African American Students' Perceptions of Careers in Governmental Accounting: A New Millennium Glance

Article excerpt


The migration of baby boomers into has created a human capital crisis in many arenas in the United States.1 For these workers, the recession is also redefining retirement as they are planning to work longer. The shortage of young talent entering various fields of study is even more acute in the field of accounting. With the adoption of the 150 hour rule by most states in order to attain the CPA certification, some believe that accounting is becoming a less attractive option for college students.2 Various efforts are made each year to increase the supply of accounting majors. The major interest groups are university accounting programs and potential employers looking to replace retirees. Among these potential employers are public accounting firms, private industry companies, government agencies, and nonprofits. The limited supply of accounting graduates has increased competition for these four employers. Students are at an advantage of potentially having multiple job offerings, which leads to the question of which initial career path is seen as most desirable by accounting students.

Previous studies have shown that careers in governmental accounting are the least desirable among these career options.3 Within the next five years, 30-50% of accountants in government agencies will be eligible for retirement.4 This has motivated increased efforts by both state and federal governments to improve the awareness of opportunities in governmental accounting. The Association of Government Accountants (AGA) has been instrumental in helping to address the human capital and identity crisis by creating a task force and improving awareness of careers in governmental accounting.5 This is evident in the annual Government Finance Case Challenge competition sponsored by AGA since 2007 and their annual issuance of academic scholarships.

Additionally, over the past several decades, public, private, and governmental organizations have made efforts to increase diversity in the workplace, including accounting areas.6 Although these efforts create added opportunities in accounting for minorities in organizations across the United States, recent studies show that African Americans make up only about 5% of CPA exam candidates7 and 1% of current CPAs.8 Mitchell and Flintall9 (1990) however, showed that there was a steady increase in the number of African Americans joining the accounting profession.

The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) has launched several initiatives to increase diversity in the field of accounting. These efforts include minority scholarships on the undergraduate, masters, and doctoral levels, as well as other programs and activities designed to increase minority representation.10 The KPMG Foundation has also been instrumental in pioneering efforts to increase minority PhDs through the PhD Project.

Previous studies have focused on overall student perceptions.11 However, we will extend those studies to exclusively examine African American students' perceptions of careers in governmental accounting. This study should assist government accounting recruiters by making them aware of potential advantages and obstacles when competing for minority accounting students.

Literature Background

Over 20 years ago, Shivaswamy and Hanks conducted a study to investigate why so few accounting students sought careers in governmental accounting.12 They surveyed over 700 accounting students in the spring quarter of 1984 at a single university in the Midwest. The study analyzed perceptions of earnings, opportunities for innovation, opportunities for advancement, job and financial security, and non-monetary rewards. Results of this study indicated that students approaching graduation and with higher GPAs were not favorably inclined toward governmental accounting.

In 1992, McKenzie took a second look at the perceptions of students toward governmental accounting and found similar results to the 1984 study. …