In October, Jason Ackerman’s first practice management column discussed his firm’s practice of hiring high school interns at his firm to give them early exposure to the world of accounting. Subsequent to this, The CPA Journal sat down with a small but diverse group of juniors and seniors from the Academy of Finance at James Madison High in Brooklyn and the Academy of Finance and Enterprise in Queens. The students shared their thoughts and views on the accounting profession and the future of the industry. The National Academy of Finance is a network of business, education, and community leaders who help to ensure that these students are prepared for college, their careers, and the future.
Accounting in a High School Setting
Many of the students had a strong idea of how to describe the accounting profession. They expressed their knowledge of several technical terms and understood the need to be organized and focused for the profession. One student described accounting as “boring, but enjoyable.” The other students were in agreement, noting that accounting, unlike many of the other core courses they are exposed to, presents finite solutions and requires very little guesswork. A common theme among the students’ observations was that accounting is universal; no matter where one goes in the world or what language one speaks, the practice of accounting is the same.
These students are able to take a wide array of courses beyond the basic accounting course that might be offered in a typical curriculum. One student described how they are learning bookkeeping and “have to track revenue streams;” another described how they are even learning payroll, which most people might not see until college. When asked how this class compared with their other courses, the students said that the accounting courses are far more enjoyable. One student said, “I fell in love with accounting, because every other subject doesn’t stick with me the way accounting does.” For most of the students, the concepts discussed in these courses, while difficult, came more naturally than anything else. Many of them said they are now prepared to enter into an accounting or business major upon entering college.
Another student described accountants as “the police or investigators of the financial world.”
The CPA and the Community
Many of the students were unaware of the obligation of CPAs to protect the public interest. One student said that this makes sense because the accountant is the “backbone of the company,” and without them most companies would be unable to function. Another student described accountants as “the police or investigators of the financial world.” Ultimately, the responsibility of protecting public interest seemed to inspire the students even more; they understood that this is an important idea when pursuing accounting as a profession.
The students also discussed the idea that CPAs can make their community as a whole a better place to live. They agreed that the concept was believable, and discussed how without accountants, cities, companies, and sometimes even individuals would not be able to function. They related this idea back to the concept of sustainability, and how accountants can now focus on sustainable reporting in order to ensure enterprises are viable over the long term.
The Future of the Accounting Profession
Being juniors and seniors, many if not all of these students have already thought about college prospects. They all plan to pursue either accounting or business administration as a course of study in college. One student said that the courses she has taken “have given me a broad knowledge of the profession and what I should be expecting in college.” These courses are designed not only for what the students can expect in college, but in the business world as well.
They have been encouraged and inspired by the courses they have taken and the teachers who have taught them. Many of them also know accountants, and having these people in their lives could play a large role in how they shape their futures. One student said that her mother is a CPA in the Dominican Republic, and that this drew her to this course of study.
These students represent the future of the accounting profession. While this is only one conversation with a relative few future CPAs, their passion for the profession and understanding of its responsibilities provide one with a positive outlook.