Master’s Plan: Giving Prospective CPAs a Boost

One of the common threads running through the discussion of recruitment and retention in the profession is not only how to get younger people interested in accounting in the first place, but how to keep them on the path to a CPA license and a long career. After all, getting new professionals in the door doesn’t add up to much if they see too many barriers on the road ahead and decide to move on to something else when their journey is just getting started.

Recruiting and retention strategies remain a vital focus in 2023. This article throws the spotlight on a firm that is partnering with a local college to offer its people a significant helping hand as they pursue their accounting education and work toward their CPA.

The Old College Try

While Southfield, Mich.-based Clayton & McKervey (FY21 net revenue of $16.4 million) recruits from a variety of Midwest colleges and universities, many don’t offer undergraduate programs designed for CPA candidates who need 150 credit hours to get their license. As a result, many of the firm’s new staff choose the potentially costly option of a master’s program to reach that goal.

Noticing this trend, the firm recently launched a partnership with Adrian College in nearby Adrian, Mich., to offer its employees significantly discounted tuition to complete the CPA exam and earn a Master of Science (MS) in Accountancy degree. The MS program is a self-paced online degree led by Adrian College professors that is typically completed in one year and is tailored to employed students who are looking to earn their CPA license. With the combined scholarships of the program, students see a savings of approximately 50% of the total cost of their MS degree.

“As many firms are feeling a talent crunch, Clayton & McKervey included, this provides us a valuable recruiting tool to provide flexibility and funding to our new hires,” explains vice president of operations Trudy Thornsberry. “Since the Adrian program is offered virtually, our staff can start their professional career immediately after graduating with their bachelor’s degree, while at the same time taking classes to get the credits they need and preparation for the CPA exam.”

Even though Clayton & McKervey does not require a master’s degree for employees, Thornsberry says the Adrian program nevertheless stood out as a good fit for this type of initiative. Not only do the virtual courses allow employees to pursue the degree while still working, but the program is also separated into four distinct sections geared to specific areas of the CPA exam.

“Where this program is highly beneficial is that it provides our staff with guided lectures from faculty in a structured environment to help them pass the exam,” she says, noting that firm expects to have two to five staffers in the program each year. “We will continue to offer our staff traditional CPA prep resources, but we recognize that everyone learns differently and the structure and access to faculty in this program may set them up for the most success.”

Potential to Save Money and Attract Talent

Talent acquisition specialist Joe Bamberger says reaction to the program from staff has been overwhelmingly positive. Newer hires appreciate the cost savings available while firm veterans – though wishing the firm had offered the assistance when they completed their degrees – recognize how useful it will be to attract talent.

“My favorite reaction was getting to tell a new employee, who had already committed to the Adrian program, that we were announcing a partnership that would save her half of the amount she had budgeted to spend,” he says.

Thornsberry is gratified by those types of responses and expects that the word will spread among recent graduates in the area. At a time when the demand for talent throughout the profession is so high, she knows that every little thing the firm can do to attract and retain new hires is worth pursuing.

“This partnership is a perfect example of us meeting talent where they are and hearing their needs,” she says. “We have already made this program a key differentiator in our recruiting pitch to candidates, especially those who are graduating from schools that don’t offer master’s programs, and we expect it and other future initiatives to demonstrate how committed we are to our people.”

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