Financial literacy is vital for everyone, but some states resist adding it to their required high school curricula due to challenges like course scheduling and having enough teachers. However, a growing shortage of accountants may help convince more policymakers that requiring a one-semester Personal Financial Literacy class in high school is worth the investment. In recent years, even large companies have been unable to fill accounting positions, resulting in delays in workflow and increased risk of financial mismanagement. More accountants are retiring than entering the field, increasing the shortage year after year.
Fortunately, some organizations are stepping in to fix the shortage. To help boost the number of prospective accountants, some large accounting firms are investing their own money in high school programs.
Paid Internships and Paid-For Dual Credit Classes May Attract Teens to the Field
Many teens, especially in states where a Personal Financial Literacy class is not required for high school, have little knowledge of accounting. They are likely to believe the stereotype that accounting is “boring” and lacks energy, pizzazz, and sex appeal. One strategy to improve the image and reputation of accounting as a career is to introduce it to teens early, such as through valuable opportunities. In New York City, major accounting firm Deloitte is offering a paid-for dual credit program beginning this fall.
High school juniors and seniors will be able to earn three credit-hours in Intro to Financial Accounting through the University of Pittsburgh, giving them college credit. This program, coinciding with the recent increase in dual enrollment among academically-motivated high school students, will help introduce accounting to many who may never have considered it as a career field. Although accounting is rarely described as exciting, it is frequently praised as a strong career choice with above-average earning potential, good job security, and many different specialties of practice. NYC teens who discover that they excel at Intro to Financial Accounting may decide to consider it as a major when they enter college.
Another major accounting firm, KPMG, is also trying to get teens excited about accounting. It is offering $20-per-hour paid summer internships to high school students entering their senior year. The internship program includes perks like a clothing budget, direct mentorships, and business leadership classes to help teens in areas beyond the nuts-and-bolts of accounting itself. Both Deloitte and KPMG are hoping that their investment will pay off as some of today’s teenagers complete the path to becoming Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). To widen their talent pool further, the Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, KPMG, Pricewaterhouse Coopers [PwC], and Ernst & Young) should all lobby state legislatures to require completion of a one-semester Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) course for high school graduation.
Ideally, Deloitte’s dual credit program could be expanded nationwide and sponsored by all of the Big Four accounting firms. Many colleges and universities across the country offer Intro to Accounting courses that could be taken by high school juniors and seniors for dual credit. If Big Four firms could even subsidize some of the cost, perhaps working in conjunction with school districts and state education agencies, they could net hundreds of new accounting majors with each high school graduating class. These numbers would grow as more states require PFL courses in high school, with academically-motivated students choosing to take the PFL course dual credit to maximize their college readiness.