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The career choice

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Accounting
Wordcount: 5464 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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  • Career choice is a complex phenomenon that can be better appreciated through a study of its key components, i.e. career and choice (Webster’s Dictionary, 1998). Dating back to the seminal works of Hughes (1937) and Goffman (1968), career has been the focus of many studies. However, the contemporary formulations of the concept by critical realists embody a layered conception that embraces subjective experiences and objective structures of work in interplay (Layder, 1993).
  • The definition (choice) incorporates two components: First is the availability of alternatives, which presents an objective reality, and the second one, the act of preference, which involves a subjective process. If a reference to career choice is made, availability of career choices and the dynamics of choosing a career should be examined. Hence, in order for career choice to take place, there should be alternative career routes available and there should be an individual preference between these career options (Marshall, 1989).
  • Career choice is a subject which has attracted academic, professional as well as public attention, due to its multifaceted nature. Since career is a result of the interplay between individuals within organizational and social structures, it yields well to analysis from diverse perspectives ranging from occupational psychology to organizational sociology. Research on career choice is not uncommon on occupational groups such as accountants and health care professionals (see Morrison 2004, Hallissey et al. 2000, Kyriacou and Colthart 2000). The aim of such research is often to predict career choice behaviors based on personality as well as demographic distributive factors.
  • The present study aims to investigate student’s perception towards a career as Chartered Accountants. The topic is of interest since it is estimated that by 2020. Malaysia needs 65.000 Chartered Accountants to fulfill industry needs (Abdullah, 2001). However, to date (as at 2010) only a number of 65.000 accountants are mainly available. Given such statistics, it is almost impossible for the professor to meet the demands in the years time. As such, this study will shed some light or what is the perception of students toward these professors. The results could enable us to understand more the issue of career choice by accounting students.
  • In Malaysia, accounting graduates from the public universities who are interested to register as public accountants are required to become members of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants (MIA). At present, MIA only recognized accounting graduates who graduated from the public universities or from professional accounting studies such as Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), Malaysian Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) and Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). That is, MIA only accepts candidates for membership who hold the relevant academic qualification listed under the Accountants Act 1967. It is therefore, arguable that the public university students would register to become public accountants as their qualifications are recognized by MIA.
  • Several studies in the education literature have identified that students share a common belief that the accounting environment offer a higher supply of jobs compared to other areas of business (Paolillo and Estes, 1982; Wheeler, 1983; Cangelosi et al., 1985; Kochanek and Norgaard, 1985). Of consequence, such belief plays an important role in choosing their career decisions.
  • Further, these studies found their respondents preferring to become public accountants compared to other accounting profession (Carpenter and Strawser, 1970). In Malaysia, several studies have shown that accounting profession is still popular amongst the students (Goon, 1975, Samidi and Tew 1995; Hashim et al, 2003 and Said et al., 2004). For example: Goon (1975) found that the majority of her respondents had chosen accounting as a profession. Samidi and Tew (1995) reported that the profession is still the most popular choice 20 years later. Said et al. (2004) found that the accounting profession ranked amongst the two most preferred careers given by the public and private university students.
  • The previous research internationally has examined high school and perception of tertiary students of an accounting profession and their intentions to pursue accounting career as the choice to the main thing in accounting can be made at any educational level. However, in results are many inconsistencies.
  • The most of these prior studies are quantitative surveys whose results are statistically analyzed using a variety of methods including univariate, multivariate and factor analysis. A small number of these papers also utilize a theoretical framework based on the Theory of Planned Behaviours (Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Felton, Dimnick & Northey, 1995; Allen, 2004; Tan & Laswad, 2006). As such, there has been no attempt to determine the reasons behind the perceptions and intentions or to provide any insight into why there are differences. Some accounting education researchers suggest a need for further research that considers these areas, conceivably by using qualitative research approaches (Hardin, O’Bryan & Quinn, 2000; Byrne & Flood, 2005; Sugahara, Kurihara & Boland, 2006).
  • So this current study sheds insights into the factors that affect a student’s vocational pathway. It focuses on both undergraduate and graduate students in UUM. The rest of this paper is as follows. It first discusses the prior literature in the area and then outlines the research method.
  • It is accompanied by results, the analysis and related discussion. Work at last represents the conclusions of the study, its limitations and opportunities of the future research.


    There have been many previous studies that have examined the choice of accounting as a career by students, including the factors and people (referents) that influence their choice, their level of interest in accounting, and their perceptions on careers as chartered accountants.


    Some studies have found that people perceptions depend on many factors that influence their career decisions (Holland, 1966; 1973). Students perception effect them toward the accounting profession Marriot and Marriott (2003) term, the experience of students at the university and profession impact for pre decision.

    Therefore the monitor of public perception and student’s perception is very important for accounting professions, the relation between students’ perspective and perception of accounting (Nelson et al., 2002, p.282). Albrecht and Sack (2000) found that the important reason for declining the number of accounting graduate because they don’t have more information about the meaning of accounting and accountant’s job. (Albrecht & Sack, 2000, p. 28).

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    Previous studies in USA identified that are many factors for those accounting students had no plan to accounting major and no idea to choose accounting as a career considered the accounting work environment (Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Hermanson & Hermanson, 1995; Saemann & Crooker, 1999; Fransisco, Noland, & Kelly, 2003; Allen, 2004). However, other research suggests the negative perception of accounting in Australian accounting university (first-year accounting students) (Jackling & Calero, 2006), but the research in Canada suggests that the students have a high accounting perception (Felton et al., 1994). Another research in New Zealand, found that the profession as boring for the final year of accounting students at five universities (Ahmed et al. 1997, p.333). In addition, the study by (Laswad & Tan, 2005, p.61) suggests that business students have the impression that accountants are dull, boring, number crunchers.


    Many studies suggests that those the accounting students (high school) have a more positive attitude towards accounting or becoming a CA, and those students more likely to study at university (Felton et al., 1995; Hermanson & Hermanson, 1995; Bryne & Willis, 1995; Sugahara & Boland, 2005; Hartwell et al, 2005; Tan & Laswad, 2006).the students at high level they effect on those that choose a CA career Felton et al. (1994).

    Other research found that the students at the high school have experience and interest or matahematics those who choose accounting major (Paolillo & Estes, 1982; Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Allen, 2004; Bryne & Flood, 2005; Hartwell et al., 2005). In contrast, based in the study by Tan and Laswad (2006) suggests that skills and a background in mathematics are not an important of performance in accounting courses.

    Another study suggested that the accounting students (first or introductory ) has been argued the first year or introductory is good stage can effect for interest levels or accounting perception and they can impact on tertiary students career (Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Felton et al., 1995; Chen, Jones, & McIntyre, 2005; Jackling & Calero, 2006). Nonetheless, Saemann & Crooker (1999).


    A number of studies have indicated that the important factor for accounting students to discipline choice is job satisfaction (Paolillo and Estes, 1982; Gul et al 1989; Ahmed et al., 1997; Auyeung and Sands 1997). However Paolillo and Estes, 1982 and Ahmed et al., 1997 also suggests that the lower importance of intrinsic for accountancy. This is in contrast to the findings of Linden (1987), Adams et al., (1994), Felton et al., (1994) and Jackling and Calero (2006), who demonstrate that intrinsic factors are very important in career decisions made by accounting students.

    Some studies found that the interest and enjoyable in the subject is very important to choose accounting major Adams et al., (1994) and Mauldin et al., (2000), Saemann and Crooker (1999) this finding was further supported by results of Jackling and Calero (2006) suggests the enjoyment of the accounting topics can affect for students career in accounting. Other studies have found that many students believe the accounting curriculum impacts on students’ perceptions of the work of the accountant and their desire to pursue a career in accounting (Zeff 1989).

    Prior research has found misconceptions of what the level of interesting in accounting subject and accountants job are not the only factors that students don’t choose accounting as a major Albrecht and Sack (2000) suggest that the high degree and career options are the reasons for declining of the number of accounting graduate. Therefore, intrinsic and extrinsic career related factors might also affect the choice of accounting as a career.

    There are many factors related to Extrinsic factors such as the job market, financial and career considerations, the costs of becoming a CA have also been examined in prior research. Job variety, availability, security and opportunities have all been proposed as possible factors that effect for accounting choice (Hartwell et al, 2005).

    Financial factors such as initial salaries and career consideration (potential long-term earning, prestige, career prospects) are the reasons for declining the number of accounting graduate Albrecht and Sack (2000), for example in the US school students 40 % focused opportunities for career promotion and 10 % valued financial rewards (Hartwell et al, 2005).

    The results for Japan study, suggests that the tertiary students were also attracted by career prospects and social status and prestige (Sugahara & Boland, 2005). However, social status or prestige is not so important to Australian tertiary students (Jackling & Calero, 2006).

    But some researchers suggest that the financial rewards don’t impact for accounting choice and not as important as intrinsic factor (Paolillo & Estes, 1982). However Sugahara & Boland, 2005, they suggests initial earning were very important for tertiary students to choose their career. The result of New Zealand study argued that both initial and long term earning are important (Ahmed et al, 1997)


    Prior studies suggests that the human or referents very important factor that impact for students for their career or to became CA ,some examination of the literature surrounding potential influencers or referents indicates there are five possible groups: parents/caregivers, friends, accounting/business professional members, university instructors and high school teachers/career advisors. Ahmend et al (1997) . (Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Allen 2004). They use the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) as its theoretical framework have identified that tertiary students make a choice of major, in part, based on what their relevant referents think they should do This was also the case in the Tan and Laswad (2006) study.

    Regarding the importance of parents. Sugahara & Boland, 2005 found that the most importance or significant is parents to influence of students choice .However, other US studies have found them to be less important (Paolillo & Estes, 1982; Hermanson & Hermanson 1995; Maudlin et al., 2000). When combined with friends, family was found to be significant (48%) by Hartwell et al (2005). However, friends on their own were seen to be less important in the studies by Paolillo and Estes (1982) and Hermanson and Hermansson (1995).

    Japanese study found that the members of accounting or business professions were the most influential referent for accounting students career(Sugahara & Boland, 2005) and the second most influential one for US accounting majors (Cohen & Hanno, 1993; Hermanson & Hermanson, 1995; Allen, 2004). US research has further demonstrated that accounting professionals can have an impact on the perception of accountants and the accounting profession when they make planned presentations to introductory accounting courses (Fedoryshyn & Tyson, 2003).

    The high school teacher and high school career advisor found by previous studies. Hermanson (1995) and Hartwell et al. (2005) .Some research such as Hermanson and argue that in the US, high school teachers / career advisors only influence 5 to 12% of their students’ career choice. They were also found to have a weak influence on Japanese students (Sugahara & Boland, 2005). However, the studies in US and Ireland has identified that the influence of teachers for students to their accounting perception (Paolillo & Estes, 1982; Mauldin et al 2000; Byrne & Flood, 2005; Byrne and Willis, 2005).

    Even though the results are inconsistent, any misconception of accountants and the accounting profession by these high school teachers and career advisors has the potential to change a student’s major or career choice. Wells and Fieger (2005) in a New Zealand based survey of high school teachers found that there was a mismatch between high school teachers’ perceptions of accounting and accounting’s actual role and that the teachers had a low opinion of accounting as a career option for students. These results are similar to two other studies that utilize the same survey instrument, those of Hardin et al. (2000) and Sugahara et al. (2006). These two research studies suggest that high school teachers consider accounting “monotonous and boring” (Sugahara et al., 2006, p. 416) and that “the accounting profession has a serious perception problem among high school educators” (Hardin et al., 2000, p. 216) when compared to other professions such as medicine, law and engineering.

    Furthermore, the Wells and Fieger (2005) results support those of Fransisco et al. (2003) who conclude that, in addition to the boring image of accounting, some high school teachers in the US are not encouraging their brightest students to consider accounting as a career.

    High school career advisors’ perceptions of the accounting profession have also been investigated. Pollock, Papiernik and Slaubaugh (2002), in a US-based study suggest that career advisors thought that the accounting profession was uninteresting, stressful, time consuming and not that financially rewarding with accounting overall being viewed as boring. They were also not familiar with the CPA requirements. However, high school career advisors have not been examined in a New Zealand context.

    Many researchers suggests that the students not only influenced by own perception but there are many reasons such as teachers, parents, and friends that effect their choice in high school or university Harrison (1998), however prior studies found that the impact of teachers on a student’s very important in university to choose accounting as major (e.g.Paolillo and Estes 1982; Hermanson and Hermanson 1995; Geiger and Ogilby 2000; Mauldin et al., 2000)

    Some studies also found that parents had strong influence on accounting decisions Inman et al., (1989); Mauldin et al., (2000) and Tan and Laswad (2006). The result about Asian students suggests that the important of human to effect of their opinions towards accounting major Auyeung and Sands (1997). Tan and Laswad (2006) also found that international students in particular regarded the views of parents and career counselors as important in their selection of intended major.



    The target population of this study is the Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM), students studying of postgraduate and undergraduate Accounting course in 2010.


    The sampling procedures relied on convenience and self-selection. All members of the sample were enrolled at university Utara Malaysia in one of the Malaysia universities. they were either in an Accounting-major class. For this study, there were two Groups, postgraduate and undergraduate students in UUM.


    The instrument came in the form of a modified from Satoshi Sugahara and Gregory Boland (2005) study, the Accounting Profession as a Career Choice for tertiary Business students in Japan .

    112 the questionnaire included 17 questions. Seven questions were related to Demographic information, five Questions related to Career choice, and five questions were related to perception toward the accounting profession. The Perception questions dealt with topics that affected specific perception toward the accounting profession such as background for accounting, occupational attributes regarding an accountant, difficulties to become a CPA. The career choice questions dealt with future career plans and goals as well as major selection and development, influenced by people, and factors for career options and development.


    The data set used in this study was collected via questionnaires completed by 150 students undertaking the accounting major as part of their undergraduate and postgraduate studies at a Universiti Utara Malaysia. This unit of study represents the first unit of accounting studied in the undergraduate and postgraduate degree that is only completed by students pursuing an accounting major.

    The questionnaire collected background information relating to entry pathway, country of permanent residence and factors important in decision to major in accounting The present study replicated several aspects of prior study of Satoshi Sugahara and Gregory Boland (2005) ,the Accounting Profession as a Career Choice for tertiary Business students in Japan , a factor analysis using the Accounting Attitude Scale (AAS) developed by Nelson (1991).

    The 150 questionnaires were distributed and collected directly from the classrooms at each Class. After eliminating unusable questionnaires, an effective 112 responses (74.66% response rate) were used. Most of the unusable responses were due to the incompletion of the Questionnaires


    Factor analysis was selected as the prime method for our study. This method is usually conducted by using a combination of factor extraction and factor rotation. It is possible that by using the factor extraction method we can identify any underlying latent patterns of relationships among students’ vocational attributes. This has the effect of condensing the gathered information into smaller and more meaningful components or factors. The factors were identified by determining the optimal combination of attributes, which enabled more of the variance in the data to be explained compared to any other variable combinations.

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    Among several factor extraction methods available, the principal component analysis was selected for this study simply because it is one of the more commonly used today. The optimal numbers of factors were determined by applying the most commonly used eigenvalues- greater-than- one rule (Kim & Mueller, 1978). From the samples used in our study, two factor analyses were conducted for both the postgraduate and undergraduate accounting students groups.

    As for the factor rotation procedure, the Promax rotation technique was applied to assist us in the interpretation of potential influential factors. This method has also been widely used in previous studies, for example Ahmadi et al. (1995). Following the analysis of these vocational attributes a descriptor was assigned to properly reflect the meaning of the factor and grouped attribute.

    In addressing students’ perceptions of the work of accountants the study uses descriptive statistics to examine the attitude of undergraduate and postgraduate students towards the accounting profession. The study explored students’ attitudes towards the work of accountants following the methodology by Satoshi Sugahara and Gregory Boland (2005).



    In this study, questionnaires were distributed to students studying the accounting course in the UUM. Of the 112 useable responses 74 were female and 38 were male. The distributions of students by race were 88 Malaysian students (46 Malay, 38 Chinese, and 2 Indian), 12 Arab, and 12 other international students.


    The results of the present study show that the majority (32.14%) of the respondents chose their careers during Pre-High school. This may imply that the recruitment campaigns at schools are fairly effective, but that career guidance teachers should provide more information to enlighten students regarding the pros and cons of the profession. This is in line with the findings of Hermanson et al. (1995) and Paolillo and Estes (1982). However, Sale (2001) and Graves, Nelson and Deines (1993) found that the majority of students made their career choice only once they had registered at a tertiary institution.




    There are four factors were identified for accounting students. These results explained 73.953% of total variance. The Promax method was selected for rotation, and all attributes with factor loadings of more than 0.5 were retained for the purpose of this analysis.

    The first largest factor for accounting students was interpreted as Intrinsic and extrinsic career related factors (23.154%) confirmed by the two attributes such as “chance to make a contribution and nature of job. The intrinsic value was specifically defined in prior studies (Felton et al.,1994; Ahmed et al., 1997) as the factor relating to one’s satisfaction derived from jobs, which Provide the chance to be creative, autonomous, intellectual challenging and working in a Dynamic environment.

    Prior New Zealand research (Malthus & Fowler, 2003) has indicated that although extrinsic factors such as financial rewards, prestige and other market related factors are perceived as important when choosing an accounting career, they are inconclusive as to whether intrinsic factors such as job satisfaction are also important.

    The financial rewards factor. Financial reward has been regarded as an important factor that affects a student’s career choice decision in many prior studies (Paolillo & Estes, 1982; Kochanek & Norgaard, 1985; Inman et al., 1989; Adams et al., 1994; Felton et al., 1994; Ahmed et al., 1997)

    In the present study, this factor, comprising good initial salary and good long-term earning. Nevertheless, we believe that the attributes of financial rewards were integrated with other attributes to form different factors. As seen above, the attribute good long-term earning was combined with the largest Career Prospects factor. Similarly, the attributes for financial rewards, for example good initial salary, come with job availability.

    Another factor for accounting students was interpreted as Job Market Conditions. This factor also has been observed in previous studies (Felton et al., 1994; Ahmed et al., 1997). The two attributes of element of job variety & adventure and flexibility in career options were basically incorporated into this factor.

    The factor of working environment. Although accounting students consider this as one of the influential factors. In accordance with this factor, Buckley & McKenna (1973) similarly regarded some attributes, for examples the length of work hours and other physical working conditions, as crucial aspects of employers job motivation, which would affect ones career choice.

    However for this current study factors contained the three following attributes: sufficient time for social life, length of work hours and good physical working conditions. Research has suggested that at high school, the study of accounting, an aptitude for mathematics and/or an interest in the subject impacts on the choice of accounting as a career with this choice potentially being influenced by the students’ teachers and career advisors. The high school and tertiary students who were studying accounting generally had a more positive attitude towards accounting and accountants.

    The perception as to what skills and characteristics are required for an accounting career potentially affects the type of student the career advisors may encourage to study accounting at high school. Nonetheless, the results also indicate that other factors played a role in the career decisions the students made.

    The final factor for accounting students was interpreted as The Major human influencers or referents factor ranked relatively lower for both student groups in deciding their vocational choice. The empirical study by Inman et al. (1989), Silverstone & Williams (1979) and Mauldin et al. (2000) reported that parental influence was relatively stronger. Similarly, Cohen & Hanno (1993), Allen (2004) and Tan & Laswad (2006) discovered that close friends and business friends have exercised significant influence on students’ major choice when studying accounting.

    Previous New Zealand Laswad & Tan, 2005, Charting a course into accountancy, Chartered Accountancy Journal of New Zealand, 59-61 research suggests that the most important referent for New Zealand students is their parents (caregivers). However, international research suggests other groups may also be important. It was apparent from all the student focus groups that the main referents were the students parents and family members, teachers, and people. Other referents mentioned were friends, and university.


    Correlation is a vicariate measure of association (strength) of the relationship between two variables. It varies from 0 (random relationship) to 1 (perfect linear relationship) or -1 (perfect negative linear relationship). It is usually reported in terms of its square, interpreted as percent of variance explained. The use of partial correlation is usually restricted to simple models of 3 or 4 variables, 5 at the most (Cohon, 1983).

    Correlation will also be attenuated to the extent there is measurement error, including use of sub-interval data or artificial truncation of the range of the data. Correlation can also be a misleading average if the relationship varies depending on the value of the independent variables.

    This section reports the correlation analysis results of maximum figures of inter-factor correlation were 0.294 between factor 4 and factor 2 for accounting students, and shown the relationship between factor 3 and factor 1 were 0.261, also the correlation between factor 3 and factor 2 were (0.236).


    As noted above the results of our factor analysis for accounting students revealed that the major influential factor was Intrinsic Value. It would appear credible that such occurrences may quickly drive a student’s career choice away from accounting. To address this worrying issue, it is necessary to disseminate appropriate promotional activities that can negate such negative images and convince students’ of the attractiveness attached to a CPA profession.

    Our study also reports that the factor Career Prospects is ranked relatively higher for accounting students. From the authors experience. The empirical evidence supports this. However, our study suggests that this kind of information can be very harmful to our brightest accounting students.

    The findings also suggested that accounting students seem to be quite sensitive to employability when it comes to Job Market Considerations. While this factor was ranked for accounting students, the sub section for accounting students contained two specific attributes: namely job availability and security of employment.

    Working environment and financial rewards are in common in terms of physical benefits. Several prior studies examined and found that these factors have significant influences on a students’ career choice in relation to accounting (Paolillo & Estes, 1982; Kochanek & Norgaard, 1985; Inman et al., 1989; Adams et al., 1994; Felton et al., 1994; Ahmed et al., 1997).

    In contrast, the finding of our study in Malaysia indicated that these were ranked as only minor factors. The results again confirm that both the professional body and the accounting firms should give more attention to the intrinsic values rather than the physical factors when marketing the attractiveness of a CPA career especially for the accounting students.

    As for the remaining influential vocational factor for accounting students, Persons’ Influences, was rated the lowest. Prior studies discussed the effectiveness of this factor but have failed to agree on this issue. Some studies insisted that Persons Influence is very important to a student’s career choice (Paolillo & Estes, 1982; Cohen & Hanno, 1993) while other studies have not supported this impact (Gul et al., 1989; Ahmed et al., 1997). The analysis of this current study in Malaysia supports the latter cases, which indicate that promotional activities involving other persons could be relatively ineffective in encouraging accounting students.

    Job market considerations were also ranked relatively higher accounting students. This also suggests we need to emphasize the importance of the economical and physical conditions of an accounting career, rather than the mental factors such as occupational intrinsic values that were more important to accounting students.

    Therefore, in establishing a career pathway accounting students may be slightly driven by these attributes in the short-term. This aspect should also be considered by the professional body and accounting firms when developing remuneration schemes.


    The purpose of this study was to observe factors profiles in career choice for accounting students. The results of our empirical study indicated that there were four factors, our study also suggests strategies for the accounting professional body and the accounting firms to develop and maintain the attractiveness of the CPA in accordance with the results of the statistical anal


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