An Empirical Analysis of Career Choice Factors That Influence First-Year Accounting Students at the University of Pretoria: a Cross-Racial Study

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An empirical analysis of career choice factors that influence first-year Accounting students at the University of Pretoria: a cross-racial study

JE Myburgh
Department of Accounting, University of Pretoria

Abstract

This cross-cultural study examined the career choices of Asian, black and white students at the University of Pretoria to identify the factors motivating Accountancy students to become chartered accountants (CAs), as only 2.5% (609) of 24 308 registered CAs in South Africa in 2005 were black, and only 6% (1573) were Indian. Understanding the attitudes and the perceptions of CA first-year students (identifying key career choice factors) can help course administrators/curriculum designers (the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) and the Public Accountants and Auditors' Board (PAAB)) to align marketing and recruiting strategies with specific personal occupational preferences of different racial groups enrolled for local CA courses.

Factors such as decision time-frame of career choice, socio-economic background, students’ perceptions of the benefits/constraints of the CA profession, and other job-related factors, were analysed. Students attributed their career choice to their school Accounting performance. Most chose this career in Grades 8 to 11. All three groups like the availability of employment as a CA. Constraints were the cost of qualifying (according to black students), and the difficulty of qualifying (Asian and white students).

Keywords: Career choice, accounting major selection, racial groups, job selection.

1Introduction

Finding a balance between the demand for and the supply of quality chartered accountants (CAs) has become a problem not only for the CA profession in South Africa, but also for institutions that produce these graduates. As far back as the 1990s, Hermanson, Hermanson and Ivancevich (1995) noted that the accounting profession in the USA was facing a major problem, namely to attract top students who had both the substantial accounting knowledge and the strong communication, technical and analytical skills that are required in the increasingly complex environment in which the chartered accounting profession operates. In meeting their respective needs, the employers and trainers of CAs therefore need to examine the criteria that individuals consider when they select a career as a CA.

The purpose of the study on which this article reports was to examine empirically which factors influence the career choice of students of various racial groups in South Africa who have decided to become CAs. First-year students at the University of Pretoria were used in this study, as the introductory course shapes their perceptions of the profession, the aptitudes and skills needed for successful careers in accounting and the nature of career opportunities in accounting. In order to attract and retain top students, it is essential to identify the differentiating cultural factors and economic backgrounds in general, and the students’ perceptions of the accounting profession in particular. Armed with this information, the academic ‘supplier’ will be able to improve and develop areas of the Accounting curriculum that are responsible for attracting students to Accounting as an academic major.

Several earlier career choice studies have focused on potential Accounting students in general, but they did not focus on the impact on the students’ career choices of the cultural differences between these students. Auyeung and Sands (1997) were the first researchers to conduct a cross-cultural validation of career choice factors after Gul et al. (1989) had pointed out that disregarding culture variations was one of the limitations of their study. Auyeung and Sands (1997) examined the career choices made by students from Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan by adopting the individualism-collectivism cultural dimension as a means to examine the relative importance of these factors in...
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