Breaking down barriers to the CPA

Earning a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license drives audit quality by developing accounting knowledge and skills, professional skepticism and knowledge of financial reporting standards and compliance.

A CPA license is table stakes.

Our clients expect that the professionals working on their audit are CPAs. However, obtaining a CPA license, and entering the audit profession itself, may be a challenge for some. Building a skilled and diverse workforce is critical because team members bring varied viewpoints and different skill sets to ensure we meet the unique needs of each specific client and industry. We're proud to do our part to ensure underrepresented[1] voices are part of the audit industry.

What’s at stake: 

  • Auditors are constrained without their CPA license, and studying nights and weekends can be a difficult, frustrating experience. 
  • The CPA exam is notoriously difficult with about half of candidates passing each section, according to the AICPA
  • For many potential candidates, the time and associated cost of a fifth year of classes, examination and tutor fees can easily outweigh the opportunity cost of sitting for the exam.
  • Taking time to study for the exam while maintaining a full-time job and, in many cases, a family is no easy feat. As a result, many professionals postpone their exams, ultimately delaying their career development. 
  • The requirements can be even bigger barriers to entry for underrepresented candidates who may not have the financial wherewithal to pay for tutoring or take time off to study. Our initiatives work to break these barriers and open the door to the CPA license and the audit profession.

The CPA Evolution initiative is transforming the CPA licensure model to recognize the rapidly changing skills and competencies the practice of accounting requires today and will require in the future.

What we’re doing: Filling KPMG's ranks with skilled and knowledgeable audit professionals and enabling them to progress their talents and careers:

1.      Support for current employees:

o   A refreshed CPA Center, partnering with Becker to provide resources such as flexible study plans and coaching.

o   Career Aspirations, a mentoring program targeted at senior associates with three or more years of experience who were not eligible to be promoted to manager because they had not earned their CPA license. Mentees meet with partners to learn how to navigate their career or earn their CPA with KPMG's support.

2.      Support for new hires:  

o   Our CPA Kickstart program reduces inequities in the CPA pipeline and supports career development of underrepresented talent entering the audit profession

o   A $3 million investment in our people

o   A two-month, 40 hour-per-week program that provides new hires with the time, compensation and full benefits to transition to full-time work seamlessly.

o   While certain undergraduate and fifth-year programs provide extensive support in passing the CPA exam, students coming from less traditional academic paths or smaller programs have a steeper hill to climb.

Key stats:

  • Launched in 35 offices, enrolled about 225 new hires, with professionals of color making up 50% of enrollment in 2022. 

3.      Support for future recruits:

o   Our Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics program, or MADA, is an award-winning, practical program that provides students with specialized skills so they can hit the ground running with the latest analytics technology in today’s data-driven accounting environment.

o   Collaboration with 15 universities to provide educational and financial support, including by offering credit hours that go toward the 150 credit hours required to be CPA eligible.

o   This year, MADA expanded to new schools, including four Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

o   These schools will receive $7 million in scholarship funding over three years to support students.

Key stat: To date –nearly $800,000 in scholarships have been awarded to 73 students.

o   Embark Scholars program provides early access to career development and practical experiences that help students of color grow into future KPMG leaders.

o   Rise Leadership Institute works with high-performing first- and second-year college students who identify as a person of color, veteran, person with disability, LGBTQ+ individual, or first-generation college student.

o   Catalyst Program: Helps students explore the world of the professional services industry. This program is designed to increase the interest and awareness of careers in tax and audit at professional services firms using a mix of videos and activities featuring professionals in each discipline.


The CPA exam can be a barrier to entry in the audit profession, particularly for underrepresented groups. Our initiatives ease the process for potential candidates, new hires and experienced professionals. Whether the challenge is financial, a lack of time for proper studying, or miseducation about the exam, KPMG is dedicated to breaking down the barriers to CPA certification.

(1)Underrepresented refers to communities with social, religious, ethnic, racial, gendered sexual orientation characteristics whose representation in the audit industry is historically low - Black, Hispanic/Latinx, indigenous people, and the LGBTQIA+ community.


Authored by:

Billy Williams
Audit Partner, KPMG US

Jackie Gordon
Audit Partner, KPMG US