A commission is looking at making the
education paths leading to the US accounting qualification more
flexible and effective.

The Pathways Commission was launched after a
US Treasury committee asked the American Institute of Certified
Public Accountants (AICPA) and the American Accounting Association
to investigate future structures for accounting higher

It is hoped that the commission will come up
with recommendations that will address:

  • A shortages of qualified teachers with
    accounting PhDs;
  • A need to regularly revise accounting
    curricula due to fast-paced business changes;
  • University budget constraints that threaten
    to make the cost of education prohibitive; and,
  • A need for specialised training.

Accounting education in the US is very
different to many countries. All education happens at university,
compared with the trainee programmes conducted by institutes and
employers in countries such as the UK. This means the accountancy
education provided by US universities must prepare students to sit
the CPA exam and enter the profession.

AICPA president and chief executive Barry
Melancon said he cannot imagine the US changing from the
university-based system because it has generally been a success.
The Pathways Commission will instead investigate expanding the
paths a student can take within a university context.

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Bruce Behn, a professor of business at the
University of Tennessee, is chairing the Pathways Commission. Behn
told The Accountant the Pathways Commission will take a
cradle to grave approach.

“Right now there are a lot of disconnects
between what happens in high school bookkeeping classes, which
flows into community colleges, which flows into university
systems,” Behn said.

Behn said there has also been too much focus
on the audit side of the profession. There are a lot of
opportunities for accounting professionals to work in other

“When you talk about pathways today, it is
concentrated at the undergraduate and graduate level, and focused
on auditing and financial accounting. I don’t know what
recommendations the commission will eventually come up with, but
those pathways have got to be broadened,” Behn said.

This will be one of the first times everyone
involved in the accounting education system – from primary
education through to the accounting institutes – will be brought
together in one place.

Issues that will be tackled could include:

  • What changes can be made in the school and
    college environment to make accounting more attractive to
    high-potential students;
  • What can be done to address the fact that at
    the university level, accounting has become something of a feeder
    to MBA programmes;
  • What competencies will be needed to train the
    next generation of accountants;
  • How to make more of a connection between what
    is happening in practice and what is happening in classrooms;
  • Why there is only one way of getting a PhD in
    the US and whether that should change; and,
  • How students can be better prepared to hit
    the ground running when they begin working.