Today, the AICPA and NASBA unveiled their highly anticipated CPA Evolution Model Curriculum — CPAEMC if you’re nasty — which the Journal of Accountancy describes as “a recommended blueprint for an accounting program designed to help educators prepare graduates for the changing demands of the CPA profession.” Times they are a-changin’, kids, so much so […]
Not sure if y’all heard but we live in the future now. Not the cool Ray Bradbury one with casual weekend trips to exotic Mars destinations and robots to do all the tedious things we’d rather not, but the future no less. And here in this dystopian nightmare glorious future, technical aptitude is in high […]
Let’s crunch these numbers a bit.
The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.
“I am not good at writing. I want to be an accounting major so I don’t have to write.”
All of us who teach or advise students have heard this – our students’ dislike for writing papers. These students are under the false impression that accountants do not have to write, or at least not much.
Frequently, our students do not realize that written communication skills are essentia profession. As a matter of fact, communication skills are one of the five core competencies outlined in the CPA Vision Project, tested on the CPA Exam and demanded by employers.
The CPA Vision Project
The CPA Vision Project of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) addresses issues we must tackle to keep up with the challenges facing the profession. To remain competitive, CPAs need to demonstrate five core values and five core competencies.
One of the top five core competencies, Communication and Leadership Skills, is the ability to “give and exchange information within meaningful context and with appropriate delivery and interpersonal skills.” These core values and competencies are instrumental in providing the five core services outlined in the CPA Vision Project: Assurance and Information Integrity, Management Consulting and Performance Management, Technology Services, Financial Planning, and International Services.
If we want our students to offer these five core services efficiently and effectively, accounting classes must incorporate the ability to communicate well as a learning objective.
Writing on the CPA Exam
So what about the CPA Exam? Is the profession testing communication skills on the Exam? Yes.
The CPA Exam requires candidates to demonstrate their writing skills. Currently, CPA applicants complete constructed responses on the Auditing (AUD), Regulation (REG), and Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) sections of the exam.
With the introduction of the new CPA Exam format (CBT-e) in 2011, writing will remain an important part. However, instead of testing writing skills in AUD, REG, and FAR, the constructed response portion of the exam will be entirely tested in BEC (Business Environment and Concepts). Starting in 2011, CPA candidates will write three essays in BEC.
Entry-level accountants lack written communication skills
The CPA Vision Project demands communication skills and the CPA Exam tests them. Does that mean employers of new CPAs are pleased with new CPAs’ writing skills? No. Many employers of recent accounting graduates complain that their new employees do not possess the requisite writing skills. While our students may have strong technical skills, their written communication is often ineffective and poor.
In addition, accountants are spending less time on gathering, processing, and reporting information, and more time on interpretation and providing strategy and decision support. Accountants prepare notes to financial statements, interdepartmental memos, plans, and proposal communications with various stakeholders, written personnel evaluations, and articles in professional journals.
According to an article in The Trusted Professional, one-third of the accounting firms surveyed are unhappy with accountants’ writing skills. Correctly using grammar, organizing information, and writing clearly, concisely, and completely are necessary for business writing. In the worst case, poor writing skills can lead to dismissal of the accountant or inability to rise to higher managerial levels in the organization.
Because of the CPA Exam requirement and the needs of future employers, writing in accounting classes is an important part of many schools’ accounting curricula.
Communication: The business of accounting
Accounting is much more than financial statements and debits and credits. Properly and broadly understood, accounting is all about communication. Written and oral communication gives the numbers meaning, context, and focus on a decision.
We need to continue working on improving the writing skills of entry-level accountants, but these skills must be further reinforced once students enter the workplace. Firm training and management programs in which writing is given a high level of consciousness and priority will help ensure users have the best product available.
About the authors:
Gabriele Lingenfelter, CPA, teaches accounting and auditing for the Luter College of Business and Leadership at Christopher Newport University in Newport News. Lingenfelter is actively involved on the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) Audit & Attestation Subcommittee and the development of future CPA Exams. She also is a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phil Umansky, CPA, Ph.D., is associate professor of business at the Sydney Lewis School of Business at Virginia Union University and chairman of the Accounting and Finance Department. Umansky is a CPA Ambassador, a regular contributor to the WTVR Virginia This Morning TV Show on money management topics, and a member of the VSCPA Editorial Task Force. Contact him at email@example.com.
I complain about a lot of things in the industry that I probably should be grateful for instead: Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB, the IASB and the AICPA Board of Examiners… the list goes on. I’ve done my fair share of complaining about accounting education as well (even offending some by implying professors were cheap and lazy though I certainly did not mean all or even most accounting professors) but I think it’s safe for us to say that we have it a lot better than some other professions. Like law.
Check out Critical Mass on the law school scam (the entire thing is recommended reading):
Over the years, I wrote countless law school recommendations and very, very few grad school recommendations. I never worried too much about the ones who were law school-bound–the students I worried about were the ones who decided to go for PhD’s in English. Grad school in the humanities is a scam. There are simply no jobs, tenure is disappearing, the culture of the academic humanities is pathological, and the sort of academic life grad students hope to acquire is ceasing to exist. But law school, I felt, was a safe bet–and would also offer its own variety of intellectual thrill. Who wouldn’t want to learn to think with the precision, capaciousness, originality, and historical-mindedness that the law requires? It’s beautiful and powerful and very, very useful. When done well, it’s applied scholarship, scholarship with decisiveness and impact.
But bubbles are bursting everywhere we look these days. Last month I posted about how Loyola’s law school is cooking transcripts to give its grads a leg up on the job market. Now comes word of widespread cynical profiteering at the expense of students’ futures.
Accounting education doesn’t appear to be so neatly packaged as the debt factory that law is, nor does it seem to produce too many rats to fit in our particular race. Sure, there are plenty of unequipped idiots who get through (shouldn’t professors exist to weed these out if education is, in fact, meant for the greater good of our economy and not just to create more perpetual debt?) but that happens in any profession, no more in accounting than elsewhere as far as I can tell.
Do a Google search on the law school scam and you’ll get pages upon pages of results. Do one on the accounting education scam and you’ll get one question about DeVry’s accounting program (I won’t say a word). Does that mean accounting is any better off?
Somewhere between this depressing March 2010 report from CPA Trendlines on how actual firms held up through the recession in 2009, and the rosy reports from hijacked media like CNN about how great the industry is handling this mess, lies the truth. Some areas are better than others and some accounting grads just don’t deserve a job. With the firms lining up the lawyers instead of the staff, you can bet the days of skating your way through 2 years of easy work experience are pretty much over.
Hopefully this means fewer unqualified future accountants being pushed through accounting programs that will soon be starving for qualified educators and better prospects for the bright, talented future CPAs who actually deserve a job in this industry.