The Looming Crisis in Governmental Accounting Education

By Schiffel, Lee; Smith, Ken | The Journal of Government Financial Management, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

The Looming Crisis in Governmental Accounting Education


Schiffel, Lee, Smith, Ken, The Journal of Government Financial Management


The perfect storm may be looming for government accounting. Three issues could intersect making it difficult for governments to attract new talent:

* As baby boomers are starting to retire, governments face a loss of talent and institutional knowledge.

* Sarbanes-Oxley has increased public accounting's demand for accounting students from colleges and universities. Finding students with the requisite education and interest in government accounting/financial management has become increasingly difficult.

* A shortage of academically qualified faculty, specifically those educated and actively involved in government accounting.1

Governments and professional organizations are exploring methods to retain institutional knowledge and to ensure an adequate supply of new employees with the skills necessary for good stewardship and accountability.2,3

Educating the next generation of employees requires faculty interested in government financial management. Our article addresses this issue, providing data to support the concerns expressed.

Data Sources

We acquired information from three sources: Hasselback's Accounting Faculty Directory, an online survey and doctoral program websites. The Hasselback directory is an annual listing of the accounting faculty at colleges and universities. It includes the name, academic rank, highest degree earned, where the degree was earned and areas of faculty member expertise. The directory is compiled from information gathered from chairpersons of the accounting departments. We used the directories from 1980, 1991, 2001 and 2006.

What We Found

Figure 1 presents data from the Hasselback directories related to governmental accounting. Each faculty member can list up to four areas of interest from a list of 26 specialties, one of which is "G" for governmental.4 For each of the four directories, we counted the number of schools that issued doctorate degrees/concentrations in accounting in the United States. The number of schools issuing a doctoral degree has increased by only 20 (from 72 to 92) in the last 25 years. However the number of schools that issued at least 21 degrees more than doubled from 33 to 75. Very few schools offer doctorates in accounting, and only a subset offer a specialization in governmental accounting.

The total number of accounting doctorates has more than doubled in the past 25 years (from 2,549 to 6,414), but the pace has greatly slowed in the last 10 years. Figure 2 shows the average number of doctorates from 1986 to 1995 was relatively stable, around 190 per year, but a considerable increase from the 136 rate in the first half of the 1980s. This rate has dropped to less than 80 per year since 2000. The current trend of less than 100 doctoral degrees issued per year appears to be stable as few schools are adding Ph.D. programs, and most of the schools that offer degrees are issuing fewer degrees than in prior decades.

Figure 1 shows that the growth of accounting doctorates in the 1980s and 1990s was disproportionately in favor of faculty members that listed governmental as a specialty-increasing from 2 percent of faculty listed in Hasselback in 1980 to 3.5 percent in 2001. Unfortunately, there was a substantial drop in 2006 to 2.7 percent. It appears governmental faculty retirements are outpacing new faculty.

Figure 3 lists the schools that have produced the most doctoral faculty who later list governmental as their specialty. The total number of governmental specialists at doctorate-granting schools did not change from 1991 to 2001 (40 for both years), but experienced a fairly dramatic drop in the last five years (down to 31). The top 13 schools have seen a drop from 11 governmental experts to four in just 15 years. In contrast, the next four schools increased their number of governmental experts from five to nine. Thus, while AGA's White Paper correctly identifies the retirements at traditionally prolific schools5, it may be that different schools are taking their place. …

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