago, Black certified public accountants (CPAs) made up less than 0.15% of the industry’s workforce. Decades later, African Americans make up only 3% of accountants and less than 1% of all CPAs in the United States. Recent population estimates put the total percentage of African Americans in the U.S. at over 13%, showing a disparity between population and representation within the accounting industry. This disparity has impacted other corners of the financial world, including the continued mistrust of financial institutions in many minority communities. The barriers to becoming a CPA can be manyfold for minority students and range from a lack of mentorship and scholastic support to the lack of ethnically diverse representation in the field.
However, the National Society of Black Certified Accountants (NSBCPA) and Robert F. Smith are trying to combat these barriers through a new CPA support program. In December 2020, the NSBCPA announced a major gift from Smith, who pledged $1 million to support NSBCPA’s and Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)’s virtual CPA exam review program initiative.
“We’re proud to partner with Mr. Smith and the AICPA on this groundbreaking project,” said Shannon Nash, Chair of NSBCPA.
The Certified Public Accountant Exam Bootcamp Program for Black Accounting Students, or NSBCPA CPA Breakthrough, is open to American American students from any college or university with a goal to enroll 100 students per year.
From the start, students will be paired with a Black CPA mentor, who will take the time to get to know the student, including their strengths and weaknesses. From there, the virtual “bootcamp” will provide all of the tools needed for students to complete their coursework, as well as navigate and pass the exam. This includes entrance materials required to become a CPA, as well as pre-recorded accounting, weekly accountability study and CPA exam review sessions led by Black professors.
CPA Breakthrough will also feature a weekly professor-led course, a detailed course syllabus, weekly satisfactory progress reviews and mandatory study hours to ensure participants receive the most from the program. Furthermore, the program will heavily feature materials on the first 100 Black CPAs and provide financial support for books, applications and test fees. Ultimately, NSBCPA, Smith and AICPA hope to increase representation among the profession by increasing the number of Black CPAs in the country.
“Raising Black representation in the financial workforce doesn’t just put more Black people in high-quality jobs. It helps build opportunity and wealth over generations while promoting financial literacy that is so crucial to achieving prosperity,” said Mr. Smith. “Representation matters, and this program will help aspiring accountants see that they belong in this field.”
Learn more about the National Society of Black Certified Public Accountants and how they are trying to meet their goals to educate and create diversity in the profession.