Create your roadmap: Individual ‘Pathway to CPA’ poster

Many students think of high school as a four-year preparation for getting into college, but often don’t have a plan for what comes after that. Obviously, plans and minds can change, however, taking the time to consider life after college is an invaluable exercise. That’s why this future-focused activity prompts students to think about their own unique path—both in terms of immediate next steps as well as long-term aspirational goals. 

This exercise uses the Pathway to CPA feature on as a guide to help students create their own individual roadmap, should they decide to become a CPA in the future. Before getting started, consider downloading our classroom resource Potential, Prestige & Purpose: A Primer to the Accounting Profession courtesy of our sister site, It’s brimming with valuable information you can use to guide class conversations throughout this roadmap project to help students better understand and expand their view of the CPA profession and all it could mean for their futures.

Once your students are familiar with the ‘Pathway to CPA,’ they’re ready to get started. Each student will need their own poster board to build their visualized pathway. Whether they embellish it with their own drawings, magazine cutouts, printed web images or another medium is completely up to them. Just like their futures, the posters should be uniquely theirs. 

Their first step is to prepare for college. Students earlier in their tenure will generate ideas for high school classes and extracurricular activities that will help prepare them for advanced education, while students who are close to college will focus on selecting their top choice university (or universities) and making a list of the things they are most looking forward to. This can include organizations they’d like to join, classes they’d like (or need) to take, skills they’d like to build, where they’d like to have their accounting internships, whether they plan on having a job while in school, what drew them to their particular university, etc. 

The next step is to graduate. Students should focus on the feelings they think they’ll have once they’ve tackled this huge accomplishment—such as how proud they’ll be, what it would mean if they were the first college graduate in their family, how scary or exciting it might feel to enter the real world, etc. 

Next up is to land their first job out of school. Where do your students see themselves working for their first accounting job? In public accounting at one of the Big Four? In corporate accounting at IKEA? At a non-profit that helps animals? At any accounting firm they can find, as long as it’s in Costa Rica? Encourage students to have fun while they research their ideal entry-level accounting jobs and their required duties. 

Once students have figured out their first job (and started the clock for their states’ experience requirements), their next step is to study for the CPA Exam. Take this opportunity to talk to your students about the basics of the Exam and all the benefits of becoming a Certified Public Accountant. For this part of their posters, students can research potential study guides and programs, the order in which they’d like to take each of the four Exam sections, techniques for managing stress and tips for improving their study habits. 

After completing the CPA Exam, their next step is to complete the licensure process and become a bona fide CPA. Woohoo! Similar to the college graduation step, students will share their feelings about reaching such a prestigious goal, what they want to do with their CPA, how they will celebrate, who they think will have been their biggest supporters, if they think their licensure will come with a raise or promotion, etc. 

As CPAs, your students’ options for jobs and career advancement will open up like never before, so the next step is to consider their CPA dream job. Maybe it’s owning their own business. Or becoming a partner at a prestigious firm. Or CFO for their favorite brand. As an added challenge, have them choose a specialization that would help them land their ideal role. For example, if a student’s dream is to manage recording artists’ money, it would serve them well to pursue their designation as a Personal Financial Planner (PFP). This step is a great segue for discussing additional certifications they can get as CPAs—as well as the wide array of jobs that will become available to them. 

Once the posters are complete, students can share them in small groups, with the class at large or simply display them around your classroom. While many of the details within these steps are based on speculation, studies show that the simple act of envisioning future events in detail significantly improves their chances of becoming real. With patience and persistence, things might just go as planned. 

Lesson plan