Towson, Md. (June 29, 2004) -- Boosted by the attention focused on the profession by the recent spate of accounting scandals, the number of accounting majors at colleges and universities climbed more than 17 percent last year, according to the Maryland Association of CPAs.

Accounting majors at the 10 schools offering undergraduate accounting degrees in the state jumped 17.4 percent, according to an MACPA analysis of figures from the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

"That's almost the same as last year, when the increase was in the 17 to 18 percent range," according to Richard Rabicoff, MACPA public relations manager. "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."

Rabicoff continued, "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."

"The publicity, while it wasn’t positive for CPAs in the larger marketplace, created an attraction at the student level," he added. In addition, Rabicoff said "CSI syndrome" -- referring to the popular television series about forensic investigators -- played a part as well. "Anything with a tinge of forensics about it is appealing to undergrads and high school students," he said.

The uptick in enrollments is in marked contrast to a decade-long decline in enrollments in the state. Rabicoff noted that from 1991 to 2001, accounting major enrollments in Maryland declined 45.6 percent.

"One of the reasons that caused the huge decline during that 10-year period was image. The CPA image wasn't well promoted or understood. The scandals helped that," Rabicoff said. "Also the high tech market that was booming during that period, and that reached its apex with the dot-coms, was attracting a lot of the types of students who had gone into accounting. When the tech market busted, people wanted something more secure and found they could apply a lot of that technology in the CPA field and came back. In a down market, students tend to look for stability."

Rabicoff also noted that starting salaries are edging up slightly. In addition, he added that the MACPA has been doing "heavy marketing for the past three years to reach high school and college students. We'd love to think that had some impact as well."

-- Melissa Klein Aguilar

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