Accountancy continues to thrive

By Jill Disis

Economic downturns have been punishing for many professions, as illustrated by the increasing unemployment rate and difficulty that many have in finding a job. For accountancy majors, however, business is still thriving. Researchers project that this lucrative career will continue to remain in an upswing going into the next decade. But how are universities responding to this trend?

UIUC:

Ira Solomon, head of the University’s accountancy department, said that the innovative character of the University’s curriculum helps keep students in very high demand in the professional world. Solomon said he did not see any need for major changes in the program.

“Students are successful on the skill front, and we also have what we like to call the attitudinal front,” Solomon said about the curriculum. “They are there with public responsibility for this noble profession. It is a top rated program.”

Other universities:

Jim Young, chair of Northern Illinois University’s College of Business, said NIU is not changing much within its program.

“We are well-known and well-respected in the academic community,” Young said. “There is a lot of demand for the program that we have.”

Smaller universities are making larger pushes to generate new interest.

“We’re constantly upgrading,” said Richard Palmer, accounting professor at Eastern Illinois University.

Palmer said EIU is generating interest in students looking for smaller, more personal programs.

John Elfrink, accountancy chairman at Western Illinois University, said WIU was also continuously modifying its program.

“We are making the transition from US accounting standards to international standards, which is another in-demand area,” Elfrink said. “We are looking at increasing our auditing strength, another growth area, as well.”

Other concerns:

Many professors said they were also concerned about the faculty shortage in accountancy programs. Palmer said smaller universities such as EIU are suffering from a lack of doctorate candidates and the rising number of retiring faculty members.

“There’s a lot of need and demand, and the pipeline is not pushing the doctorate students out,” Palmer said. “We need larger universities to push harder to create candidates.”

Larger university professors, however, said it was difficult to even get accountants to leave the field. Solomon said many accountants are reluctant to leave their practice in order to enter academia.

“Not only are the salaries lower, but people receive only modest stipends,” Solomon said.