CPA Evolution

CPA Evolution is a joint effort between NASBA and the AICPA to explore

modifying the requirements for initial CPA licensure.

The environment in which CPAs operate is changing at a rapid pace. Technological innovations are changing both the services CPAs provide and how they provide them.

The CPA profession must embrace these changes to maintain its strength and support evolving business needs while continuing to serve the public interest.

NASBA and the AICPA want your feedback

Your input will be crucial as we work toward a new licensure model. NASBA and the AICPA want everyone’s voice to be heard—and that includes yours.

The two organizations developed five guiding principles to inform a new CPA licensure model.

Read our Request for Input on these principles here

Tell us:

  • Are these principles directionally correct?
  • Would they help put the profession in a continued position of strength and relevance while protecting the public interest?

CPA Evolution: NASBA's and the AICPA’s Guiding Principles

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  • The CPA profession must adapt quickly due to the technological disruptions in areas such as data analytics, robotics, artificial intelligence and more. As such, the competencies, services and attitudes of CPAs need to continually evolve in order to protect the public interest.
  • The CPA profession and state boards of accountancy recognize that technological and analytical expertise are essential to performing assurance work, as well as the other services that are currently, or will be in the future, core to professional accounting.
  • The CPA profession and state boards of accountancy acknowledge that sustaining the profession and continued public protection require rethinking initial licensure requirements.
  • The profession, and therefore entry into the profession, must be redesigned to attract individuals with technological and analytical expertise. This includes non-CPA professionals whose technology and analytics skills are critical to the performance of assurance and other core services, as well as non-accounting major students. All must demonstrate minimum required competencies necessary to perform professional accounting services as a CPA.
  • The changes must be rapid, transformational and substantive without negatively impacting candidates currently in the pipeline.

In addition, NASBA and AICPA volunteer leadership have developed the following specific concepts that support the guiding principles.

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We need a degree of flexibility in the education requirements in order to best position the profession for the future.

  • This means candidates with different degrees would all be required to have education around a common core of both accounting and technology, as well as elective coursework that aligns with the work they are interested in performing as a CPA.
  • The existing accounting graduate would need a greater understanding of technology, and the existing technology graduate would need a greater understanding of accounting.
  • This may necessitate reducing educational requirements on certain existing concepts and adding educational requirements on other concepts.

We need an exam that tests a common core of accounting and technology, and that allows candidates to demonstrate knowledge in their chosen area of study and interest.

  • One examination would serve all candidates, with variations allowed within exam sections that correspond to area of study and interest.
  • Using the current exam structure, significantly modify the breadth and depth of the exam based on future looking practice analyses.
  • Certain advanced and unique accounting and auditing concepts currently required for licensure are applicable to only a segment of practicing CPAs, while knowledge of systems controls and emerging technologies is increasingly relevant.

Share your thoughts (all fields * are required)


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Want to email your thoughts instead? Download the form below and send your feedback to Feedback@EvolutionOfCPA.org

CPA Evolution FAQs

Q: What is CPA Evolution? (+) Show answer

A: The CPA Evolution initiative aims to transform the CPA profession and its licensure model in recognition of the need for rapidly changing CPA skills and competencies necessitated by constantly escalating technological disruption. It is a joint effort of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).


Q: Why does CPA licensure need to evolve? (+) Show answer

A: The environment in which CPAs operate is changing at a rapid pace.

Innovations in artificial intelligence, automation and data analytics are creating new opportunities for CPAs, both in terms of the types of services they perform and in how those services are delivered.

At the same time, clients and organizations are demanding services that require expertise in technical areas such as information technology, cybersecurity, system and organization controls (SOC) reporting, IT governance and data analytics.

The profession must embrace these changes to maintain its strength and be prepared to support evolving business needs while continuing to serve the public interest. That’s why NASBA and the AICPA are working to evolve licensure requirements for new CPAs: so the profession can continue to effectively meet the needs of organizations, employers and the public.


Q: What are some examples of the skills new CPAs will need? (+) Show answer

A: NASBA and the AICPA have heard from stakeholders across the profession that CPAs increasingly need new skills and knowledge in areas such as, but not limited to:

  • Business intelligence
  • Data analysis and reporting
  • Data management
  • Predictive analytics
  • Cybersecurity risk management
  • IT governance
  • IT audit
  • IT risks and controls
  • Information security governance
  • System and Organization Controls
  • Information systems development

When talking about the expertise CPAs need, it is also important to note what skills are not relevant. Specifically, the CPA Evolution project does not include IT system design and maintenance, software development or coding within its scope of future CPA skills.


Q: Who else is involved in the CPA Evolution project? (+) Show answer

A: CPA Evolution is a profession-wide effort. Along with NASBA and the AICPA, state CPA societies, state boards of accountancy, academia, firms of all sizes and CPAs in all areas of practice from across the country are vital partners in preparing the profession for the future. Their collaboration and support in evolving the CPA licensure model will help the profession remain strong and relevant while protecting the public interest in a changing, technology-driven marketplace.


Q: How have NASBA and the AICPA been working with these stakeholders? (+) Show answer

A: In 2018, NASBA and the AICPA reached out to stakeholders across the profession to gather feedback on possible changes to licensure requirements.

NASBA and the AICPA spoke with CPAs working in entities of all sizes in public practice, business and industry, and government. The two organizations also sought input from CPAs whose focus is in technology, state CPA societies, state boards of accountancy, academia, AICPA Council and NASBA and AICPA committees.

Across the board, there was support for taking action and enhancing the CPA Exam and academic curricula to focus more on technology and analytics.

NASBA and the AICPA then created the CPA Evolution Working Group – made up of representatives from practice, state boards, academia and various other stakeholder groups – to explore how licensure requirements might be modified.


Q: What did the CPA Evolution Working Group recommend? (+) Show answer

A: The working group recommended that the CPA Exam evolve to test a candidate’s ability to use emerging technologies, audit systems and controls, and examine and report on systems (e.g., through SOC attestation). The group also recommended that education requirements include relevant coursework on technology and analytics.


Q: How will CPA Evolution help future CPAs succeed? (+) Show answer

A: Employers are increasingly seeking CPAs with skills and knowledge in both accounting and technology. CPA Evolution aims to evolve education and exam requirements for initial licensure to incorporate the new skills and knowledge CPAs need. Therefore, future candidates who achieve the CPA license under this new licensure model will have demonstrated competencies and skills that will equip them for future success.


Q: How will CPA Evolution benefit CPAs working in business and industry? (+) Show answer

A: Technological innovations are making today’s business environment increasingly complex. To become successful, sustainable businesses of the future, organizations must have high-quality decision-making capabilities. This requires CPA finance professionals to understand how to leverage technologies to generate reliable and predictive insights that will allow them to partner with the business on decision-making and influence future direction.

Technological innovation also requires business professionals to gain new skills and knowledge in order to provide effective controls and properly manage risks while complying with accounting standards.

By evolving licensure requirements, businesses can be assured their talent needs are met with regulated, credentialed finance staff with competencies in both accounting and technology who adhere to the profession’s high standards of ethics.


Q: Will CPA Evolution address the varying needs of firms of all sizes? (+) Show answer

A: Advancements in technology are impacting firms of all sizes. As such, the CPA Evolution initiative will help the profession across the board, from larger firms that are already expressing a need for CPAs with technology skills to smaller firms that will be able to expand their service lines, provide more efficient services and grow their practices.


Q: Will current CPAs have to be relicensed once a new licensure model goes into effect? (+) Show answer

A: No; current CPAs will not have to be relicensed. Any licensure changes made through CPA Evolution will only affect initial CPA licensure. Current CPA licenses will be unaffected by these changes.


Q: What is being done to help current CPAs gain skills and competencies in emerging technological areas? (+) Show answer

A: To help CPAs learn more about emerging technologies and services, the AICPA, state societies and others have developed (and will continue to develop) free content, including thought leadership pieces, podcasts, videos, toolkits and other resources.

A few AICPA resources include:

  • An audit data analytics webpage with links to articles, videos, an audit data analytics to traditional procedures mapping guide and more information
  • A white paper (developed in partnership with CPA Canada and the University of Waterloo) exploring blockchain and its potential impact on the audit and assurance profession
  • A “Go Beyond Disruption” podcast in which finance professionals from across the world discuss trends in emerging technologies
  • A Cybersecurity Resource Center that provides tools and information for organizations (including CPA firms), CPAs providing advisory services and CPAs providing assurance services

Q: What’s next for the project? (+) Show answer

A: NASBA and AICPA leadership have drafted guiding principles to inform the creation of a new licensure model. Throughout summer 2019, NASBA and the AICPA will seek input on the principles from stakeholders throughout the profession, academia and the regulatory community. NASBA and the AICPA will hold discussion panels at major NASBA and AICPA meetings and conferences, meet with NASBA and AICPA committees, speak with state boards of accountancy and state CPA societies and ask for input from AICPA members and state board licensees.

At the NASBA Annual Meeting and AICPA Fall Council in October, NASBA and the AICPA plan to present what they heard along with recommended next steps.


Q: When will CPA Evolution be completed? (+) Show answer

A: NASBA and the AICPA have not determined a completion date yet. Once the two organizations have analyzed feedback on the guiding principles, they will be better able to consider potential licensure models that could best meet the needs of the profession and regulatory community. After a new licensure model has been developed and publicly vetted, the organizations will identify the specific process to move forward and a timeline for implementation.


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About NASBA

Since 1908, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) has served as a forum for the nation’s Boards of Accountancy, which administer the Uniform CPA Examination, license more than 650,000 certified public accountants and regulate the practice of public accountancy in the United States. NASBA’s mission is to enhance the effectiveness and advance the common interests of the Boards of Accountancy in meeting their regulatory responsibilities. The Association promotes the exchange of information among accountancy boards, serving the needs of the 55 U.S. jurisdictions. NASBA is headquartered in Nashville, TN, with a satellite office in New York, NY, an International Computer Testing and Call Center in Guam and operations in San Juan, PR. To learn more about NASBA, visit www.nasba.org.

About the AICPA

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, with more than 429,000 members in the United States and worldwide, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting. The AICPA sets ethical standards for its members and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, offers specialized credentials, builds the pipeline of future talent and drives professional competency development to advance the vitality, relevance and quality of the profession.