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Accounting, most vital and important profession

Bhattacharyya (2010) had stated that the accounting profession is one of the most vital and important profession. Although with the bumpy situation in the current economic when many people had lost their job, accounting is the only one sector that is still going strong and creating job opportunity. Further to that accounting profession is also important in ensuring the success of a business because indirectly accounting knowledge is required every aspect of the decision making made by the management. A CEO or top manager must be able to understand and analyze information obtained from the financial statement before making any decision which reflecting the company’s performance. But what most vital is for the company to have someone with a good background in accounting. Here is where the accounting profession comes in handy.

IFAC President Goran Tidstrom stated during the opening of WCOA 2010 in November 2010, accountants need to play more prominent role in the growth and sustainability of the economic especially during the financial crisis. This was due to the increase responsibilities of an accountant with the advancement of the technology, globalization, multidisciplinary economic environments and changes in the business environment (AP, Walker, 2004). Accountants today are not merely responsible in just doing the bookkeeping but had move forward as a profession that able to help transform the human resource skills by bridging the gap between theorists by economics and ground level implementation. This view was shared by Andrew Sheng, China Banking Regulatory Commission’s Chief Advisor during the Institute of Certified Public Accountants (MICPA) 51st Anniversary Commemorative Lecture held in Kuala Lumpur on April 2010. He further stated that accountants played a major role in the knowledge economy from data classification to data analysis.

However, it can be seen from previous study done that in recent years various parts of the world had been experiencing continuous decrease in accounting programmes enrolment (Albrecht and Sack,2000, Marshall,2003, Jackling, 2002). During the WCOA 2010, Organising Chairman Dr. Y. C. Lee had stated that currently in Malaysia there are an estimated of 26,000 accountants but the figure is still insufficient to meet the demands of industry and government due to the rapid development of business. One of the reasons why this had happen is because many of these accountants had moved into different functions from accounting profession. The Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA), a statutory body responsible to regulate and develop accounting profession in Malaysia had reported statistically the number of registered member continuously declining although the total members is increasing as shown in the table below.

Table 1.0: Statistic of Number in Membership for MIA

Year

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Registered members for the year

1,494

1,427

1,501

1,269

1,266

Total Registered members

22,459

23,558

24,719

25,526

26,250

Source: MIA Annual Report (2006 – 2010)

There are many factors contribute to the decrease in the membership of MIA. One of the many is the perceptions of individual towards the accounting profession. Perceptions towards the accounting profession is significant as it can influence the decision to pursue accounting as future career (Mladenovic,2000, Pollock et al.,2002, Byrne and Willis,2005, Hartwell et al.,2005). To attract more people to major in accounting is by knowing this perception and change it towards more positive in related to the profession (Seamann and Crooker,1999, Geiger and Ogilby, 2000).

In this study, the researcher want to explore and understand what is the perception of the students currently taking accounting programmes towards the accounting profession and their intention to pursue as future career. Kota Kinabalu had been chosen as the study area as most of the public universities and private colleges are situated in this area. Different geographical and cultural have a different perception towards the profession (Auyeung and Sands,1997, Germanou et al,2009).

1.1 Problem Statement

Declared in the Vision 2020, it is a call for the nation to achieve a self-sufficient industrialized nation which covered every aspects of life such as economic prosperity, social well-being, educational world-class, political stability and psychological balance (Mohamed Jawhar, 1994, Jeong, 2007). There are many key players in achieving this vision and one of them is the accounting profession. With the implementation of New Economic Model (NEM), accounting profession is crucial in this area as they are the key function that needed to transform the economy to be more transparent, accountable and ability to execute. The president of MIA, Abdul Rahim Abdul Hamid also mention in his president’s statement (MIA Annual Report, 2010), role of accountant in the present corporate had extended beyond the backroom number-cruncher. The credibility of this profession in the eyes of the public is essential as one of aspects to ensure success. Barsky and Catanach (2001) found in their study that many students and their parents do not understand the role of an accountant had changed tremendously from advisor of micro matters to the consultant on broad-based management issues.

Changes in the business and public accounting environment had created a perceived need for an expanded skills set among accounting practitioners which focus more on the quality of students taking this field. Before talking about “changing” the students, it is important to know why they select the program at the first place, is their perceptions towards the profession had made them decided to pursue or not to pursue accounting profession as their future career. Jackling and Calero (2006) noted that the students’ motivation to pursue an accounting career was influenced by their intrinsic interest and perceptions. For the profession to attract students, it must seek to influence students’ perceptions of accounting by providing them with realistic exposé of the work (Bryne and Willis, 2005). Previous studies conducted reveal negative perceptions by implementing different measurements such as characteristics of accountants and their jobs, costs and benefits, perceived skills required and stereotypes of accountant (Mladenovic,2000, Coate et al.,2003, Chen et al.,2008). Germanous et al. (2009) said that the missing elements in the previous studies are the measurement of the perception of the accounting profession based on a commonly accepted theoretical framework.

Personal perceptions that people hold towards accounting profession varies according to cultural and environment they were brought up (Auyeung and Sands,1997, Tan and Laswad, 2006, Sugahara et al., 2008, Germanous et al.,2009, McDowall and Jackling,2010). Individualism- collectivism dimension tends to polarize Australian students relative to Hong Kong and Taiwanese students (Auyeung and Sands,1997). Chinese students who possess different cognitive styles compared to Australian domestic students have chosen an accounting major (Sugahara et al., 2008). Local students in Australia have a more positive attitude towards accounting profession compare to the international students (McDowall and Jackling,2010). From the previous studies, it can be indicated that students currently taking accounting programmes in Kota Kinabalu area will result in different perceptions due to the different cultural and geographical area. This study is to provide the result of findings whether it contribute the same view as the previous studies and their intention to pursue accounting profession as their future career.

1.2 Research Objectives

For the purpose of this study, the research questions will be as follows:

To identify the relationship between the students’ perception towards the accounting profession and the intention to pursue as future career.

To investigate whether there is a significant relationship between the intention to pursue accounting profession as future career and the extrinsic dimension

To investigate whether there is a significant relationship between the intention to pursue accounting profession as future career and the prestige dimension

To investigate whether there is a significant relationship between the intention to pursue accounting profession as future career and the intrinsic dimension

To investigate whether there is a significant relationship between the intention to pursue accounting profession as future career and the social dimension

1.3 Scope of the Study

The researcher is attempting to identify the significant relationship with the perceptions toward accounting profession held by the students currently undergoing the accounting programmes and their intention to pursue as future career. Specifically Kota Kinabalu area is selected as most of the public universities and private colleges are within this area. Furthermore the students’ population is higher in this area compare to the rest of the area in Sabah.

1.4 Rationale and Significant of Study

It is very important to identify the reasons for the positive or negative perceptions of the students towards the accounting profession as the number in employment for this profession is decreasing and to achieve Vision 2020 more accountants will be needed. IFAC President Goran Tidstrom commented that the ratio of accountants needed to be increased to support the changes in the business environment (i.e. advanced technology, globalization) and broader roles of accountants to support the management in making sure the business is successful.

The findings of this study will help to provide the insights of the students’ perception toward this profession and necessary actions could be taken. Aspiring the Gen Y to enable them to grow fond of accounting profession by giving them the knowledge of accountant roles, giving direct expose to the accountants’ world and trying to create opportunity for them by demonstrating the wide areas of accounting activities. MIA, Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE), academicians and educators should work hand in hand to ensure that the courses embedded in the current curricular for accounting programmes are in line with the current evolvement of the profession by taking into consideration on the factors that give negative perceptions on the profession. CPA Australia has taken the initiative by involving directly in shaping the global direction for the accounting profession and the same time lends their hands to developing countries for advancement.

Germanous et al. (2009) mention in their study that it will be important to identify the reasons why students acquire neutral or negative intentions to pursue accounting as their future career although they already pursue an accounting degree with some shed of light from the cultural perspectives, business/economics conditions and socio-political system differences.

1.5 Definition of terms used

The following are some definitions of the terms used in this study.

Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA) – statutory body who regulates and develops the accounting profession through education & development, the promotion of adherence to professional standards and practices and finally, surveillance and enforcement.

Perception as define in Wikipedia - the process by which an organism attains awareness or understanding of its environment by organizing and interpreting sensory information.

Accounting Profession – referred to as language and soul of a business with stipulated body of rules, conventions and general standards to be adhered.

Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) – statutory body who develop and monitor the higher education environment to adopt and adapt with the current changes with updated information and knowledge.

1.6 Learning institutions

Learning institutions comprise of the public universities and private colleges who offer higher education at diploma and above level in Kota Kinabalu area. The learning institutions in the context of this study which offered accounting programme are listed as below.

University of Malaysia Sabah (UMS) – Degree in Accountancy

University of Technology Mara (UiTM) – Diploma and Degree in Accountancy

Politeknik Kota Kinabalu (PKK Sabah) – Diploma in Accountancy

Cosmopoint Sdn Bhd – Diploma in Accountancy

University of Tun Abdul Razak (UniRazak) – Diploma in Accountancy

1.7 Summary and Organization of Research

Chapter 1 give the introduction of the research topic whereby it explain the problem statement, research questions, scope of study, significant of the study, definition of few terms that is being used and the learning institutions that is going to be involvement in the study.

Chapter 2 thoroughly clarify on the literature review and the theory underpin used which explain further from the previous studies done in the same area of topic especially on the perception of students towards the accounting profession.

Chapter 3 is the research methodology applied in this study. The instrument for measurement is adopted and modified from Germanou et al. (2009). It further explain the content of the research design, theoretical framework, hypotheses derived and the techniques analysis used to derive to findings and conclusions.

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