Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Evidence on the Association between Major and Performance in the Introductory Financial Accounting Course

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Evidence on the Association between Major and Performance in the Introductory Financial Accounting Course

Article excerpt


Dramatic changes in the accounting profession in the last two decades seem to have changed the landscape of accounting education. As a primary source of supply of professionals to the industry, the accounting major in higher education has experienced ups and downs in popularity. Researchers have been concerned with the decrease in accounting students and have considered various strategies for attracting students to accounting (e. g., Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Adams, Pryor, & Adams, 1994; Lowe & Simons, 1997) and retaining qualified students in accounting (Adams et al., 1994). Previous literature has shown that the student experience and performance in the first accounting course is one of the most significant factors associated with the student perception of pursuing a career in the field (Geiger & Ogilby, 2000; Chen, Jones & McIntyure, 2008). Understanding the characteristics of the students choosing accounting as their academic major could assist accounting educators in structuring accounting courses and advising students in career development.

In the past, the two primary research methods used to examine the association between student characteristics and choice of major have been surveys and experiments. In both methods, data is collected from students through self-reporting, leading to the possibility of self selection bias. Subjects may choose to select themselves into a particular sample, potentially leading to biased results and invalid inference. Unlike prior studies, this study employs data that were collected by the authors from an academic database. The data represent objective measurements of student characteristics and performance in reality. The empirical examination of data free of self selection provides an objective and fresh perspective on the link between student performance in the first accounting course and major. The results of this study supplement the findings from self-reported data and present a broad view on the factors influencing student choice of major. This study offers accounting educators and researchers insights into the association between student performance and major selection.


Prior research exploring the selection of majors by undergraduate students has shown that the student choice is based on multiple reasons, including but not limited to, career perspectives, expectation of job opportunities, stability of the career, and personal interest and skill set (e.g., Cohen & Hannon, 1993; Lowe & Simons, 1997; Kim, Markham, & Cangelosi, 2002; Guney, 2009). Researchers have examined the motivations of the students in major selection using various research methodologies. Most of the research methods are based on self reported data collected in surveys and questionnaires (e.g., Kim et al., 2002; Guney, 2009). Other studies have used experiments to investigate the psychological and behavioral aspects of the student major selection (e.g., Cohen & Hanno, 1993).

Using a cognitive-based theory, Cohen and Hanno (1993) examined the student choice of major in an experimental setting. Their findings indicated that success in introductory courses, math background, and work load were among the factors influencing a student's decision on the major (Cohen & Hanno, 1993). Lowe and Simons (1997) collected data from a survey and reported that external factors such as future earnings and career options motivated second year college students in selecting accounting as their major. Using data collected from the management school of a British university, Guney (2009) utilizes an econometric model to examine the exogenous and endogenous factors associated with student performance in accounting courses. The results corroborate the previous findings that the non-accounting students are more likely to be poor performers in undergraduate accounting modules than in courses in other fields (Guney, 2009).

Paolillo and Estes (1982) found that most accounting professionals chose a major in the second year of college or before. …

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