Striving for excellence: Recent research has found accounting education wanting, but new approaches and new resources have emerged in efforts to better prepare students for what they will encounter in today's job market.

Author:Karr, Susan Schott
Position:Accounting Education

According to a broad-scale American Accounting Association-sponsored research project from 2000, an enormous gap exists between what is being taught in the accounting classroom and what is being practiced in corporate America -- or in the evolving global marketplace. As a result, traditional undergraduate and graduate accounting programs face unprecedented competition -- internally, as students consider other options, and externally, as market-driven vendors offer their own courses.

In the definitive publication, Accounting Education: Charting the Course through a Perilous Future -- a joint project of the American Accounting Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Institute of Management Accountants and the "Big Five" accounting firms -- authors W. Steve Albrecht and Robert J. Sack write that accounting education being delivered today is the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago.

The premise: the practice of accounting has changed dramatically, while accounting education hasn't kept pace. The gap between accounting practice and education is presumed to be widening, and there is a perceived unresponsiveness to that gap by accounting educators. However, innovations are emerging in the teaching of accounting in the fast-paced global environment marked by the revolution in technology and Internet services.

Traditionally, accountants prepared financial information for internal and external decision-making, audited the fairness of that information and made sure that companies complied with tax and regulatory standards. Numbers were expensive to come by and were revered as a commodity in and of themselves. Therefore, the careful and accurate collection, recording and dissemination of those numbers made up most of the accountant's job.

Now, numbers are cheap, they're everywhere -- and they're difficult if not impossible to manage. As a result, while technology has provided meaningful tools for tracking, sorting and disseminating information, it has created unprecedented complexity, as well as a concern for the value and integrity of that information.

A New Mindset

Now, instead of looking strictly to the past, accounting has become more forward-looking. With the tedium of mere documentation relieved by the aid of number-crunching software and databases, the savvy business person has time to approach the profession at a more sophisticated and thought-provoking level, one that requires imagination and creativity.

It's more...

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