Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Accounting Employers' Expectations - the Ideal Accounting Graduates

Academic journal article e-Journal of Business Education and Scholarship Teaching

Accounting Employers' Expectations - the Ideal Accounting Graduates

Article excerpt


There is a perception that an 'expectation gap' exists. The perceived gap is between the skills and attributes accounting graduates gain from university and those expected and/or required by employers of these graduates (Botes, 2009; Garner & Smith, 2010; Low, Samkin & Liu 2013; Marshall, Dombroski, Jackling & De Lange, 2009). A number of researchers (Bui & Porter, 2010; Botes, 2009; De Lange, Jackling & Gut, 2006; Kavanagh & Drennan, 2008) also indicate that employers continue to find accounting graduates not "work ready." Low et al (2013) found that accounting graduates believed that soft skills acquired at tertiary institutions were mostly as a result of non-accounting courses. Botes (2009) interviewed 200 accounting practitioners in South Africa and found that nearly three quarters (69%) of the practitioners, held the opinion that "graduate employees were not "immediately suited to the world of work" (p.207) because they lacked the required skills and attributes. Albrecht and Sack, (2000) and Bowden and Masters (1993) not only hold the opinion that there is a gap, but an increase in the gap between education and practice which necessitates alteration of the curriculum.

Studies conducted by Botes (2009); Jackling and de Lange (2009); and Kavanagh and Drennan (2008) have been important in drawing attention to the fact that there is a gap. In order to maintain the momentum of these significant findings, the issues highlighted in these studies should be pursued further and within different contexts if accounting graduates are to remain relevant to practice. The research objective of this paper is therefore to investigate the extent to which the employer 'expectation gap' exists within the New Zealand (NZ) context. This has been explored by asking accounting employers in NZ, which specific skills/attributes/competencies they require accounting graduates to have? Further attention has been paid as to whether the desired skills, attributes, and competencies differ based on the industry sector and size of the accounting employer. This research provides clarification on the 'expectation gap' between accounting employers and graduating students in NZ and establishes which qualities accounting employers are looking for in the 'ideal' accounting graduate. This study contributes to the current literature by providing recent results about the significance of the employer expectation gap within the NZ context and extends extant literature by providing further clarification from employers on the qualities required from graduating accountants. On a practical level, knowledge gained from this research will enable accounting educators to better prepare graduates for their roles in practice.

To obtain a better understanding of the concepts, the literature on the employer expectation gap and the adequacies of accounting education is explored. A description of the research method used to conduct the investigation follows this exploration before the presentation and discussion of the results. A summary will round out the discussion.

Expectation Gap

Prior studies noted an 'expectation gap' whereby graduates were leaving university without the skills and attributes that employers were expecting (Botes, 2009; Jackling & de Lange, 2009; Low et al, 2013; Marshall et al., 2010). In addition studies by Bui and Porter (2010); De Lange et al., (2006); and Kavanagh and Drennan, (2008) provide evidence that employers continue to find accounting graduates not 'work ready'. Some studies (Albrecht & Sack, 2000; Bowden & Masters, 1993) have even suggested that this gap between education and practice is widening.

A number of studies contend that the gap is exacerbated owing to a lack of generic (non-technical) skills possessed by accounting graduates (Botes, 2009; Bui & Porter, 2010; Grant Thornton, 2010; Kavanagh & Drennan, 2008). However, the literature is inconclusive on which skills accounting employers seek in their graduates and the extent to which the skills are valued. …

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