Practitioner and Educator Preferences regarding Accounting Curriculum Meeting the 150-Hour Requirement

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INTRODUCTION

Education, experience, and examination have long been the mainstays of preparation for entry into the public accounting profession. Recognizing that examination for certification and licensure is important, the Uniform Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination is a national standard that does not vary from state to state. Therefore, this study focused on the first two requirements--education and experience--noting the diversity among accounting programs and licensing jurisdictions in addition to the controversy that has developed from such disparate conditions. While some form of a 150-hour requirement is in place among most of the 55 jurisdictions, there are considerable differences regarding the amount and type of work experience that precedes licensure. Correspondingly, subjects and courses, as well as the level of education vary considerably from one accounting program to the next.

For decades, there have been calls for more research related to the structure of accounting programs (Rebele, 2002) with others (Allen & Woodland, 2006) questioning the academic content for inclusion in the 150-hours. The purpose of this study was to address such matters by comparing curricular preferences of CPAs working in public accounting with accounting educators who are preparing students for entry into practice. Acquiring information via an opinion survey from both practitioners and educators is appropriate in addressing concerns of curriculum developers and policy makers who deliberate academic studies and work experience for entry-level accountants. The specific preferences examined included program structure and time requirements with consideration given to the 150-hour requirement, program specialization, experiential requirements for licensure and appropriateness of subjects/courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.

BACKGROUND

Experience is complementary to formal education by promoting intellectual growth of the individual when introducing new problems for exploration (Dewey, 1938). The notion of relevant experience following formal education as the preferred method of educating accountants permeates accounting education literature (American Accounting Association, 1972; American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, 1969; Perry, 1955). Pragmatic underpinnings elicit input from both practitioners and educators resulting in a deliberate accounting curriculum tempered by self-imposed checks. However, the linkage between academic theory and accounting practice also creates considerable disagreement among stakeholders as to the preferred accounting curriculum.

Two foundation reports--Ford and Carnegie--recommended a liberal arts undergraduate education followed by additional graduate study focusing on the vocational direction of the student (Gordon & Howell, 1959; Pierson, 1959). Supporting scholarship beyond the undergraduate level, the Horizons Study advocated that preparation for public accounting eventually include graduate study (Roy & MacNeill, 1967). The accounting core was defined as "what every accounting major should take (know)" (Ferrara, 1975, p. 224-225) after the introductory course. A follow-up study surveyed accounting practitioners and accounting educators to identify what the common accounting core should be (Flaherty, 1979) and supported specialization in the educational process but did not address details regarding program structure and time requirements.

By 1986, both the American Accounting Association (AAA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recommended adoption of a 150-hour requirement for those entering the profession (Langenderfer, 1987). However, acceptance of a 150-hour requirement by AICPA members did little to unify accounting curriculum among the academic community. Rumble (1998) reported that while many accounting programs have made modifications to meet the requirement, various models exist among Midwestern colleges and universities resulting in a diverse set of curricular requirements. …