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Recruiting (and Retaining) the Next Generation Accountant

How one university uses creative methods to attract, develop and maintain qualified students for the accounting profession.

April 2008
by Linda Zucca and Donald McFall/Journal of Accountancy

What attracts students to accounting? Is it the appeal of social and forensic accounting in a post-Enron world? Is it the allure of big money? Or is it simply supply and demand?

When it comes to attracting students to the accounting profession, university faculty in accounting departments face competing pressure from two sources: the accounting profession, which continues to demand more qualified accounting graduates; and university administrations, which want to increase enrollment in their accounting programs. As a result, turning out more well-qualified accounting majors is of great importance to academia and the profession. More resources are being committed to recruiting accounting students and seeing them through to graduation.

Supply and Demand for Qualified Accounting Graduates

According to AICPA President and CEO, Barry Melancon, the "pipeline" of qualified students is one of the four forces shaping the CPA profession today. Although interest in accounting careers has increased (the number of accounting degrees awarded increased 19 percent from 2000 to 2005), Melancon says the current demand for highly qualified students still exceeds supply, and this trend is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. He adds that about 73 percent of current AICPA members will reach or approach retirement age in the next 15 years.

On the supply side, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the number of college-age students (18- to 24-year-olds) will peak in 2010 and then decrease through at least 2020. In states including Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York these declines are expected to continue beyond 2020. Faced with these numbers, universities are focusing on ways to increase student retention.

This article has been excerpted from the Journal of Accountancy. Read the full article here.