Accounting degrees continue historic upward trend

The number of students who graduated with accounting degrees in the 2007-08 school year surpassed the previous year's record level, according to a new report by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. More than 66,000 achieved bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting, 3.5 percent higher than in 2006-07.

This represents the largest number of graduates since 1972, the year the AICPA began tracking the data, according to the report, 2009 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits. The gender ratio is 51 percent female, 49 percent male, a 1 percent uptick in the male cohort.
 
"The historic growth of accounting degrees is especially significant now because it coincides with the CPA profession's programs and efforts to attract young talent," said Jeannie Patton, AICPA vice president - students, academics and membership. "Students clearly recognize the attractiveness of accounting as a rewarding and fulfilling career path."
 
2007-08 enrollments in undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs achieved a 4.7 percent boost over the previous year, with an aggregate total of 213,000 students. In spite of the increased enrollments, capacity issues are forcing many colleges to turn away accounting students due to limited classroom space.
 
Although the hiring of new graduates has declined overall as a result of the weakened economy, midsize/large regional firms (50 - 200 CPAs) did report an increase in recruiting new accountants. The survey did note, however that hiring of master's degree candidates continues to increase, with 75% of master's candidates holding a Master's in Accounting degree and the remaining 25% split evenly between candidates holding Master's in Tax degrees and MBAs with a focus in accounting.
 
As the U.S. capital market system readies for a transition to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), 80 percent of the accounting programs participating in the Trends study reported that they currently offer IFRS material in their curricula, and an additional 15 percent said they will add it by Fall 2009.
 
Methodology
Invitations to participate in the study went to 955 colleges and universities granting accounting degrees and 4,941 firms of varying size. The response rate for colleges and universities was 25 percent. The AICPA e-mailed the invitations to participate on Nov. 7, 2008. The field closed on Feb. 27, 2009.
 

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