Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Accounting Student Perceptions of Characteristics Necessary for Success: A Comparison with Those Cited by Professionals

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Accounting Student Perceptions of Characteristics Necessary for Success: A Comparison with Those Cited by Professionals

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The inability of accounting firms to recruit, hire, and maintain accounting professionals that possess the technical, analytical, communication, and social skills needed by accounting firms prompted the formation of the Accounting Education Change Commission. The Bedford Committee of the American Accounting Association (1986) and the so called "white paper" of the then Big-Eight accounting firms (Perspectives ..., 1989) laid the blame for this crises on educational institutions. They charged that colleges were not attracting sufficient numbers of quality students into the accounting profession, the accounting curriculum lacked relevance, and that the skills and attributes of students were not being adequately developed. These charges may have been leveled against accounting education without consideration for other factors that might influence the characteristics of accounting graduates.

Of the many factors that influence students' career choice, it seems top students perception of accounting plays a large role in the decision to major or not major in accounting. In attempts to develop programs to attract sufficient numbers of quality students into accounting it is critical to understand what role these perceptions play. That top non-accounting students have a negative perception of accounting has been documented (Hermanson et al., 1995)

Students in all business disciplines tend to choose an area of study either in high school or soon after entering college with less than 15% delaying the decision past the sophomore year (Hermanson et al., 1995). This evidence of the early selection of a career seems to indicate that the choice is often made on general knowledge and perceptions developed before students enter the more strenuous and technical intermediate and upper level classes in their chosen field. Introductory classes in all business disciplines are required of most business majors. These classes are most often of general nature and fulfill introductory requirements of students in many business disciplines. They are, therefore, often presented to classes attended by students with a wide variety of declared business majors. One must suspect then, that all students have been exposed to similar amounts and quality of information before the career-choice decision is made. The questions that beg answers are, "Why do some students choose accounting while others eschew it as boring?" and, "Do the perceptions of accounting upon which career choices are made differ for accounting and non-accounting students?"

RELEVANT LITERATURE

Considerable research has been done on why students choose accounting as a profession, why they transfer into or out of the discipline, and what they expect of an accounting career. In a study comparing accounting majors to other business majors Case (1988) found that although earnings potential was the top criteria attracting freshmen to accounting, they also place high emphasis on career options as the number two choice, and on aptitude, intellectual challenge, and interesting subject matter as other important criteria. In an examination of the importance accounting and non-accounting business students place on job characteristics, it was found that accounting students place a higher value on long term financial rewards than do non-accounting students (Hermanson et al., 1995). Accounting students also perceived the prestige of accounting, the contributions accountants make to society, and the level of ethics practiced by accountants to be higher than did non-accounting business students. The authors point out that accounting fails to attract the "best and brightest" students because students in other business disciplines:

(1) are influenced by more immediate rewards available in other fields due to relatively higher starting salaries,

(2) are concerned about the personal liability and litigation risks of accounting,

(3) perceive other business areas to be more exciting than financial accounting,

(4) are repelled by the bookkeeping approach used in the first accounting classes,

(5) think that accounting firms are sweat shops, and

(6) accept the "bean counter" image of accountants. …

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