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Factors Affecting Students’ Career Choice in Accounting Essay

ABSTRACT

This study investigates the reasons that influence students’ career choices in accounting. In order to determine these reasons, a questionnaire survey has been employed. The empirical findings can be divided into two categories. First, students who have a desire to work in accounting field assume that accounting field provides good job opportunities, and the field matches with their abilities and interests.

Second, students who have no desire to work in the field of accounting assume that other fields provide wider job opportunities and are less stressful, tiring, and tedious. In addition, the association of the factors that play role in choosing or not choosing a career in accounting field with student performance in accounting course is investigated. Keywords: Accounting; Accounting Education; Accounting Career; Performance

INTRODUCTION

n recent years, the decline in quantity and quality of student enrollments in accounting majors alerted academicians, professionals, and professional bodies (Mauldin et al., 2000; Nelson, 1989; Adams et al., 1994; Glass and Oakley, 2003; Tan and Laswad, 2006; Smith, 2005; Chen et al., 2002; Garner and Dombrowski, 1997). This led researchers to investigate the reasons regarding career choice in accounting field. Mauldin et al. (2000, p.142) state that the primary objective of accounting programs is to produce a sufficient number of graduates who possess substantial accounting knowledge, with the strong communication and analytical capabilities demanded by employers.

In order to meet the demands of employers, accounting programs must graduate the best and brightest students with high aptitudes, but decreasing quantity and quality may mean the inability to meet the demands of the job market. Geiger and Ogilby (2000) emphasize the importance of the introductory accounting course, saying it is “a student’s first and potentially only, exposure to accounting”. Therefore, they state that the quality of the instructors’ assignments during the course is important, in part, because it can impact the supply of accounting majors to both an accounting program and the accounting profession.

The purpose of this study is to investigate the factors why students choose or do not choose a career in accounting field. Furthermore, the paper examines the association of these factors with student performance in accounting course. The paper is divided into five parts. After this introductory first part, the second part provides a literature review about the subject. The third part explains the scope and methodology of the study. The fourth part presents the results of the study, and the last section provides concluding remarks.

LITERATURE REVIEW Cohen and Hanno (1993) conducted a survey with 287 students who had either declared or intended to declare themselves as accounting majors and those who had either declared or intended to declare themselves as majors in a business field other than accounting (e.g. marketing, finance, general management, hotel management, © 2011 The Clute Institute 29 economics). The results indicated that non-accounting majors may choose a major other than accounting because they believe accounting to be too number-oriented and boring. The students’ choice of a major was consistent with their referenced opinions about majors. Also read My Dream Job Accountant Essay

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Success in introductory courses, skills and a background in math, as well as the workload in accounting courses were also identified as factors that facilitated or hindered choosing accounting as a major. Mauldin et al. (2000) investigated students’ choices of an accounting major. They found that the largest percentage of students chose accounting as their major during the first accounting course in college (41 percent), followed by selection during high school (34 percent). Among referents, the Accounting Principles instructor was the most influential one. The twelve factors that influenced the students’ decisions included career opportunities, interest in the subject, instructor, money, parents, enjoyment, previous experience, life style offered because of the career, challenge, prestige, usefulness in operating a business, and other students.

Kim et al., (2002) conducted a study on business majors (e.g. accounting, finance, general business, management, marketing, MIS/CIS, and double major). They discovered that the top five reasons for choosing a major were: interest in a career associated with the major, good job opportunities, “good fit” with respondents’ abilities, a desire to run a business some day, and projected earnings in the related career. The least selected reasons for choosing a major were the reputation of the major at the university, the perceived quality of instruction, the parents’ influence, the amount and type of promotional information, and the influence of friends. Yayla and Cengiz, (2005) determined five factors that play a role in choosing an accounting career.

Those factors were “respondents’ own choice”, “family and close environment effect”, “interesting profession”, “earnings expectations”, and “job opportunities”. Dinç (2008) utilized factor analysis and determined the following seven main factors in deciding career choice: high earnings expectations, career expectations, job experience, knowledge and ability, family environment, social status, and education environment. Factors as recounted above about choosing a career in accounting field or not can be divided into two main groups: internal and external factors. Internal factors may include personal abilities, mathematical competency, interest in the field, etc. These factors do not depend on the students’ geographical area.

External factors, such as job opportunities, level of earnings a career offers, and the social status provided by the career are variable in various geographical areas. For example, while there are good job opportunities in one geographical area, another geographical area may not offer the same opportunities. SCOPE AND METHODOLOGY A number of researchers utilized a survey method for investigating the students’ choices of accounting as major (Cohen and Hanno, 1993; Allen, 2004; Tan and Laswad, 2006; Dinç, 2008). The survey was applied only to the students who took an introductory financial accounting course. Introductory accounting courses which are taught in business majors are important in making decisions regarding students’ both education and postgraduate lives (Güngörmü? and Uyar, 2010, p.444).

In order to determine the students’ career choices in relation to accounting, we conducted a survey of 320 students in business programs (e.g. accounting, foreign trade, banking, management, office management) who took the introductory financial accounting course in the two-year Istanbul Vocational School of Fatih University. Of the 320 students, 179 completed the questionnaire (55.94 percent). Course grades were obtained from the student information system. The range and mean for grades are 0-4 and 1.94 respectively. Of the 179 respondents, 69 plan to work in the accounting field (38.5 percent), and 110 plan to work in a nonaccounting field. The distribution of students participating in the survey is presented in Table 1.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Reasons for Choosing or Not Choosing a Career in Accounting Field In the survey, the question of “do you plan to work in the accounting field?” was asked. 69 out of 179 students answered “yes” to this question. If they answered “yes”, the question “why do you plan to work in the accounting field?” was asked. Nine potential factors were provided to the respondents (Table 2) based on prior studies (Cohen and Hanno, 1993; Hermanson and Hermanson, 1995; Adams et al., 1994; Allen, 2004; Mauldin et al., 2000; Wooten, 1998; Tan and Laswad, 2006).

Among the reasons, good job opportunities (50.72 percent), interest in accounting field (46.38 percent), good fit with respondent abilities (33.33 percent), suitability for independent working (24.64), and family influence (23.19) had the highest percentages. However, the desire to run a business some day (20.29 percent), expectations of high earnings (18.84 percent), the social status offered by the chosen career (10.14 percent), and the influence of friends and relatives (2.90 percent) were the lowest reasons selected for choosing a career in accounting. The findings confirm Kim et al., (2002) in some part, who found the three top reasons for choosing an accounting major were interest in a career associated with the major, good job opportunities, and“good fit” with the respondents’ abilities.

In both studies, the influence of friends was the least selected reason. On the other hand, in this study, the influence of parents had a higher percentage than in the study of Kim et al. (2002). These findings are also parallel to the findings of Mauldin et al. (2000) in part. For example, career opportunity, interest in the subject, and the influence of parents were among the top five reasons as in this study. However, money is not a factor within the top five reasons in this study, contrary to Mauldin et al. (2000). Life style or status that the job offers is not chosen within the top five reasons in both studies. Those who answered “no” to the question of “do you plan to work in the accounting field?” were asked for their reasons (Table 3).

Eight potential reasons were provided to the respondents based on prior studies (Tan and Laswad, 2006; Allen, 2004; Glass and Oakley, 2003; Cohen and Hanno, 1993). Among the choices, other fields offer wider job opportunities (48.18 percent), stressful and tiring profession (40 percent), boring nature of accounting profession (32.73 percent), and other fields offer higher earnings (32.73 percent) were the highest selections. The lowest rated reasons were difficulty of the career (26.36 percent), weakness in respondent’s numerical abilities (21.82 percent), being a long process to become an accountant (15.45 percent), and legal responsibilities (4.55 percent).

These results confirm Cohen and Hanno (1993) who comments that non-accounting majors may choose to stay away from accounting because they perceive that accounting is too number-oriented and boring. The results also support the view that the “unappealing nature (image) of accounting deters non-accounting majors from choosing accounting as a major” (Allen, 2004). The results also confirm Allen (2004), whose study of non-accounting majors indicates that “job opportunities” is the most influential factor for selecting a major.

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