Academic journal article Issues in Accounting Education

No, the Sky Is Not Falling: Evidence of Accounting Student Characteristics at FSA Schools, 1995-2000

Academic journal article Issues in Accounting Education

No, the Sky Is Not Falling: Evidence of Accounting Student Characteristics at FSA Schools, 1995-2000

Article excerpt


This article presents the most recent results of an ongoing, longitudinal study of characteristics of accounting students conducted by the Federation of Schools of Accountancy (FSA). Surveys were administered to seniors and Master's students at FSA member schools in the United States in 1995 and again in 2000. Data regarding student characteristics in 1995 and 2000 are presented. Specifically, the study contains evidence pertaining to student quality, future educational plans, career plans, plans for professional certification, extracurricular involvement, attitude toward the 150-hour requirement, and various demographic dimensions.

The results of the survey do not coincide with those of other studies that have reported a decline in the quality of accounting students. On the contrary, our findings suggest that the quality of accounting students is not decreasing. Further research is necessary to more fully understand these contradictory findings and the direction and magnitude of any changes in student quality.

Other findings of this study include a reversal in the gender mix of graduate students, with females now comprising the majority. More graduate students are pursuing their studies full-time. The average age of students is declining. More accounting students are interested in taking the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam and pursuing careers in public accounting, while interest in the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam and in pursuing careers in industry are declining. Both seniors and Master's students indicate a very high level of support for five or more years of college education for the CPA. Student involvement in internship programs has nearly doubled since 1995, while involvement in extracurricular organizations has dropped. These results are relevant to many currently debated topics in accounting education--including the effects of the implementation of the 150-hour rule in many states.

"The sky is falling, the sky is falling," said Henny Penny. "I must go and tell the King."


Alarming reports about the quality of accounting students have recently been widely circulated. Fedoryshyn and Hintz (2000, 27, 32) reported, "Many firms have already indicated a problem finding the quantity and quality of new hires they need," and lamented, "To be successful, the profession of accounting needs to continue to attract the best and brightest or risk losing the status it has always enjoyed from the public and its own members." Hardin et al. (2000) referred to the inability of the accounting profession to attract the best and brightest students as "a crisis." In their widely distributed monograph, Accounting Education: Charting the Course through a Perilous Future, Albrecht and Sack (2000) devoted an entire chapter to the topic, "Fewer and Less Qualified Students Are Choosing Accounting as a Major," which described an alarming decrease in the number of students majoring in accounting. The monograph also reported that 44 percent of accounting faculty believes the quality of accounting students has decreased during the last five years. Albrecht and Sack (2000, 19-31) concluded that "not only is the quantity of our input down, but also...the perceived quality of the smaller group of students choosing accounting as a major is down."

Is the sky indeed falling, or have collegiate accounting programs merely been hit on the head by an acorn? The truth may be somewhere in between. Clearly, there is significant cause for concern. A recent study conducted by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA 2000) has verified some of Albrecht and Sack's (2000) findings with persuasive empirical evidence of an alarming decline in the quantity of accounting majors, which clearly merits a strategic response from the accounting community (see Boone and Coe 2002 for evidence that the decline reported by the AICPA may be overstated). …

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