Business practices have changed during the past millenium. Businesses have evolved over time from bartering goods and riverside trading, to small local stores, mega malls, and business over the Internet. Through all these changes, companies needed to keep records of their equity, assets, liabilities, and cash flows in order to remain competitive in their field. Accounting standards have also changed over the years, through FASB, CAP, and APB, issuing updated efficient standards called GAAP. Due to the drastic changes in the business world, CPA requirements for the twenty-first century are being updated to reflect current business demands; these changes will affect undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals in the accounting field.
Requirements for sitting for the CPA exam are changing in Ohio as well as in other states. William Bentz, OSU Professor and Legislative Task Force Member says, “A total of 41 states, including New York, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, and Texas have passed similar legislation.1” The change requires candidates to have 150 semester hours or 225 quarter hours, a college degree, and the equivalent number of credit hours needed for an accounting major to sit for the CPA exam. This requirement will begin in Ohio with the May, 2000 examination. Any candidate who began the CPA exam process on or before November 1999 will be covered under the old exam requirements. However, in order for candidates to be successful in the accounting field, further education will be needed to adapt to changing business standards and to compete with accountants who passed the exam under the new requirements.
There are many reasons for the implementation of the 225-hour requirement. Donald Tidrick, Senior Lecturer University of Texas says, “In 1989 a publication was issued from the Big Eight Accounting Firms to Higher Education. The point of the publication was to inform higher education personnel that students were not learning the right methods and skills needed in the accounting field.2” Since then changes have been made in the business track curriculum. Team projects and presentations in class develop written, verbal, problem solving and interpersonal skills. There is a need for accountants to relate to more broadly educated executives and operate in a more complex environment. Accounting firms have a desire to sell more value-added services to their clients in order to remain competitive.
The AICPA web page states, “With increased demands on CPAs to offer diversity in the business world for clients, the 225-Hour Requirement is necessary to be a broadly prepared Certified Public Accountant.3” CPAs of the twenty-first century must be well educated, possess superior accounting skills, and strive for excellent quality work in order to remain competitive in the accounting field. The requirement increase of 225-quarter hours can be acquired in three different processes: The hours can be accumulated by obtaining a master’s degree, pursuing a second undergraduate major or minor in any field relevant to the student’s career goals, or taking extra courses in areas of interest to the student. The method in which the candidate earns the extra hours to sit for the CPA exam is up to his or her discretion; however, the hours must be earned in order to qualify. Undergraduate students have multiple pathways to choose from in order to fulfill the 225-quarter hour requirement. Students may decide on a five-year accounting program that is offered at many universities in the United States.
William Bentz said, “Ohio State should have their five year accounting program activated by September 2000.4” Students may also pursue an undergraduate accounting degree, and then proceed to a masters program. A final option for the undergraduate student is to achieve the accounting degree, and then decide on another major, minor, or elective courses to fulfill the requirement. Finance and Management Information Systems are two majors that compliment an accounting degree. Which pathways the undergraduate student chooses is not of great importance; the key point is that the student must be well-educated and well-diversified in order to succeed in the accounting profession.
Graduate students enrolled in a masters program have many options and may gain valuable benefits. A masters degree in accounting will develop enhanced technical expertise. A masters degree in business administration will provide a tremendous amount of business knowledge useful in all areas of accounting. Other masters degrees will provide the student with a well-diversified education. Many benefits may result from the completion of a masters degree. The AICPA web page states, “A graduate education provides higher rates of success on the CPA exam, starting salaries normally ten to twenty percent higher, and promotions are increasingly being awarded.5” Although graduate education requires time and money, the benefits that follow far outweigh the costs.
Professionals in the accounting field who have not taken the CPA exam but have the desire to, will need to take the exam by November, 1999, or take classes to fulfill the requirement. Robert Goldie, Tax Partner Pricewaterhouse Coopers said, “Many firms like Pricewaterhouse Coopers have programs that fund further education for employees and potential employees.6” Higher education is needed throughout ones career in order to stay current with changing educational curriculums, skills, and standards. With the business environment becoming increasingly complicated, certified public accountants must meet new challenges when making critical business decisions. Prospective CPAs need to have a broad educational base that includes accounting and business knowledge and develops the skills needed for the continued growth in a fast and changing global economy.