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What Can Be Done About the Decade-Long Decline in Graduation Rate for Accounting Majors?

The decade-long decline in graduation rate for accounting majors continues to impact the profession. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) 2023 Trends report shows the completion of bachelor’s degrees in accounting dropped 7.8% from 2021-2022 compared to the previous academic year. Also, completion of master’s degrees fell 6.4% in 2021-2022 compared to the prior academic year.

Impact of the Decline in Accounting Graduates

The declining number of accounting graduates has an increasing impact on employers:

  • Public accounting firms have growing difficulty hiring new graduates.
  • Businesses have fewer accounting professionals to handle their financial needs.
  • Many accountants need to work longer hours to keep pace with workloads.

Adverse Beliefs About the Accounting Profession

Miami University conducted a 2021 survey to gain insight into why many students pursue degrees and careers in areas of business other than accounting. The results included the following:

  • An accounting degree was perceived to be harder to earn than a degree in other business majors.
  • An accounting career appeared to require longer hours and less interesting day-to-day tasks than other business careers.
  • Nonaccounting majors tended not to believe accounting had higher starting salaries, earning potential, and substantial career opportunities compared to other business areas.
  • Most nonaccounting majors perceived an accounting career to be monotonous, less fulfilling, less interesting, and less intellectually challenging than careers in other business areas.
  • Many nonaccounting majors said the CPA Exam discouraged them from pursuing an accounting degree.

Steps to Take to Improve the Graduation Rate for Accounting Majors

The survey found that 52% of students chose their major before entering college, 21% chose their major during their first year, and 27% still needed to choose their major when they started their second year. This data shows a need to address the adverse perceptions of the accounting profession long before students graduate high school.

Accountancy departments should actively pursue students during their high school years and first year of college. Educating students about accounting career opportunities can help correct common misconceptions about the profession and attract students to the major.

Accounting faculty can engage students in the early stages of career selection with facts about the profession:

  • Starting salaries
  • Career growth
  • Earning potential
  • Task engagement
  • Professional fulfillment

Accountants and accounting firms can speak at high schools, colleges, and universities about their diverse work. They also can share their stories on social media to generate excitement about working in the accounting profession.

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