Pennsylvania accounting students test themselves in XBRL essay contest

Sharp technical skills are a must to find success in the field of accounting, but so is the ability to communicate clearly. Accounting programs are emphasizing writing skills more than ever, and the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA) gives students another incentive - prize money.

The PICPA awarded a total of $4,000 earlier this year to three business students who presented the best essays in its annual Student Writing Competition.

"In private industry, we want to hire people who are good technically, but we also want to hire people who are good in communication," said Steven Blum, CPA, and chair of PICPA's Pennsylvania CPA Journal Editorial Board. "Sometimes our only work product is the written document, so it becomes extremely important that these graduates can communicate effectively."

The competition, which began in 1976, gives students the opportunity to flex their writing muscles, delve into a "real-world" issue and write a 1,500-word essay that could be published in the Pennsylvania CPA Journal. This year, the theme was, "Will XBRL Revolutionize Financial Reporting?"

Blum, who is managing director of FTI Consulting in King of Prussia, PA, said the topics change every year, and XBRL, or Extensible Business Reporting Language, was a timely issue for this year's contest. "Everything I was hearing was that we're serious, and this is the direction we're moving in, and given the technology slant to it, I thought it would be of interest to a lot of students."

The winning essays are independently researched, original, and well thought-out. "I think this is a good add-on to their curriculum," he said. "It makes some of what they're doing in class a little more interesting because they can apply it to a real question."

The competition is open to undergraduate students attending Pennsylvania colleges and universities who are pursuing majors in accounting or business. Eighty students participated this year. The first-place $2,000 winner was Michelle Ormsby of Villanova University, whose essay, "XBRL: The Language You Need to Know," was published in the Fall 2008 issue of the Journal. Amanda Cioban of Elizabethtown College won second place and $1,200, and third place went to Gail Heffelfinger of Moravian College, who won $800. The accounting programs of the winning students received $1,000, $600 and $400, respectively. Read all the winning essays.

The 2009 competition asks students to discuss fair value accounting.

Blum said he would like to see the contest expand, so even more schools and students participate. "I would love to see students get involved in some element of the accounting profession as early as possible," he said.

You may like these other stories...

Curious as to what the fastest-growing accounting and finance jobs might be for the next several years? According to the new 2015 Salary Guide from staffing firm Accounting Principles, some of those jobs include bookkeeping...
In most cases, accountants have gaps in their resumes because they got fired and could not find another job they liked within a short amount of time. If you went back a decade such a gap could have been considered a death...
If you're thinking that bitcoin and digital currency generally are merely some one-off flash in the pan, the new Digital Currency Council would argue otherwise. The council launched in September and already had 400...

Already a member? log in here.

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Oct 30Many Excel users have a love-hate relationship with workbook links.
Nov 5Join CPA thought leader and peer reviewer Rob Cameron and learn ways to improve the outcome of your peer reviews while maximizing the value of your engagement workflow.
Nov 12This webcast presents basic principles of revenue recognition, including new ASU 2014-09 for the contract method. Also, CPAs in industries who want a refresher on revenue accounting standards will benefit.
Nov 18In this session Excel expert David Ringstrom, CPA tackles what to do when bad things happen to good spreadsheets.