Urgent Need for Governmental Accounting Education: New Generation Needed to Fill Retirements at Federal, State, and Local Agencies

By Bora, Irfan | The CPA Journal, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Urgent Need for Governmental Accounting Education: New Generation Needed to Fill Retirements at Federal, State, and Local Agencies


Bora, Irfan, The CPA Journal


The need for governmental accounting education has never been greater in the United States, as governments at the federal, state, and local levels face a wave of impending personnel retirements. Last year's GAO report to Congress on "High-Risk Series: Progress on Many High-Risk Areas, While Substantial Efforts Needed on Others" (GAO-17317; http://bit.ly/2Gkx4wu) identified six government-wide occupational areas with mission-critical skills gaps. One of these skills gaps is in the area of auditing, which is typically the domain of accountants (other related skills gaps include mathematics, cybersecurity, and acquisition, arguably also within the practice areas of accountants providing services in valuation, analytics, statistics, and corporate finance). In addition, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) data, the need for government accountants and auditors will grow as more than 34% of federal employees on board by the end of fiscal year 2015 will be eligible to retire by 2020 (p. 73).

Meeting a Public Need

As the director of the Rutgers Master in Accountancy in Governmental Accounting Program, the author is increasingly aware of the need for the academic training of governmental accounting and auditing professionals in the public sector. Undergraduate accounting programs do not adequately cover this area. In many universities, governmental accounting is covered only in an advanced accounting course over a 1-2 week period, sometimes as an elective course. The primary goal in these colleges is to prepare students for the GNP section of the CPA exam. Very little is provided to students in terms of other areas in governmental financial management. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of public sector governmental accounting positions, an urgent need exists for programs that require students to learn not only about governmental accounting and auditing, but also other areas such as public finance, budgeting, information systems, and ethics. A mix of governmental accounting, public policy, and public administration topics must be covered for a program to be successful. It is challenging for a graduate program in governmental accounting to be offered through the accounting department at a university's business school.

In my personal interviews and conversations with students in the Rutgers program, I have found that very few employees in public sector jobs start off with a solid background in governmental accounting education. Most of these employees are expected to learn the principles and practices on the job. For this reason, many of these employees who aspire to obtain senior-level positions are interested in furthering their academic skills by enrolling in a graduate program in governmental accounting. In addition to the employees of government agencies, under the current guidance from the federal Office of Management and Budget, CPA firms that work in this area are required to utilize staff possessing specialized knowledge.

What Makes Government Accounting Different? …

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