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Shutterstock_141891325How well do you remember your first accounting course?

The American Institute of CPAs knows that a student’s first classroom experience with accounting goes a long way towards determining if they’re going to wind up entering the profession. That’s why it’s crucial for students to be exposed in high school to a course that goes beyond debits and credits into some of the higher order skills that CPAs need to thrive in today’s profession, such as critical thinking and problem solving.

The AICPA is working to create a formal process that will introduce talented high school students to the profession at an early age through the AICPA Accounting Program for Building the Profession (“AICPA APBP”) course and related qualifying examination. APBP is a program that trains high school educators to teach a higher-level accounting curriculum that is a combination of financial and managerial concepts. It’s comparable to what a college student would learn in an entry-level accounting course.

I sat down with Yvonne Hinson, AICPA Academic in Residence, who works closely with the program to find out why this is such an important initiative for the accounting profession.

James Schiavone: The AICPA acquired the APBP roughly a year ago. What are some of the goals the Institute has for the program?

Yvonne Hinson: When we acquired the AICPA APBP program, we set out to accomplish several things. One of our primary goals was to increase the number of teachers trained to teach a college level advanced high school accounting course and provide more tools for the teachers who teach this course. In addition, we wanted to increase resources for their students and build up the number of universities accepting a passing score on the qualifying exam for course credit at their university. 

We are very excited to be rolling out an advanced version of our highly popular Bank On It game, which will be structured around the APBP curriculum.

And from a profession wide standpoint, the success of this program shows support for an “Advanced Placement” accounting course in high schools, which is a long-standing goal.

JS: What role do the State CPA Societies play in the program?

YH: State societies are critical to the success of this program. They currently work with us to help get the word out about trainings to high school teachers and universities and they also partner to provide the training sessions for high school teachers. They play a role in working with universities in their state to increase the number of universities accepting college credit for the qualifying exam.

Because they have close relationships in their states, they’re able to provide valuable insight into the best contacts and relevant resources to help connect us with high school teachers. And many of them are also working to support high school teachers by finding CPAs to come into their classrooms to teach students about all the possibilities an accounting career affords.

 JS: The accounting profession competes with multiple prestigious fields including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for talented students. How can this program help draw more high performing students to major in accounting?

 YH: This program helps us in the competition for talent because it gives students a better understanding of the dynamic skill set that’s actually needed to thrive in today’s accounting profession. It debunks the myth that accounting and bookkeeping are the same thing by demonstrating how the profession integrates accounting knowledge with technology and analytics skills. It also gets to the business reason behind transactions.

And because accounting today often involves work with some ambiguity, we need students who have critical thinking skills entering the profession. I believe this course does a wonderful job of getting that message across to students while teaching them about the critical role accounts play in the wider business world and the global economy. For many students, it’s eye-opening and allows them to see the profession in a new light.

 JS: You spent time earlier in your career as an accounting professor. What are some advantages incoming freshman accounting students have if they’ve taken an advanced course in high school?

 YH: A high school course that gives students a realistic picture of what the accounting profession is all about provides students with the facts they need to make an informed decision on accounting as a college major earlier. We are seeing that students want to make career decision earlier – if they don’t have an accurate picture of what a career in accounting looks like, they may not be as likely to consider it.

In addition, even if they do not take the qualifying exam, they will have a leg up when  taking their first college accounting course. And if they do take the qualifying exam and receive credit for the course at a university, they will be ready to move to an upper level accounting course earlier and that can help motivate them to choose accounting as their major.

 JS: How can high school teachers or educators interested in going through the program or offering it at their school get more information?

YH: Teachers may find more information about our course and resources at https://www.startheregoplaces.com/APBP. And universities who are interested in the process for accepting the APBP course for college credit can contact. APBP@aicpa-cima.com.

James Schiavone, Senior Manager, Public Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants 

Originally published by AICPA.org