Southwestern @ Georgetown
Volume 17 • Number 3
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CPA Exam Asks for More Than Balancing Debits and Credits

For many years, leading business executives have come to college campuses and encouraged business students to take more non-business courses in the humanities.

Changes to the Certified Public Accountant exam now further encourage accounting majors to broaden their academic horizon. Forty-nine states now have requirements to sit for the CPA examination that include 150 credit hours, rather than the 120 hours previously needed. At the time of this transition, three models were considered. The “accounting” model would have required the additional 30 hours to be in accounting courses. The “business” model would have required the additional hours to be in business, with the objective of complementing the already strong accounting preparation of the candidates. The “liberal arts” model, however, set no firm requirements regarding the additional 30 hours, in the hope that students would use the extra hours to broaden their education outside of accounting and even business courses.

The accounting profession and (more surprisingly to me, anyway) the accounting academy strongly endorsed the third model. As a result these additional course hours are mostly non-business, devoted to the study of ethics, logic, cultures and other areas typically associated with the humanities. Accountancy has historically suffered not from a lack of technically qualified accountants, but rather from students who are unable to communicate effectively or relate to others. This legislation acknowledges and addresses that weakness. I should also add that, even before the 150-hour rule was adopted, employers and recent graduates both often commented on how well-qualified our (Southwestern) grads have been regarding their proficiency in communication and organization in comparison to their counterparts from large universities.