Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Bridging the Gap between Accounting Students and the Profession: A Case Study

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

Bridging the Gap between Accounting Students and the Profession: A Case Study

Article excerpt


This study addresses the gap between accounting educators and the profession. Research indicates accounting graduates are underprepared for this challenging career. The issue stems from accounting educators who only lecture and accounting students who memorize the information provided in these lectures. Accounting students need opportunities to build their professional skills through learning activities that mimic real-world situations. This qualitative study analyzes the perspectives of advanced accounting students before and after computer-assisted instruction to determine if they believe their critical thinking, communication and problem solving skills have improved. I conducted an analysis using an auditing simulation, semi-structured interviews before and after computer use, and reflective journals provided by advanced accounting students attending Central North Carolina universities. The auditing simulation introduced in the study created the opportunity for students to practice their knowledge of accounting and enhance their professional skills. The findings suggested students made a connection between concepts learned in course work and situations found in the accounting profession. The simulation built confidence in students and motivated them to learn more about enhancing skills necessary for the accounting profession. The evidence recommends accounting educators to use simulations as a supplemental learning tool in preparing accounting students for the profession. This study allows colleges, universities, and state accounting associations and societies to explore and conduct future research in using learning tools to enhance professional skills to bridge the gap between accounting students and the profession.

Keywords: accounting students, computer-assisted instruction, simulation game, critical thinking skills, communication skills, problem solving skills, professional skill set

1. Introduction

Many educators struggle with the pressures of preparing students with skills for the 21st century workforce. The Common Core State Standards implementation in the K-12 environment stresses higher-level skills in all subject areas. With this implementation, K-12 teachers are held accountable for students to achieve certain skills and knowledge by the end of each school year. Colleges and universities are not held to the same rigorous standards, yet these higher education institutions will graduate students who will be required to have certain skills to be valuable contributors to their profession. For the accounting profession, research has stated there is a problem between what accounting students can contribute to their profession after graduation and what practitioners need (Guyette, 2008; Jonick, 1998; Lightweis, 2011; Smith, 2006). The problem is accounting courses are taught by lecture and not through learning activities which challenge students to understand what lies ahead in the accounting profession (Guyette, 2008; Jonick, 1998; Lightweis, 2011). Additionally, these learning activities can build upon the professional skill set necessary to be successful as a practitioner.

Certified Public Accounting (CPA) firms have had to change the way they conduct audits due to the financial scandals in the early part of the 21st century. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 had mitigated financial scandals (Lightweis, 2011). However, with the arrest and conviction of Bernard Madoff in 2008, CPA firms continue to be on notice to conduct business with a high-level of professional responsibility the public and investors rely on (U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, 2009). If a CPA firm is found negligent in their professional responsibilities, fines and imprisonment can occur (Lightweis, 2011). CPA firms and other companies need to hire accountants who demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills to solve growing and complex financial information (Damito & Schmidgall, 2007; Guyette, 2008; Lightweis, 2011; Mastracchio, 2007). …

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