A discriminant analysis profile of the early development of professional accounting capabilities

Mary Roddy Scott, Louisiana Tech University


The changing nature of the accounting profession has resulted in a change in the skills and traits necessary for success. Therefore, this research was designed to identify the early development of professional capabilities in potential accounting majors and to determine the quality of these students as defined by professional criteria. Further, since vocational literature suggests that people choose careers based on a perceived match of their capabilities with those needed for job performance, potential accounting students' capabilities were compared with those identified in old stereotype studies.

To test the research hypotheses, a random sample of students' answers to the Student Descriptive Questionnaire section of the 1994 SAT exam application was selected from a national sample 100,000 student responses. A principal components procedure reduced the number of variables used in the study to 20 factors for use in MANOVA and discriminant analysis models.

Results indicate that there are significant differences between students who indicate a preference for an accounting major prior to college entry and those who do not. The students who selected accounting displayed better math abilities and technical skills but were less apt to be involved in cultural activities. When the results were compared to the requisite skills needed for the accounting profession today, the potential accounting students evidenced an early development of these skills. However, the lack of positive significant results enforces the profession's position that the "best and the brightest" do not choose to major in accounting.

When compared with old stereotype characteristics identified in vocational literature, the potential accounting majors portrayed an apparent match. Thus, it would appear that students who choose to enter the accounting field are doing so for the wrong reasons. This would provide a possible explanation as to why the "best and the brightest," as defined by the profession, do not choose accounting.