of the Minds
Preparing Future Accounting Professionals
MARCH 2008 -
Effective August 1, 2009, candidates for CPA licensure in the State
of New York will be required to have 150 credit-hours of qualifying
courses, increased from the previous requirement of 120 hours. Many
other states have already implemented this change, approved by the
National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as part
of the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA). The new requirement reflects
the public’s greater expectations of accountants, and the
expanded roles accountants play in the current business environment.
“sides” of the profession—typically taken to
be the educator and practitioner communities—have been at
odds concerning what accounting students should know, what educators
should teach, and whether accounting graduates are adequately
prepared for the business world. The CPA Journal editors
convened a forum, “Preparing Future Accounting Professionals,”
moderated by Editor-in-Chief Mary-Jo Kranacher, in November 2007
to bring individuals representing all areas of the profession
together to discuss these issues.
panel, “How the 150-Hour Requirement Is Affecting the Profession,”
discussed various implementation, transition, and adaptation issues
presented by the 150-hour requirement. The second panel, “How
Academics and Practitioners Can Work Together,” discussed
how to bridge the divide that has traditionally separated accounting
education from accounting practice. The panelists represented
specific perspectives and were selected for their individual expertise.
The following article represents the highlights of the first panel
discussion, including the panelists’ prepared remarks and
a reaction written by a member of the audience. The April issue
will include an article covering the second panel discussion.
Member Bill Gradison
a founding member of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
(PCAOB), which was established by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002,
spoke at the beginning of the forum proceedings. He expressed
gratitude to Doug Carmichael, a professor at the City University
of New York’s Baruch College (which hosted the forum) and
the PCAOB’s first chief auditor, for recruiting and retaining
an excellent staff at the PCAOB.
discussed the recent SEC action allowing foreign issuers of financial
statements to file under International Financial Reporting Standards
(IFRS). He speculated about what this shift toward international
standards will mean for professionals traditionally educated and
trained in U.S. GAAP. He also discussed the new advisory group
established by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to consider
the future of the auditing profession, to which Gradison is assigned
as an observer to the subcommittee on human resources.
recognized human resources—human capital—in the accounting
profession as exactly what the forum was addressing. He also observed
that the changing business world—with the recent increased
emphasis on areas such as ethics—was what created the need
for additional education as a way to produce CPAs who are better
equipped to serve the public interest.
Note: The CPA Journal is grateful to Baruch
College for providing facilities for the forum event, and to Jobsinthemoney.com
for sponsoring breakfast. Part 2 of this article will appear in
the April 2008 issue.
Discussion: How the 150-Hour Requirement Is Affecting the Profession
Recent Graduate’s Perspective
probably wondering what a novice could contribute to a discussion
about the future of the accounting profession. After all, I’m
not a professor or a well-seasoned practitioner, or even a CPA
yet. However, my goal is to bring the perspective of a young professional
who experienced, firsthand, the effects of the 150-hour requirement.
completed the accelerated BS/MBA program at C.W. Post. This was
the first year that this program was offered. Although completing
the 150-hour program wasn’t required yet to qualify as a
CPA candidate, my decision to enroll was easy for a few reasons.
First, knowing that it was soon to be a requirement, I wanted
to hold myself to the same standard that New York State expects
of future incoming professionals. Also, a master’s degree
was already a personal goal of mine, and I enjoy school, so the
opportunity to earn two degrees in only five years was very appealing.
I believe that the 150-hour requirement will draw a higher-caliber
individual to the profession, and will provide incoming professionals
entering the workforce with greater maturity and better preparation
on many levels. Students will have more life experience and will
have a chance to hone critical skills that aren’t necessarily
emphasized at the undergraduate level. Although much of the 150-hour
requirement’s benefits aren’t accounting-specific,
they directly impact the accounting profession.
generally means a higher salary. But beyond that, the type of
learning that occurs at the graduate level is very different from
the undergraduate experience. For example, their environments
are totally different. In an undergraduate-level introductory
business course, most of the students are fresh out of high school;
many of them may be nodding off because they partied the night
before. In a graduate-level business course, the students are
generally older and more mature, with more diverse backgrounds,
experiences, and perspectives. They’re more focused, and
they want to learn as much as possible. Also, graduate-level courses
place more emphasis on participation and class discussion, as
opposed to undergraduate classes, where usually the professor
lectures and the students listen, take notes, and memorize. So
the interactive learning style, coupled with the type of student
found in graduate classes, offers many benefits to the developing
business professional. As a result, graduate students learn to
speak articulately. They
challenge others’ ideas, and they learn to have their ideas
challenged as well. In addition to developing communication skills,
graduate programs enhance research and writing skills, and help
students gain proficiency in choosing a point of view and defending
it with logic and specific examples to support it. These types
of exercises also build self-confidence.
programs emphasize real-world and practical applications, as opposed
to the predominantly conceptual learning seen at the undergraduate
level. For example, graduate school projects generally require
knowledge of current events and some understanding of how the
related concepts can be applied to the professional arena. So,
overall, what really takes graduate students to the next level
is the way in which the program demands more of them and challenges
them in new ways. It teaches them not just new information, but
also how to analyze things in different ways. Forgive the cliché,
but students start thinking “outside of the box.”
is that graduate students often enroll in classes they might not
otherwise have taken. So they can learn new things, possibly discover
a new area of interest, or gain a different perspective on previously
acquired knowledge. Because graduate students are typically highly
focused, when they learn something new, they tend to want to figure
out how to apply it in the professional arena. For example, when
I first enrolled in a consulting class during my graduate program,
I wasn’t too interested, but by the end of the course, I
had a new perspective on how to interact with people.
different classes help students learn about career opportunities
and specialties that they might previously have been unaware of.
Additionally, peers and professors they meet along the way are
valuable additions to their network of contacts.
One of the
accounting-specific benefits of the 150-hour requirement includes
being better prepared for the CPA exam. Some graduate classes
touch on material from freshman or sophomore year, so you get
a good refresher but with more detail. Other courses may help
to prepare a student for future professional engagements. For
example, a graduate finance class gave me valuable background
information about mortgage-backed securities and the financials
of banking institutions. Later, during an internship, I was able
to apply that knowledge to an engagement involving a mortgage
company. Without the fundamentals that I learned from that class,
I would’ve been even more confused than I already was. Classes
like advanced auditing, financial statement analysis, and fraud
examination build on basic knowledge that students gain at the
At the undergraduate
level, the textbook questions outline the problem and expect the
student to solve it. Whereas, at the graduate level, students
are typically given a situation where they are expected to figure
out what the problem is. For example, what’s strange about
the situation, what red flags can you identify to indicate a potential
problem? Then students are expected to figure out how to fix it.
Those types of exercises, case studies, and class discussions
develop critical-thinking skills and teach the value of challenging
conventional concepts. These skills are essential to success in
the accounting profession.
120-hour requirement, two years of experience were required to
become certified, Conversely, with the 150-hour requirement, CPA
candidates need only one year of experience. This may result in
increased turnover, because many students stay at their first
job only long enough to complete the requirements for certification.
Eventually, this effect could be partially offset by fewer accountants
leaving to pursue additional education.
In my experience,
undergraduate programs generally focus more on conceptual learning.
A graduate program builds on that foundation, with advanced material
and practical application. For me, going straight to grad school
was a great decision. It challenged me, and pushed me to a higher
level that I could never imagine attaining in just one additional
year. Of course, it is ultimately the responsibility of each individual
school that offers a qualifying 150-hour program to maintain the
quality of that program, and it’s up to accounting graduates
to uphold the high standards of the profession. But, in general,
it seems that the 150-hour requirement truly has the potential
to raise the bar for the accounting profession.
Dorsa, MS, MBA, an external auditor at Deloitte &
Touche LLP, graduated magna cum laude from the C.W. Post Campus
of Long Island University in the spring of 2007. She completed
the 150-hour Accelerated BS/MBA program during the first year
it was offered at C.W. Post. Dorsa served as president of the
C.W. Post Accounting Society and Beta Alpha Psi Chapter.
York’s Requirements for Licensure
Christie because she gave great evidence of the 150-hour program’s
effectiveness. The New York State Board for Public Accountancy
has created an ad hoc committee on education to investigate what
changes need to be made to the current regulations, including
the 150-hour program. As Bill Gradison mentioned, the U.S. Department
of Treasury recently established an Advisory Committee on the
It recently issued an exposure draft of a discussion outline for
the next several months. Part of the outline on the education
model for public accountancy addresses accreditation issues: the
fact that some accrediting bodies require a school’s faculty
to have a certain percentage of PhDs, and the shrinking number
of PhDs available to teach in public accounting.
Board Office’s files on the 150-hour requirement have a
1960 document titled “Special Committee to Study the Matter
of Including a Fifth Year of Accounting Curriculum Which Would
Lead to a Graduate Degree and Better Prepare a Candidate for the
CPA Examination.” I also found documents on public hearings
on the subject held in 1977, 1987, and 1997. The Board of Regents,
with very broad input, ultimately enacted regulatory changes in
1998 to require 150 hours of education by August 1, 2009. New
York has benefited from that extended implementation period because
it’s allowed us to see what other states are doing with
respect to 150 hours of education. For example, 14 of the 15 states
that have enacted 150 hours of education now allow candidates
to sit for the exam after 120 hours. Applicants are required to
complete 150 hours before the license will be issued. Individuals
have raised both pros and cons for this “sit at 120, license
at 150” approach.
is that New York is unique in having 66 colleges and universities.
(I count a college or university as a physical site, and some
colleges and universities in New York have multiple sites.) Those
66 colleges and universities offer 151 licensure-qualifying programs,
which is probably more than almost any other state in the country.
for adopting the 150-hour program was to accommodate the licensees’
needs for core competencies in a business environment that has
become increasingly complex. Striking a balance in education between
accounting, business, and liberal arts and sciences courses is
As an element
of the profession’s evolving globalization, we often find
that some individuals who are credentialed in a foreign country
come to New York and seek licensure, but with different technical
knowledge and training and not the broader liberal arts education
required in the United States, particularly New York State. This
raises questions: Does greater exposure to liberal arts and sciences
courses result in a better-skilled professional? Does that professional
have better judgment and a broader skill set, including critical
thinking, communication skills, and ethics?
issue is flexibility regarding accounting curriculum design to
meet the future needs of the public and the business community.
Is the model flexible enough to address changes in the education
model, in educational methods, and evolving practice in the profession?
to adopt 150-hour programs around 2004. Since then, the New York
State Board has eliminated the requirement that everyone have
60 credit-hours of liberal arts and sciences, and quantitative
methods was deleted as a required course. The board was trying
to let colleges and universities define their programs within
the framework of the regulations. We’ve often heard that
the regulations were, in some ways, too restrictive. It was suggested
that by letting colleges and universities exercise more academic
freedom, they could focus on what is most important to them, and
maybe carve out a niche within the profession that would work
for them, and thereby help them attract students.
considerations at that time included the evolution of a knowledge-based
economy. Attestation was the core of the profession, with a growing
importance of management and other advisory services, personal
financial planning, transaction analysis, and litigation support.
In many ways, looking at the amount of time an accounting firm
currently spends on attestation versus other services, attestation
is no longer the majority of the firm’s total business.
Globalization has led to necessary communication competencies,
different information technology paradigms, and cultural diversity.
Strategic alliances also became necessary. Multi-profession solutions,
ethical considerations, disciplinary concerns, and a total-service
orientation were other issues. One-stop shopping became a buzzword,
and unregulated activities affected the profession with respect
to recruitment and services. Nonaccounting
companies like American Express, Andersen Consulting, and Booz
Allen Hamilton were attracting graduates.
of practice across state lines and practicing across international
boundaries are other important issues. Some of that is the result
of the Sarbanes-Oxley requirements of rotating audit partners
every five years. On occasion, I hear stories from large firms
that they need to bring in audit partners from Western Europe
with a focus on a certain industry, and we need to be able to
get them into New York or into the United States more quickly.
Flexibility and mobility are key.
regarding the 150-hour requirement is the cost of the additional
fifth year. We want candidates for licensure to have a broader
skill set, but at what cost? We’ve seen a trend of candidates
taking four years to sit for the exam, five years to become licensed.
Individuals with 120 credit-hours of education need two years
of practical experience to be licensed. Those with 150 hours of
education need one year of experience.
consider how that affects the profession. NASBA just issued an
exposure draft on proposed changes to the Uniform Accountancy
Act (UAA). State regulatory bodies are invited to use the UAA
as a guide as they change their regulations. The exposure draft
proposes four levels of accreditation for accounting education:
of the accounting program,
of the business school,
accreditation of the college or university, or
the institution has no accreditation whatsoever.
proposal, the most streamlined way to become licensed would be
to graduate from a licensure-qualifying registered program, or
to graduate from an accounting program accredited by the Association
to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), with 24 credit-hours
of accounting (excluding principles or introductory courses) and
24 credit-hours of business. Currently, New York requires 33 credit-hours
of accounting and 36 credit-hours of business. NASBA’s
proposal also says that the education model should focus on subjects
derived from the Uniform CPA Examination Content Specification
Outline. That issue has raised pros and cons. On one side, “teaching
to the test” may result in higher CPA exam pass rates. Whether
that necessarily results in a more informed, more skilled professional
is another matter.
into the fine points of the requirements, New York requires an
unspecified amount of content in accounting and business communications,
and either a course, or course content integrated across multiple
courses, in ethics and professional responsibility. New York’s
current regulations are silent on receiving credit for internships
and independent study. After the 150-hour requirement takes effect
in New York, the experience requirement can still be met after
sitting for the CPA exam. In some cases, because the exam is taken
in sections, candidates will earn their experience during the
period of time when they’re taking the exam.
being addressed by the ad hoc committee on accounting education
include: the specificity required in accounting and business courses;
the number of credit-hours required for accounting and business
courses; whether ethics, communications, and research should be
integrated content or discrete courses; the role of college accreditation
in the overall approval of accounting programs; and the extent
to which curriculum requirements should be tied to the CPA examination.
Let me leave
you with this reminder: As the August 1, 2009, deadline approaches
for the 150-hour requirement to take effect in New York, those
who want to be grandfathered under the 120-hour model need to
both complete their studies and apply for licensure (meaning their
application must be postmarked) by August 1, 2009.
J. Dustin, MS (Acc.), CPA, is the Executive Secretary of
the New York State Board for Public Accountancy, which is responsible
for assisting the New York State Board of Regents and the State
Education Department on such matters as professional licensing,
practice and conduct, and professional discipline. Dustin currently
chairs NASBA’s Computer-based Testing Administration Committee
and is a member of the Committee on National Examination Preparedness.
He is the former chair of NASBA’s Accountancy Licensee Database
Task Force and Executive Directors Committee. He has also served
as a member of the AICPA’s Peer Review Task Force and Board
of Examiners, including having chaired the BOE’s Operations
Practitioner’s View on Recruiting New Professionals
past few years, the NYSSCPA’s Quality Enhancement Policy
Committee (QEPC) has been looking at peer review, ethics, and
now education. We’re studying education-related issues in
two pieces: 1) pre-service education, meaning the preparation
students need to become CPAs; and 2) post-service education, the
continuing education of CPAs.
includes large- and small-firm practitioners; educators; current
and former regulators; and non-CPAs. The non-CPAs are valuable
because they keep us grounded; for example, saying, “This
is what we expect of CPAs and the kinds of skills that we expect
them to have.” Our approach to thinking about the types
of skills CPAs are expected to have is very conceptual. Obviously
a CPA should have some audit background, some accounting background,
and some tax background. But most important is a good foundation
of communication skills—generally not something people think
of as essential for accountants. Most people think accounting
is only about math skills. But we’ve found that communication
skills—reading, writing, verbal communications, and, most
important of all, listening, to your clients, your colleagues,
and the rest of the profession—are probably the most important
attributes for a CPA to have.
Dorsa mentioned, the extra 30 credits of a graduate program develop
skills that most undergraduate courses don’t. Post-Enron,
the accounting profession has taken some hits, and for a period
of time relatively few new accountants entered the workforce.
Practitioners are worried that students will say, “A fifth
year? Why would I want to be in accounting when I can go right
into business?” We’ve learned that other states that
have already implemented the 150-hour requirement experienced
a short-term drop-off in recruiting to the accounting profession,
but the numbers have rebounded and the profession became stronger
in recruiting has already started. Marks Paneth & Shron LLP
has a staff of over 400 people. Until this point, our typical
new hire has had an undergraduate degree and is expected to do
handle a variety of responsibilities, including both audit and
tax work. As students come in with 150-hour degrees, we’ll
need to adjust our recruiting efforts to recognize that level
of education as the current standard. We will also need to think
through what this will mean to client service and expectations,
both from the firm’s and the candidates’ perspectives.
As Dan Dustin
noted, it’s going to be more expensive for these students
to finish the accounting curriculum to become a CPA. As a profession,
we need to recognize that we may have a two-tiered program, with
four-year students who will want to work only in industry and
may not complete their fifth year. However, for them to take that
fifth year is in a CPA firm’s best interest. Considered
this way, there is an opportunity for firms to change how they
recruit students. One possible answer is to hire students when
they’ve had four years of college and for firms to help
pay for the fifth year. I believe that this would create loyalty,
to both the firm and the profession. In this way, students would
still have the option of staying in the public accounting environment
or moving into private industry later in their careers.
Quality Enhancement Policy Committee is also discussing the drop-off
in the numbers of accounting educators with PhDs and how this
negative trend could possibly be addressed by other means. The
apparent consensus is that exposing students to educators with
experience both inside and outside of the academic environment
provides the most positive results. As president-elect of the
New York State Society of CPAs, I and other Society officers have
had the opportunity to speak with students and chapter members
around the state. Students tell us that they learn the most from—and
are most impressed by—professors who share firsthand, practical
experience as well as their academic knowledge.
Sabba Fierstein, MBA, CPA, is a partner at Marks, Paneth
& Shron, LLP, recently ranked the 15th largest accounting
firm in the New York region (Crain’s New York Business)
and 28th largest nationally (Accounting Today). Fierstein
is currently the NYSSCPA president-elect and has previously served
as vice president, secretary, and director, as well as a Foundation
for Accounting Education (FAE) trustee. She is the current chair
of the Quality Enhancement Policy Committee (QEPC) and has chaired
and served on numerous NYSSCPA committees and task forces. Fierstein
also serves as a New York delegate to AICPA Council. She has served
as vice president and director-at-large of the National Board
of the American Woman’s Society of Certified Public Accountants
(AWSCPA) and is a member of the Accountants’ Club.
Curriculum Changes: One University’s Transition
By way of
background, the undergraduate program at SUNY Buffalo has about
225 juniors, roughly double our enrollment of five years ago.
About 175 of those students will graduate each year. The vast
majority get jobs and don’t pursue advanced degrees. Unlike
most schools in the state, our undergraduate program has a CPA
track as well as an internal audit track, consisting of three
additional required courses: internal audit, fraud examination,
and information systems audit.
used extensive recruiter input in our curriculum discussions and
have benchmarked against our peer schools. We have two 150-hour
registered programs. Our 3-2 program includes three years of undergraduate
work and two years of MBA courses. We also have a one-year Master’s
of Science (MS) degree program, which is open to students completing
our undergraduate program or those who have completed an equivalent
program elsewhere. With the 150-hour requirement, our undergraduate
four-year degree program is no longer registered. Our MBA program,
for students with no undergraduate accounting background, also
no longer leads to CPA certification.
programs are not well-populated right now. Our 3-2 program has
maybe five students. It’s a very elite program because they
take graduate programs in their fourth year, so they need to be
ready for graduate school early. Our MBA option has about 30 students.
The majority of our MBA and MS students are internationals and
most of them want to stay in this country.
We look forward
to a major surge in our MS program in 2009. As we transition to
150 hours, we still want to retain a 120-hour program presence,
so we will maintain our internal audit program, which is very
well received. That is not a registered program, but a four-year
program leading to corporate jobs. Also, if students want to,
they can take additional courses and end up with CPA certification
in addition to completing the internal audit track. Students routinely
create their own programs, and the school is very open to that.
As we revise
our curriculum for the 150-hour requirement, we want to retain
the fairly standard course sequence in the four-year CPA track
as necessary preparation for the fifth year. This provides maximum
flexibility for students from other schools coming into our MS
program, and students completing our undergraduate program will
have the background they need for MS programs at other schools,
if they wish to transfer. We’re concerned about the MBA
program, however, because the MBA is our university’s flagship
program and it receives funding accordingly. Because we want to
maintain our presence there, we have developed a mini option from
a corporate perspective, consisting of four courses: fraud examination,
advanced management accounting topics, financial statement analysis,
and global reporting. We’re also very willing to take MBA
students who have an undergraduate accounting background, and
tailor a program that meets the 150-hour requirement.
The big push
is to revise the MS program, and our philosophy is that we should
emphasize a broad base of education. I agree with the earlier
presenters that undergraduate students learn lots of rules and
regulations. Now we need to develop students who can be flexible,
who can step back and think, “What do investors need to
know? How does business work? When you’re identifying audit
risk, what areas do you need to look at closely?” You need
a broad perspective of the business world, the motivations for
misstatement, where investors need more information to be able
to make decisions. Undergraduates don’t want to do that;
they want to be spoon-fed the answers and know whether it will
be on the test. We spend as much time as possible preparing them
to deal with the messy issues that are part of working in the
real world. The 150-hour requirement gives us an opportunity to
teach that broader perspective, plus provide advanced training
in areas such as tax, reporting and assurance, and internal audit.
S. Hamlen, PhD, CMA, CFM, is an associate professor and
chair of the department of accounting and law in the school of
management, University at Buffalo (State University of New York).
Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of performance
evaluation and compensation, reporting for financial derivatives,
international accounting, and governmental/nonprofit reporting.
She has published in the Accounting Review, Journal of Derivatives
Accounting, and others, is co-author of an advanced accounting
textbook, and has been a regular contributor to Compliance Week.
J. Mastracchio Jr.
CPA Examination Content Specifications: Driven by Research and
give an overview of how the 150-hour requirement differs by state,
and then discuss the basic curriculum from the perspective of
NASBA and the Board of Examiners.
have the 150-hour requirement but allow a candidate to sit for
the exam after 120 hours; however, it is necessary to complete
the 150 hours prior to getting the CPA license. When I was chair
of the New York State Board of Accountancy, my concern was that
the board should simply make up its mind, because having too many
options can impact academia. For example, at the University of
Albany, many students from the greater metropolitan New York area
came with the intention of returning to that area to start their
careers. And, if they could sit for the exam with 120 hours and
then, while they were working, take the additional 30 hours, they
probably wouldn’t take the 30 hours in upstate New York.
They’d probably take the rest of the courses in New York
City, which would make a real difference in how academic programs
were structured in the two geographic areas. And in academia,
change happens slowly.
a number of the state boards of accountancy approached NASBA and
asked what they should be looking for, academically, when a candidate
applies for the examination. Based on that, the Uniform Accountancy
Act (UAA) Committee, with the approval of the NASBA Board of Directors,
asked the Education Committee to determine what kind of guidance
NASBA should give state boards concerning curriculum. In the area
of ethics, NASBA asked for and received the cooperation of the
American Accounting Association (AAA) to conduct a survey on the
extent to which ethics education is offered. We were surprised
to find that not many ethics courses were out there. Within a
couple of years, NASBA’s Education Committee developed very
specific recommendations on credit-hours for course curriculum
for accounting and business courses, and a requirement for two
ethics courses—one on basic philosophical principles of
ethics, and the other focused on applications to business and
accounting procedures. The committee exposed those proposals,
and received 178 comments, mostly against the proposal and mostly
from academia saying, “This is much too specific. NASBA
shouldn’t be mandating exactly how many credit-hours a financial
accounting course, or any other course, should be.”
the proposal and returned to the drawing board. It formed a task
force that included the AAA and AACSB. The task force reworked
the proposal and presented another proposal at a forum in the
spring of 2007 chaired by a former AAA president and including
representatives of the AAA, the accrediting organizations, and
large and mid-sized firms. The conclusion was that the state boards
still need guidance from NASBA, but it wouldn’t be credit-hour
specific. If an accounting program is AACSB-accredited, NASBA
is generally satisfied with that. If a school’s business
program is accredited but its accounting program is not, then
the accounting courses would need to be looked at. NASBA recommends
that states consider carefully whether to accept credit-hours
from a curriculum that is accredited only by a regional accrediting
association or that is unaccredited.
NASBA recommends a three-credit-hour course, or integration of
the course content. There’s broad concern in academia that
although integration is a good way to teach ethics, state boards
need a way to verify that the integration is happening. So NASBA
suggests that schools either have a separate ethics course or
integrate course content to meet the ethics requirement, and have
an outside accrediting organization certify that this integration
is happening. The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and
Programs (ACBSP) has said that it would accept responsibility
to look through course syllabi to ensure that specific content—for
example, ethics—has been integrated throughout the curriculum.
26, 2007, at NASBA’s annual meeting, the board of directors
approved recommendations for changes to the UAA to provide for
this level of accreditation and also provide for topics in accounting.
The comment period [ended] January 31, 2008. Billy Atkinson, the
chairman of NASBA’s Education Committee, has stated that
the curriculum issue should continue to be explored to keep up
with ongoing changes in the profession, such as international
standards and how they should be tied to the content specifications
of the CPA examination.
been on the Board of Examiners, which is charged by the AICPA
with the content administration of the CPA exam. Every few years,
to maintain the validity of the exam, we look at what entry-level
CPAs need to know and what skills they need, and how well the
exam tests those skills, not just knowledge. In 2006, real practice
Psychometricians, specialists in the validity of examinations,
work with the Board of Examiners to determine the validity of
the CPA exam.
sent out a survey, sifting through a pool of 99,000 names to focus
on people working with entry-level CPAs. We sent the survey to
3,300 people, and approximately 2,100 responded. After we analyze
that input, the Board of Examiners will issue new content specifications
that will impact what the CPA exam tests.
objectives of this survey include keeping the CPA exam up to date
and also tying it back to the curriculum. This is not to say “teach
to the CPA exam.” However, the exam has content that is
relevant to what many graduates will encounter, and it seems reasonable
to look at the CPA exam to guide the curriculum.
J. Mastracchio Jr., PhD, CPA, has served on the NASBA
nominating committee and currently serves on its education committee.
He is also past chairman of the New York State Board of Accountancy
and chaired its education committee. Mastracchio recently completed
a three-year term on the AICPA’s Board of Examiners (BOE),
which oversees the CPA exam, and he is a member of the Auditing
Standards Board (ASB). He was managing partner of Marvin and Company,
a large upstate New York CPA firm, for 15 years. Mastracchio was
the Arthur Andersen Alumni Professor of Accounting at the University
at Albany before retiring in May 2006. He is currently writing
a book on valuations for the Bureau of National Affairs, while
teaching a graduate-level valuation course at the University of
South Florida, and has a valuation and litigation services practice.
He is also a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.
150 - hour requirement
Opportunity to Take the Profession to the Next Level
education requirement, which takes effect in New York State on
August 1, 2009, opens a window of opportunity to improve and enhance
the accounting education received by new CPAs. I think the discussion
about the 150-hour requirement should shift from whether it is
needed and whether it is a good idea, to how educators can use
this opportunity to improve the education we give to our students.
New York State is one of the last in the nation to approve this
enhanced educational requirement, and if we want our CPAs to compete
on a national level, we should welcome the requirement.
for the 150-hour requirement, as presented by Daniel Dustin of
the New York State Board for Public Accountancy, is to strengthen
the education that accounting students receive and prepare them
for a complex world by ensuring a balance between liberal arts
and science courses and professional business studies.
for enhanced skills and education was echoed by other members
of the panel. For example, Sharon Sabba Fierstein, partner at
Marks, Paneth & Shron, LLP, and president-elect of the NYSSCPA,
discussed the importance of professional literacy and expressed
concern over how many new CPAs lack adequate reading, writing,
listening, and verbal communication skills.
and educators agree that better communication skills are much
needed. Most large accounting firms recommend that universities
teach students how to communicate well, both orally and in writing;
the firms would accept responsibility for teaching students the
more technical and practical applications of accounting through
their training programs. This approach may not be shared by regional
and smaller local accounting firms, whose resources for training
parameters, what should we do with the additional 30 hours of
education? What do we want our students to learn that they are
not learning under the current program? The question seems to
have no simple answer. A potential starting point can be found
in the presentation given by Nick Mastracchio, who provided a
detailed list of content specification outlines (CSO) adopted
by the AICPA Board of Examiners. In addition to the content-specific
body of knowledge, the document also defines skills required for
entry-level CPAs. These skills are in the area of communication,
research, analysis, judgment, and understanding. So, a potential
answer to the question about content coverage may lie in the CSO
prepared by the AICPA Board of Examiners. Moreover, Mastracchio
reported that the Board of Examiners is conducting a practice
analysis to determine what changes need to be made to the content
of the CPA exam to better reflect changes in the profession.
In my opinion,
although the content of the CPA exam is very important, it should
be our guide for the “first” 120 hours of education,
and not necessarily for the additional 30 hours. Even if some
schools choose to use the additional 30 hours to teach topics
they did not have enough time to cover in the first 120 hours,
I believe the additional time should be used to expand students’
knowledge and skills beyond the prescribed list.
for the potential use of this additional time is to add special
tracks. Susan Hamlen from the State University of New York at
Buffalo presented her school’s plan to enhance its highly
successful internal audit track. Other schools have also looked
at internal audit as a possible focus, and some are looking into
fraud examination as another potential focus. As discussed by
Professor Hamlen and other panel members, schools should—and
are likely to—develop study program specializations based
on their faculties’ areas of expertise. These specific programs
would serve as a means for schools to differentiate themselves.
Dorsa, a recent graduate from the accelerated BS/MS program at
the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University, offered her observations
on how she benefited from the accelerated program, especially
the graduate portion of her studies. Dorsa, who is now an external
auditor with Deloitte & Touche, discussed the differences
between the undergraduate and graduate portions of her studies,
including the greater maturity level of the students in her graduate
courses. Dorsa thought that the extra year enhanced her communication
skills, and helped her expand her knowledge of accounting beyond
what she had acquired in her undergraduate studies. She also offered
the insight that her graduate experience included more emphasis
on real-world examples. Most important, by pursuing the graduate
degree, even though it was not yet technically required, she felt
that she was holding herself to the same standard as other future
experienced in her graduate studies resulted from significant
thought and planning at the LIU–C.W. Post Campus, where
we have tried to focus on areas that we felt needed some reinforcement,
such as verbal and written communication skills.
One key challenge
remains in planning and designing the content of the additional
30 hours: the restrictions imposed by the accrediting and governing
bodies (e.g., the AACSB and the New York State Board for Public
Accountancy) that tend to prescribe in painstaking detail the
appropriate and allowable courses of study that qualify for accreditation
of educational programs or that qualify students to sit for the
I think some
leeway in allowing schools to distinguish themselves by offering
studies they deem important during the extra 30 hours will create
constructive competition between schools and improve the quality
of education received by our future CPAs.
I see the 150-hour requirement as a great opportunity for educators
and practitioners to take the profession to the next level by
enhancing the quality of our graduates and soon-to-be-CPAs. This
rule can hold great promise for the development of interesting
and focused degrees and concentrations, such as internal auditing,
information systems, forensic accounting, or a host of others.
I believe we stand to benefit significantly from this change.
Markelevich, PhD, CMA, is an assistant professor at Long
Island University–C.W. Post Campus, Brookville, N.Y.