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The 150-hour requirement in Florida.

Florida is the only state with nearly 10 years' experience dealing with a fifth year of accounting education required by state law.

When the legislation was passed in 1979, few Florida CPAs were aware of the implications the requirement would have for their practices. The major initial impact was a drastic change in the number of new entrants to the profession. First-time candidates for the Uniform CPA Examination plummeted from 2,306 in November 1983 to 12 in May 1984. That number has increased and now, almost 10 years later, the pipeline has refilled, enabling practitioners to hire sufficient graduates with the requisite fifth year of education.

After approximately a decade of experience, we have observed positive and negative developments in both education and practice.


Initially, public practitioners did not adjust hiring practices adequately to prepare for the change-over. However, the quality of graduates has improved immeasurably, as shown by an improvement in the CPA exam pass rate for first-time candidates as well as less staff turnover reported by firms. Staff accountants with a fifth year of education are more knowledgeable and quicker studies; they deal better with complex accounting and tax issues, grasp new concepts quickly and have sounder backgrounds in communications, management sciences, logic, finance and marketing. They also see public accounting as a career, not just a stepping-stone.

Average starting salaries have increased substantially, but higher billing rates can be justified because new hires become productive faster. Because more candidates pass the CPA exam on the first sitting, firms incur less cost in days lost while employees are preparing for and taking the exam. The result is happier employees who can concentrate on the important aspects of practice.

Practitioners also believe the state's extra education requirement has improved CPAs' status among other professionals and clients.


Florida educators in general favored the adoption of the 150-hour requirement. The key factors that determined the ease or difficulty of implementing the requirement were whether an established graduate accounting program was in existence (established programs faced fewer changes in curriculum and class scheduling) and the institution's location (urban campuses faced greater pressure than residential ones for providing part-time opportunities for completing the additional courses). Also they had to decide whether to provide the additional hours primarily at the undergraduate or graduate level; most added to the graduate level.

The demand on university resources was another issue of concern. Graduate programs with available seating coupled with the early slow growth in enrollment eased the demand on resources for many. Some programs also increased admission standards in conjunction with the higher enrollments of recent years. The result has been a higher and more uniform quality of graduate prepared to enter the profession.

Some schools' concerns switched from how to attract students to a graduate accounting program to how to deal with large numbers of students seeking enrollment. Several reasons contributed to this change. The 150-hour requirement, often coupled with other variables such as the emergence of a school of accountancy, increased the visibility of the accounting program. The attitudes of students and some of the faculty also changed over time. Overall, there appears to be a validation of the premise that challenging academic programs with perceived high occupational benefits attract good students.

Another issue for educators was how to structure the 150-hour program, specifically, the proportion of accounting to nonaccounting courses, the extent of specialization and deciding on how to enhance communication, analytical and people skills in accounting graduates. These are now ongoing issues with national importance in light of the work of the Accounting Education Change Commission and the growing efforts to stimulate relevant change in accounting education.


During the mid-1980s, when Florida was essentially by itself in requiring a fifth year of education, some Florida CPAs requested repeal of the requirement. The Florida Institute of CPAs held publlic forums and surveyed members to understand the practice problems associated with the fifth year. Overwhelmingly, by an 80% margin, members approved the continuance of the fifth-year program. The 1987 AICPA Plan to Restructure vote validated our efforts and we now look forward to accounting graduates from all areas of the country who have met the rigorous and professional requirements of the fifth year of education. The experience in Florida demonstrates that the net positive benefits of this requirement are significant.

SCOTT T. RHINE, CPA, is a partner of Rhine, Johnson in Boca Raton, Florida. JOHN K. SIMMONS, CPA, PhD, is the KPMG Peat Marwick Professor of Accounting, University of Florida at Gainesville.
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Title Annotation:Accounting Education
Author:Simmons, John K.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Oct 1, 1991
Previous Article:Accounting education: the next horizon.
Next Article:AICPA study of public practice.

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