High-School Accounting Needs Broader Scope

By Grumet, Louis | The CPA Journal, January 2010 | Go to article overview

High-School Accounting Needs Broader Scope


Grumet, Louis, The CPA Journal


In the November 2009 issue of The CPA Journal, I argued for requiring a master's degree in accounting, a position the Society has advocated for more than a year. We believe that graduate-level CPA candidates will generally be better prepared than those who follow the traditional work model or those who obtain only a bachelor's degree.

Unfortunately, in many instances, students are ill-prepared to study accounting before they even set foot on a college campus. There is a strong need to develop more serious course work in accounting at the high-school level in order to introduce the benefits of an accounting career and to better prepare tomorrow's accountants.

I have spoken with college professors who share the same sentimenL It seems as if there is a trend of high-school graduates hoping to study accounting who are not ready for college-level courses. The math skills are not there. The communication skills are not there. More importantly, the critical-tfrkking skills that are needed in the accounting profession are not there.

College professors are spending more time remediating those skills in Accounting 101 than in actually teaching students all of the elements that go into making a successful accountant.

At some high schools, accounting courses have been driven out of the curriculum because they don't prepare students for college or because the school decided the resources weren't there to properly teach such a class. It's a maddening conundrum: In these unstable economic times, many people feel there is a need for young students to have a foothold in financial education earlier and earlier, and yet at some schools students aren't offered even a basic course on the principles of accounting, much less how to balance a checkbook.

Don't Inhibit Bigger Thinking

At other high schools, accounting courses are offered, but the classes don't follow a traditional textbook-style of teaching. Rather, like in many high school subjects, worksheets are used and instructors teach to the exams and state assessments. That would be like teaching about the Civil War, its important battles, and the principal characters involved without explaining the broader context of why we went to war. In many ways, this obscures the bigger picture.

And at some high schools, the accounting courses are nothing more than glorified bookkeeping classes, and many do not even emphasize the double-entry system, which might be even worse than no course at all.

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