Developing the Future of the Profession

I attend the American Accounting Association Conference and Annual Meeting last week.  It was very interesting to hear from a variety of speakers about the future of (college) education and the future of research.  I also heard some interesting discussion on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as well as the protection and use of intellectual property.  There were also progress reports on Pathways Commission initiatives and results from scores of research projects were presented as well.

What I want to spend a little more time talking about is the work to develop an Advanced Placement (AP) Accounting course for high school.  This effort gets right to the heart of the professions efforts to recruit the best and the brightest to become CPAs.  One of the problems we have right now is the disconnect between accounting taught in high school and the profession of accounting.  High schools teach bookkeeping, not professional accounting.  Bookkeeping is that boring part of accounting and a complete turn-off to the best students in high school.  They spend their time taking AP courses in Science, Math and the Humanities.  Want to become a doctor, there are AP courses that can give you a heads up.  Want to become a lawyer, same thing.  Want to become a CPA, there is nothing for you to do directly related to the profession until you get to college.  By then we have already lost way too many of the best and brightest students to other endeavors.

That is where an AP course in accounting would come in.  An AP course would be respected by the best students as being worthy of their effort.  It could also focus on the less boring parts of our job – financial analysis, financial forensics and the like. Just as college sports teams are watching and recruiting ever younger high school students, so are the various careers and professions.  If we are going to keep getting the level of talent into the profession that we need, we need to make the idea of being a CPA more exciting to high school students and an AP course in accounting might just be a critical piece in making that happen.

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