Academic journal article Academy of Accounting and Financial Studies Journal

The Effect of the Level of Accounting Degree Obtained on Recruiters' Perceptions of Accounting Graduates

Academic journal article Academy of Accounting and Financial Studies Journal

The Effect of the Level of Accounting Degree Obtained on Recruiters' Perceptions of Accounting Graduates

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Most states have a 150-hour coursework requirement to qualify to take the CPA exam or become licensed, but the requirements do not mandate a master's degree. Students planning to take the CPA exam must obtain additional hours by taking more courses, but not all students pursue a master's degree.

This study is divided into two phases. The first phase examines whether recruiters of accounting graduates pursue a student receiving a master's degree more aggressively than a student receiving a bachelor's degree. The results show no difference in how actively a graduate is recruited based on the level of degree obtained. The second phase examines the relative importance that recruiters place on certain characteristics of the recruit. The results show that recruiters feel that a master's degree is not important, but communication skills and computer skills are important.

Master's degree programs need revision to make them valuable to recruiters, and accounting programs need to broaden the goals of their curricula. The results provide useful information to administrators who are making changes to their curricula because of the 150-hour requirement. The results also provide students and companies that plan to hire accounting graduates with useful information to plan their education and recruiting tactics, respectively.

INTRODUCTION

For several years, individuals in many states have been required to earn 150 semester hours of coursework to qualify to take the CPA exam or for licensure. This 150-hour requirement has been hotly debated almost since its inception. Supporters of the 150-hour requirement argue that new accounting hires should perform their jobs better if they are required to take the extra courses before beginning their careers. By performing their jobs better, the public will be better served (Nelson, 1991). Detractors feel that some accounting students may not be willing to forego employment for another year of college (Bernard, 1996). Anecdotal evidence from accounting students at a regional university in the southeastern U.S. indicates that starting salaries for students with a bachelor's degree are not much lower than for students with a master's degree, so students might not feel that spending another year in school is worth the small reward. Either way, the 150-hour requirement is probably here to stay in most of the jurisdictions that currently have such a requirement.

This study examines whether recruiters of accounting students perceive a difference between students who graduate with 150 hours of credit and a bachelor's degree in accounting and those who graduate with a master's degree in accounting. Prior studies regarding graduate versus undergraduate hours in accounting seem to have contradicting results. Clarifying previous results will provide useful information to administrators who plan to make changes to their curricula because of the 150-hour requirement and recent criticisms of accounting education. This study also examines the relative importance of certain characteristics of accounting graduates to recruiters. These results will provide useful information to students who plan to major in accounting and to potential employers who plan to hire accounting graduates.

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the purpose of requiring students to have 150 semester hours of coursework is to improve the overall quality of the work performed by CPAs (AICPA, 1999). The 150-hour requirement is one of three initiatives (the 150-hour requirement, continuing professional education (CPE) and peer review) started by the AICPA to ensure future quality of the work performed by CPAs. CPAs in today's business environment are confronted with advancing technology, an increasingly complex business environment, and a continuous demand for accounting and assurance services. In many cases, the services that society wants require specialization, technical knowledge, and general knowledge of how businesses work. …

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