Generational Viewpoints: Help with a Hurdle

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This edition of Generational Viewpoints features three professionals from Burr Pilger Mayer Inc., a Top 100 Firm with over 400 employees with locations in California, Hong Kong and the Cayman Islands ( We asked Baby Boomer assurance partner Jeff Pearson, Millennial manager Melodie Olson and Baby Boomer chief people officer Beth Baldwin to share their perspectives on the following question: “How much and what kind of support do you think a firm should provide to CPA Exam candidates?”



At our firm, we believe that we have to facilitate and support our professionals to pass the CPA Exam. And, as a partner, I have a vested interest in ensuring that my assurance professionals pass.

Our firm helps our people make progress toward getting their CPA license in several ways, including:

We have pushed back the start date for new hires each year so that they can study for the CPA Exam in the summer, allowing them to complete some parts of the exam before joining. This is strongly encouraged and supported with a bonus when accomplished.

We also offer time off or a leave of absence in the summer or fall months to study for the exam.

If a person is progressing to be a manager but has not completed the exam, we will mutually free up their schedule and block off time so that they can study for the exam.

I meet some Baby Boomer leaders who reflect back on the lack of support we had when taking the exam and who seem to resent the support our profession must provide to our next generation in their pursuit of their license. We don’t see it that way. Our goal is to make it possible for our staff and seniors to pass the exam — because we all win when we do.



The level of support required to pass the CPA Exam depends on the individual, their performance, work ethic and dedication. I personally benefited from BPM’s flexibility in taking time off to study for the exams. When I was already four years into my career, I was struggling to balance the workload I had taken on with my personal feelings of responsibility to the partners, and the needs of my staff and my clients. This resulted in studying for the CPA Exam often coming last in my priorities. It was not until the partners and the firm brought my CPA study time into their priorities that I felt I could take time to study, and only at that point was I successful at putting in the time and finally being able to pass the exam.

Once the firm was behind me, I was able to schedule one to two weeks prior to each exam when studying became my job. While I still took urgent calls or answered e-mails, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I was in a library studying.

Instead of being frustrated with the fatigue of trying to study after work or on the weekends over several months to prepare for the exam (which had previously led to several failed attempts), I saw success in being able to prioritize studying. The firm’s commitment to my growth allowed me to finish the exam and move forward in my career.



We want to ensure that our incoming staff feel encouraged and supported in passing the exam.

We provide support to employees in the following ways:

  • We allow client service staff to take up to 16 hours (one time) paid time off to sit for the exam, and have a specific work code for that.
  • We have updated our bonus policy for the following achievements: New incoming staff who pass all four parts of the exam prior to starting employment with our firm receive $7,000, while staff who pass all four parts of the exam within the first year of employment receive $5,000, and staff who pass all four parts of the exam within the first two years of employment receive a $2,500 bonus.

  • We pay a one-time cost of either the Roger Philipp CPA Review or the Becker Professional Education course. We also provide external coaching with a CPA who can hold the employees accountable for passing the exam.
  • Competition in attracting and recruiting talent in the profession continues to increase, while the number of accounting graduates who are sitting for the exam has decreased over recent years. For these reasons, our firm has made it a priority to ensure that we take responsibility to ensure that our people have the support and resources they need to obtain their CPA licenses.

    This column is facilitated and edited by Brianna Johnson, the Millennial consultant, and Jennifer Wilson, the Baby Boomer co-founder and partner of ConvergenceCoaching LLC, a leadership and marketing coaching and training and development firm that specializes in helping leaders achieve success. To have your firm’s generational viewpoints considered for a future Accounting Tomorrow column, e-mail them at

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