Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

How to Conduct a Successful Accounting Field Trip

Academic journal article Management Accounting Quarterly

How to Conduct a Successful Accounting Field Trip

Article excerpt

THE SECRET IS COLLABORATION AMONG FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND THE COMPANY THEY ARE VISITING. SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT POINTS TO REMEMBER ARE TO PLAN AHEAD, CREATE AN AGENDA FOR THE VISIT, AND WORK OUT THE LOGISTICS WITH COMPANY PERSONNEL.

The decline of student interest in accounting as a career choice has been well documented over the past few years. In their survey of accounting faculty, Steve Albrecht and Robert Sack found several reasons why fewer qualified students are majoring in accounting: (1) 39% of the faculty think the most important reason is that starting salaries are less than in other disciplines, (2) 18% think the most important reason is that students do not understand how challenging and rewarding the accounting profession is, and (3) almost 11% think the most important reason is that accounting is perceived as less challenging and rewarding than other fields of study.1

These faculty perceptions are quite different from the way practicing management accountants view their work. The Institute of Management Accountants' study Counting More, Counting Less indicates that practicing management accountants view their work as extremely challenging and rewarding and that they get great psychic income from the value they bring to business decision making.2 As Albrecht and Sack note, "Working in the accounting/finance area of a business organization is perceived as the most challenging and rewarding career."3 The problem is not that accounting work lacks challenges, excitement, and rewards. The problem is the perception among students considering a major in accounting. Based on the survey results, these students do not perceive the accounting profession as challenging, exciting, and rewarding as practitioners do. How can we solve this problem?

ADDRESSING THE ISSUE

Many recommendations regarding how to increase accounting enrollments focus on classroom-related activities, such as course content (what is taught in accounting courses) and pedagogy (how accounting courses are taught). The faculty reward system also receives its share of criticism because of the perception that research is rewarded too heavily while the importance of teaching is slighted. Of course, such criticism implies a definite demarcation between these two activities, but in practice there may be synergistic effects.4 While there is a definite need to examine all classroom-related aspects of accounting education in an attempt at improvement, activities outside the classroom must not be ignored.

Such extracurricular activities generally include Beta Alpha Psi and IMA student chapter meetings. Outside speakers at these meetings provide students a welcome relief from the instructors to whom they listen two or three times a week. Such meetings also may generate a spark of interest in the accounting profession, at least temporarily.

A few years ago, IMA commissioned the Gary Siegel Organization to do a research project to determine the educational needs of entry-level management accountants (What Corporate America Wants in Entry-Level Accountants).5 One of the recommendations from the project was to strengthen the relationship between corporate America and accounting educators.

In another IMA-commissioned study, the authors are more specific regarding how this relationship can be strengthened. Accounting educators are called upon to meet with practicing management accountants and visit their companies, and corporations are encouraged to become more involved in the academic community through advisory boards, guest speaker activities, and plant visits.6 One of the specific recommendations for professional associations is to "communicate with accounting students to dispel the outdated stereotype of the green-eye-shaded accountant cloistered in a remote part of the organization; they should let accounting students know about the changes in the profession, in the evolving role and image of management accountants, and in what will be expected of them on the job. …

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