Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Protecting the public or their own interest?

I’m in the accounting profession, and make my living as an auditor.  And my employer encourages the workforce to pursue higher education and obtain relevant certifications, which lend our agency the credibility needed to satisfy our clients and stakeholders.  In this profession, the crown jewel is the certified public accountant or CPA.

I have toyed around with the idea of sitting for the CPA several times throughout my extensive and venerable career.  I have other credentials, but the CPA would open other opportunities, and so I’ve looked into the requirements to sit for the exam here in Texas.   I was quite surprised at what I found.

Beginning just recently, applicants must take a Board approved ethics class.  The Board is the governing authority for the public accounting profession, and each state has one.  Each state Board has the authority to set whatever requirements it deems necessary to “protect the interest of the public.”  And I guess the Board feels the accounting profession is somehow lacking ethically.  Not only do all new applicants have to take this 3-hour class at a considerable expense, only certain classes taught bycertain professors/instructors are acceptable.  And I just learned of two new impending requirements.

Beginning shortly, new applicants must have 2 hours in “accounting research”, and must have taken business communication.  Why, you ask?  Apparently to reduce the number of public accountants in Texas, as these requirements serve only to restrict and limit the supply of applicants.  Additionally, many board members are university professors, and increasing the academic requirement of public accountants funnels more money into the university.

I question whether these new requirements will enhance the public interest, or only hurt consumers by reducing the number of available CPAs in Texas and driving up prices.  Naturally, the board probably envisioned a more ethically, researched-enabled CPA with honed communication skills, but they overlooked the diminished workforce ready and able to serve the public that these expensive requirements will leave in its wake.  Unfortunately, the unseen is all too often – well, overlooked.

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