Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

Case Study Competitions Give Accounting Students a Competitive Edge

Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

Case Study Competitions Give Accounting Students a Competitive Edge

Article excerpt

Students majoring in accounting are facing increasing competition in the job market as enrollments in the field continue to rise. Based on a national study conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), 2007-08 enrollments in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs achieved a 4.7% boost over the previous year, with an aggregate total of 213,000 students. (1) Therefore, the challenge for students is to determine how to distinguish themselves from other students with similar grades and learning experiences. One popular way is to participate in case study competitions in which teams of students are given practical application problems with which to assess their technical knowledge and problem-solving skills. Most of the cases require a written report and/or an oral presentation that assesses the students' communication skills. By participating in these events, future accountants are perfecting skills that will gain them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Because of the growing significance of case study competitions in preparing students for the workplace, accounting professionals and educators should be aware of these events, how they operate, and what can be done to facilitate them. To better inform the accounting community about case study contests, we will discuss several competitions to demonstrate that they are now significant components of college preparation, assess their value for participating students, and address the all-important role of the faculty advisor in the competitions. All accounting educators should consider engaging in this key method of preparing new accountants.


Teams from the accounting department at the University of Southern Indiana (USI) have enjoyed great success in case study competitions in recent years. The following three examples of such competitions demonstrate what students can accomplish by participating in these events and with coaching from faculty advisors and guidance from accounting professionals. They also demonstrate the prevalence of these types of competitions, show how they operate, and show that, through their participation, USI students--along with all other competitors--have gained valuable experience to use when applying for their first professional positions.

Indiana CPA Society Case Study Competition

A number of case study competitions operate at the state level. For instance, each year more than 30 Indiana colleges and universities with accounting programs are invited to participate in the Indiana CPA Society (INCPAS) Case Study Competition. This competition challenges the students with a practical project that requires them to utilize their knowledge, research abilities, technical skills, communication skills, and judgment in satisfying the requirements of the case. Four different USI students and a faculty advisor have participated in this competition as a case study team every year since it began in 2001. From 2004 through 2008, the USI case study team took first place.

The procedures of the INCPAS competition are representative of how these contests operate. The competition begins with INCPAS e-mailing the case study to participating faculty advisors. Teams of four undergraduate students then must research the problem, prepare a report, and submit the written case electronically within a 10-day time frame. The written case must address all requirements outlined in the case study and must include a two- to five-page executive summary. Next, a team of four to five judges (who are all practicing accountants) evaluates the submissions and selects six teams as finalists for oral presentations. The finalists make a 15- to 20-minute oral presentation of their findings and recommendations, and this is followed by a 10minute question-and-answer session. The oral presentations are held at the INCPAS offices in Indianapolis, and the awards are presented at the Society's annual "CPA Celebration. …

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