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Recruiting future CPAs: is enough being done?

Are college accounting departments doing enough to recruit the "best and the brightest" students into the CPA profession? Based on a survey we conducted, we found substantial efforts were being undertaken but more definitely could be done.

We asked accounting program administrators at over 600 four-year institutions about their participation in recruiting activities aimed at improving the number--and quality--of accounting students, and 61% replied. State CPA society executive directors also were polled, and 92% replied.

Among the accounting program results:

* Sixty-six percent of respondents in academe reported they are actively involved in recruiting activities.

* Thirty-eight percent of college accounting departments had a faculty member serving as the focus recruiter.


* Only 25% reported maintaining active liaisons with their state CPA societies.

* Only 22% of recruiting programs targeted minority high schools.

The most popular and effective recruiting activity was to pursue directly the best nonaccounting majors taking accounting principles courses. The only other activity in which more than half the university respondents participated was providing recruiting materials to high school and community college guidance counselors and to incoming admitted students.

However, only 11% of accounting programs at four-year colleges and universities made any attempt to recruit students currently attending two-year community colleges, where nearly a quarter of all accounting students and almost half of all business students take their accounting principles courses.

The lack of attention to America's 1,200 community colleges is significant. As tuition continues to rise at four-year institutions, more students are expected to spend their first two years at community colleges and then transfer to larger schools to complete their degrees.

Size counts. Another finding: The larger an institution's enrollment, the less committed it was to direct recruiting activity (for example, mailings to guidance counselors or prospective and admitted students). Perhaps larger colleges' administrators believe their accounting programs already are oversubscribed.

Similarly, schools accredited by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business were less engaged in recruiting activities, perhaps because of a natural recruiting advantage afforded by their accreditations.

State societies: an underused resource. Not surprisingly, over 90% of the responding state CPA societies supported and engaged in recruiting activities. Most common among these were

* Scholarships awarded for accounting study at four-year institutions.

* Information and recruiting materials provided to guidance counselors.

* Presentations by society member CPAs to high school classes.

* Participation in career days.

* Personal contacts with guidance counselors.

Interestingly, while approximately two-thirds of state CPA societies reported maintaining liaisons with accounting programs in their states, only 25% of the accounting programs reported maintaining active liaisons with their state CPA societies.

As mentioned earlier, only 38% of all accounting programs surveyed had selected one person to serve as a recruiting "focal point." Without liaisons, it's understandable why so many programs remain unaware of state societies' activities.

What can be done? A few conclusions can be drawn from analyzing these numbers:

1. Recruiting is not held in as is high a regard as it should be.

2. Accounting professors are not being rewarded for taking on active recruiting roles.

3. Better coordination of recruiting efforts is needed between state CPA societies and accounting programs.

There are, however, some signs of progress. In the survey, the most common suggestions made by educators to strengthen recruiting programs were to develop more interesting recruiting brochures and videos and to improve the profession's image with top-quality high school and college students. Providing such materials and addressing this concern are the objectives of the major new American Institute of CPAs recruiting program that began in the fall (see "Professionwide Recruiting Campaign Launched," JofA, Oct.93, page 113).

The AICPA is offering to 50,000 high school and college educators new spiral-bound accounting career guides with bright, bold graphics and flashy photo spreads; classroom posters; and a fast-paced MTV-style video.

The nationwide campaign is based on market research suggesting that, in the 1990s, occupational diversity has a high degree of appeal to students. The theme of diversity is conveyed in the campaign's tagline: "Accounting. Don't just learn a business. Learn the business world." If this message can be conveyed to students, stimulating their interest in accounting careers will become a much easier proposition.

However, as welcome as these materials are, something even more fundamental is needed. Accounting programs must reaffirm their commitment to recruiting tomorrow's accounting leaders by increasing the emphasis on recruiting activities, rewarding department members who devote their time to such efforts and working for better coordination between accounting programs and state societies.

--R. Michael Garner and Robert F. Dombrowski, associate professors of accounting, Franklin P. Perdite School of Business, Salisbury State University, Salisbury, Maryland
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Article Details
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Author:Dombrowski, Robert F.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Dec 1, 1993
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