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Let’s Discuss: Best Accounting Programs According to Recruiters

Yesterday the Journal got into the ranking act with their list of colleges based on recruiters’ preferences. The accounting program rankings aren’t too surprising but we called in the friendly HR professional and recruiting maven Dan Braddock to discuss the rankings. First things first however – the pecking order:

1. BYU
2. Wisconsin-Madison
3. Illinois-Champaign
4. Minnesota
5. Penn State
6. Michigan
7. Maryland
8. Cal-Berkley
10. Ohio State
11. NYU

What follows is my chat with Dan-o as he tries to break this down:

DWB: Okay, let’s kick this off. You sent me a link to some WSJ article about the school rankings based on recruiter opinions.
CJN: I did. Personally, I find it hard to take the list too seriously without Texas-Austin or Notre Dame on it.
DWB: It makes perfect sense as to why they’re not on the list.
CJN: Explain, that sounds like crazy talk.
DWB: This isn’t based on caliber of program; it’s a list of what recruiters find to be the “best” schools. Take a look at the list of Best Accounting Schools. First, those schools are huge; many of them are state schools. Recruiters get the most “bang for the buck” out of schools like this. Second, if you mapped these out, they’re schools that can can service as feeder programs for multiple offices. For example, Deloitte can visit UCLA and find potential candidates for their California and west coast offices. This removes the necessity to visit several smaller schools across the same geogrpahic region. Penn State services Philly, Pittsburgh, D.C., Baltimore, New Jersey, and New York City. Lehigh University in eastern PA is a much better accounting program than Penn State, but has a smaller geographic reach and a smaller pool of students.
CJN: But doesn’t the #1 school, BYU, buck that idea completely? Their enrollment is small by comparison and Salt Lake City is a relatively small market
DWB: BYU has more than 25,000 undergrads from every state in the country – again, national reach.
CJN: Fine but why no UT? The Texas market is huge and has national reach.
DWB: I admit, Texas is the one school that I was shocked not to see on the list – on the surface, it is large in size, has a well respected business program, and is nationally known. But dig deeper and it makes sense. Of their 38,000 undergraduates, only 8.5% are from outside the state of Texas. So applying that same percentage to the number of undergrads in the business school (4,500) that’s about 380 students. How many of them study accounting? My guess is not many. That said, accounting students interested in offices elsewhere (Chicago, LA, NYC) should have no problem landing interviews, as the local Texas recruiters from the Big4 blanket UT at Austin.
CJN: And Notre Dame? Why are they MIA? John Veihmeyer has to be pissed. And not just about the choke against Michigan.
DWB: Hahaha. I’m sure he voiced his frustration about both. He’s probably having nightmares about the most recent flop in South Bend. Again, it’s all about size of program. National name, yes, but when your business program is ~2,500 students in total…Also, remember that these rankings for best accounting programs is not just by Big 4 recruiters. This is everyone. Johnson&Johnson, regional mortgage firms, Disney, etc.
CJN: Interesting
DWB: Obviously there is some kind of balance in play here. As a whole, all of these schools are nationally known and well respected in the industry; there are no schleps on the list. For recruiters, it’s all about efficiency of time and finances. A hotel room and flight to visit a school where hundreds of accounting students are salivating at the opportunity to work for you is impossible to pass up.
CJN: So everyone on this list belongs on it or are there other schools that are missing that should be in the top…11 (?)
DWB: Considering their proximity to one another I was suprised to see both the U of Minnesota and U of Wisconsin on the list but no, nothing too surprising. Since it is college football season, the Big Ten definitely has the SEC beat when it comes to accountants (6 v. 0 on the list). Maybe that’s why they’re better on the gridiron.
CJN: OR maybe it’s because it’s the SOUTH. My guess is that people don’t go to Vandy to get an accounting degree.
DWB: I am surprised not to see a school from the South – no UNC Chapel Hill
CJN: Fair point.
DWB: In closing, I think it goes to show that US News & World Report rankings are not the end all be all for recruiters. Nationally known names, established programs, and large alumni bases go a long way.
CJN: Right. And a good football team doesn’t mean shit (read: Alabama).
DWB: Below the belt, CN.
CJN: Whatevs. Can you explain the pachyderm? B/c I sure as hell can’t.

The Top 25 Recruiter Picks [WSJ]