Given the recurrence of major ethical scandals in the accounting profession, the importance of ethics education continues to grow. We investigate what measures are being taken by the profession and academy to ensure that students receive sufficient training in ethics prior to entering the workforce as well as subsequently during their careers. Data was hand collected on how states incorporate ethics into their requirements for CPA licensure and how higher education integrates ethics concepts into their accounting curricula. One of the most substantial takeaways from our analysis of ethics requirements for CPA licensure was the limited number of states that require applicants to pass an ethics exam and a college level accounting ethics course to obtain CPA licensure. When considering the status of ethics in the accounting curriculum within higher education, we found that a large proportion of AACSB accredited colleges and universities do not require students to pass an accounting or business ethics course for graduation. This presents cause for concern from an ethics education perspective, because without a stand-alone ethics course, it can be difficult to assess how much ethics education students are really receiving prior to graduation. Moving forward, regulators and educators should consider establishing more uniform requirements for ethics education within the profession. A great place to start would be requiring students to pass an ethics exam to obtain CPA licensure, which in turn would provide an incentive for colleges and universities to offer stand-alone accounting ethics courses to help students prepare. In addition to informing my understanding of the status of accounting ethics education in the United States, this project has been incredibly relevant to my intended career path, as I will soon be taking the CPA exam myself and am committed to conducting myself as an ethical professional within the field of public accounting.
Author(s): Michael Hazel, Accountancy Major
Advisor(s): Timothy Eaton, Accountancy; Jonathan Pyzoha, Accountancy