A few months ago, in this very same column, I made mention of a Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed that there was, in fact, an upside to the accounting scandals that have been hanging over the profession in the form of increased job security and increased demand for accountants and auditors.

In that column, Scandals Have a Silver Lining, I also pondered the idea that all of the attention being lavished on the profession, both positive and negative, might have another constructive effect -- the potential to reverse the downtrend in the number of students entering the profession. Well, it appears that, at least in some states, it has done just that.

In Maryland, the number of accounting majors climbed 17.4 percent last year at the 10 colleges and universities offering undergraduate accounting degrees in the state, according to the Maryland Association of CPAs, which reported that the upswing was due in large part to publicity resulting from the scandals.

"The consensus is -- and I think you'll find a similar story everywhere -- the accounting scandals have contributed enormously to a renewed interest in the profession," Richard Rabicoff, the MACPA public relations manager who analyzed the Maryland Higher Education Commission data, told me.

As Rabicoff noted, "The scandals put a spotlight on the CPA profession, obviously not a terribly flattering one, but they indicated that CPAs are working in a lot of industries and in a lot of different capacities at a high level. It helped get across the message that we've always emphasized -- that CPAs are not always just doing taxes."

Rabicoff added that the uptick in Maryland is similar to the prior year's increase -- and a major rebound from 2001 levels, which capped a decade-long decline that saw accounting major enrollments in the state plummet 45.6 percent.

New Jersey also reported that accounting enrollments there have started to rebound after more than five years of sharp declines, due to a renewed interest created by the scandals. Overall, New Jersey accounting enrollments at the state’s five largest accounting programs are up 9 percent from their 1999/2000 numbers, according to the New Jersey State Society of CPAs.

At the Spring meeting of Council, American Institute of CPAs chief executive Barry Melancon noted that accounting student enrollments have jumped about 7 percent nationally over the past two years.

Of course, other factors have surely played a part as well. The lure of the high-flying tech sector, which drew many students who might have pursued accounting careers during the 1990s, lost its luster when the dot-com bubble burst and sent many students scurrying for jobs with more stability. As Rabicoff noted, starting salaries for accountants are edging up slightly, which can't hurt. And several states, such as Maryland, along with the American Institute of CPAs, have kicked up their efforts to draw high school and college students to the profession.

Hopefully, it's a trend that will wind its way around the country. What's going on in your state? Are accounting student enrollments up, down or flat? Drop us a line and let us hear from you.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access