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.

Pathways Commission Report

I had the privilege of being on a panel at the American Accounting Association (AAA – the professional organization for Academia in Accounting) annual meeting held in Washington DC last week.  As usual there were dozens of breakout sessions covering a wide-range of topics over the three days, but one area of particular interest to everyone in the CPA profession were the sessions on the new Pathways Commission Report.

The Pathways Commission was formed based on a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Treasury Advisory Committee on the Auditing Profession (ACAP) delivered in 2008.  Specifically the recommendation was to encourage the AICPA and the AAA jointly to form a commission to provide a timely study of the possible future structure of higher education for the accounting profession.  The results of the commission’s effort is an extensive report that can be utilized by Accounting Educators, academic Institutions and the entire profession to ensure that our Universities continue to respond to the market demands for students and research in accounting.

The report can be found on the Pathways commission website at

The report makes seven key recommendations including:

  1. Build a learned profession for the future by purposeful integration of accounting research, education, and practice for students, accounting practitioners and educators.
  2. Develop mechanisms to meet future demand for faculty by unlocking doctoral education via flexible pedagogies in existing programs and by exploring alternative pathways to terminal degrees that align with institutional missions and accounting education and research goals.
  3. Reform accounting education so that teaching is respected and rewarded as a critical component in achieving each institution’s mission.
  4. Develop curriculum models, engaging learning resources, and mechanisms for easily sharing them as well as enhancing faculty development opportunities in support of sustaining a robust curriculum.
  5. Improve the ability to attract high-potential, diverse entrants into the profession.
  6. Create mechanisms for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information about the current and future markets for accounting professionals and accounting faculty.
  1. Convert thought to action by establishing an implementation process to address these and future recommendations by creating structures and mechanisms to transition accounting change efforts from episodic events to a more continuous, sustainable process.

But the report does more than make summary recommendations.  It has extensive details about actions that need to be taken, why these actions need to be taken and possible impediments to accomplishing these critical objectives.  If you are in Academia, this report is a must read and it is just as important to the rest of us in the profession because if we truly want CPAs to be seen on the same professional level as Doctor and Lawyers (OK, maybe not the lawyers), then we need to continue to make progress in conjunction with our Academic colleagues to be seen as a truly learned profession.