Nearly 100 members of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants traveled to high schools statewide last month with the goal of increasing awareness and enthusiasm for a career as a CPA.
For the past 10 years, about 100 members of the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants have visited high schools across the state to discuss the career opportunities that are available to students who study accounting. This year was no exception: 93 members traveled throughout the state in November, speaking to some 4,000 students about accounting as part of NJCPA’s Pay It Forward campaign.
The Pay It Forward program “was developed at a time when enrollment in accounting majors had declined,” NJCPA Membership and Engagement Director Carolyn Hook told Associations Now. Even though enrollment in accounting programs has since increased, the program continues and now includes a scholarship component. In 2015, the NJCPA Scholarship Fund awarded $568,500 to 105 high school and college students to support their accounting studies.
NJCPA wanted to accomplish a couple of things through the program, according to Communications Manager Dave Plaskow. One was to plant a seed in the minds of high school students about what kind of career they may be interested in, and another was to clear up misconceptions about the accounting profession. “Ask a kid what an accountant does, and they’ll tell you it is boring, mundane work,” Plaskow said. Instead, NJCPA wants to show students the cool things accountants do, whether that’s working for sports teams or for the FBI tracking terrorist funds.
Members who participate can choose to present at a high school in the town they live in or travel back to their alma mater. Even though every presentation includes a NJCPA-produced video, Hook said members are asked to personalize their talks by sharing their story and why they enjoy being a CPA. In addition, they show students that accountants are needed in every industry and every company—whether food, fashion, or pretty much any other interest they may have.
NJCPA member Daniel Barbera said he participated in the program because it’s his way of giving back to students. “If I can find one student that falls in love with the accounting profession that otherwise wouldn’t have, then I feel I did my Pay It Forward duty,” Barbera said.
Pay It Forward may have been designed to increase interest in studying accounting, but the program doesn’t end once a student declares an accounting major. “We try to be there to help them progress in college, study and pass the CPA exam, get situated at an employer, and to advance their skills,” Plaskow said. “We take them from high school to retirement.”