More Accounting Grads Putting Off CPA Certificates

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It has been found that although there are more college students studying accounting by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), there are many accounting graduates that are not pursuing their CPA certificates. Career goals and time constraints are cited as reasons keeping graduates from seeking CPA certificates, according to the Kansas City Business Journal.


The AICPA found that enrollment in accounting programs increased 19 percent between the years 2000 and 2004. Recipients of bachelor's degrees increased 9 percent, to 40,400 and master's degree holders grew 5.4 percent, to 13,350, between the years 2003 and 2004.

Joyce Meyer, president and principal with Meyer Fears Schnell & Associates CPAs, told the Kansas City Business Journal, “Accounting is a broad field of study. Most business leaders personally need some background in and understanding of accounting, and a lot of people use an accounting degree to go into management. You can probably work in bookkeeping without a CPA, too.”

The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy(NASBA), AICPA, and Thomson-Prometric Inc. commissioned a study that found the number of candidates taking the uniform CPA examination dropped almost 37 percent after the introduction of the computerized version of the test in April, 2004, the Kansas City Business Journal reports. The survey found the primary reason given for not taking the exam was that candidates were too busy.

Preparation for the four-part examination is daunting, according to the Kansas City Business Journal, although all four parts do not have to be completed in one sitting. Rather than choosing a pre-set date for the exam, candidates must also schedule it themselves. In order to take the exam, candidates must have an additional 20 credit hours over the 130 hours required for their bachelor's degree.

“People recognize that they have to go an extra year, so they end up getting some type of master's degree, whether it's in tax or business administration or law, so we just get students with more education and training than people like myself,” Vic Alexander, chief at KraftCPAs, told the Nashville Business Journal.

A study commissioned by Robert Half Management Resources and completed by Accountemps, called “Next Generation Accountant”, current trends shaping the accounting and finance indsty, according to the Nashville Business Journal. Some 1,400 CFOs were selected randomly concerning the degree of preparation of today's accounting graduates for careers in accounting and finance, compared to 10 years ago. Some of the results of the survey are shown below.

  • 29 percent said equally prepared
  • 71 percent said equally or more prepared
  • 23 percent said somewhat more prepared
  • 19 percent said much more prepared

“Graduates are more prepared, but it's not necessarily because of the hour requirement. There are just a lot of quality programs out there. I think the real change is in really good accounting schools with good professors,” said Dell Crosslin, managing director of Crosslin Vaden & Associates.

Charles Frasier, a partner at Frasier Dean & Howard CPAs, told the Nashville Business Journal, “I think schools have stepped up to the plate and offered a menu of higher quality accounting classes, more upper division accounting and business classes, and students do have a better background in business and accounting when they enter the workplace.”

The Associated Press reports that programs offer expanded schedules and a greater variety of courses because the marketplace demands it. Business schools have evolved toward being businesses themselves.

Terry Connelly, dean of the Ageno School of Business at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, told the Associated Press, “The customer is kin. What we're seeing is a response to the consumer, and business schools have two consumers: the student who goes through it and the employer who engages their services.”

MBA programs tailored to executives also offer professional training but not degrees. The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania has about 8,000 student enrolled in these classes, while only 4,600 are enrolled in its traditional undergraduate, MBA, and doctoral programs. The “executive education programs” are so popular, Wharton has partnered with other top-tiered business schools in India, China, and Turkey, offering international learning experiences for its students.

Patrick Harker, dean at Wharton, told the Associated Press, “Business education is a booming industry, Business is the most powerful force for positive change in the world today.”


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