Comparative Study of the Perceptions of Accounting Students and Certified Public Accountants Regarding Ethics Education in University Accounting Curricula

Open Access
Evans, Theodore R
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Orie Edwin Barron, Thesis Supervisor
  • Orie Edwin Barron, Honors Advisor
  • Jeremiah Ross Green, Faculty Reader
  • accounting
  • ethics
  • education
  • certified public accountant
  • CPA
The notion of ethics education in university accounting programs has been the center of an ongoing debate between educators, regulators, and researchers following the accounting scandals of the beginning of the 21st century. There is significant disagreement among these groups on the appropriate extent and form that such instruction should take. Prior research on the subject has focused heavily on the opinions of university accounting instructors concerning ethics education for accounting students, but perceptions of two of the most relevant groups in this discussion, students and practitioners, have gone relatively unexplored. Using a web-based survey to collect responses from voluntary participants, this study attempts to understand the positions of these groups on a variety of aspects of ethics education, including the importance of the topic in accounting programs, which type of course structure is preferred for such instruction, and the adequacy of current ethics coverage. The results of the surveys indicate that both students and CPAs believe that ethics should be taught in university accounting programs and that the inclusion of such instruction would aid students in solving ethical dilemmas. The results also suggest that both groups support a variety of formats by which students can receive ethical instruction. Interestingly, students and CPAs felt that current ethics coverage is not excessive, but were uncertain as to whether they would consider it appropriate or lacking. The information gathered may be of use in further studies on the perceptions of ethics education and to regulatory and educational organizations as they attempt to design and implement a solution to end the continuous deliberation on the topic.