Universidade Europeia Laureate International Universities (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN18 Proceedings
Publication year: 2018
Pages: 5113-5121
ISBN: 978-84-09-02709-5
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2018.1248
Conference name: 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2018
Location: Palma, Spain
Since the profession of Certified Public Accountant (CPA) was regulated in Portugal, in 1995, it accumulates great responsibilities on accountancy and taxation. Not only CPAs must reply to Tax Authority for compliance with the tax duties of their clients, but they are also in charge to their clients for the legal certification of their accounts. Accountants also must deal with frequent changes in accounting and tax laws. Besides academic qualifications deliver the foundation for the accountancy and taxation normatives, it is also compulsory to be open to being in systematic professional training to update knowledge and practices needed when in the exercise of their functions.

The CPA profession is regulated by a professional order, the Certified Public Accountant Order (Ordem dos Contabilistas Certificados – OCC - in the original language). As a regulatory body, this Order regulates the profession access and ensures that its members have sufficient qualifications and performance for the exercise of their functions.

To access the CPA profession, it must be an OCC member. Needed requirements for the registration as a CPA are:
(i) a suitable academic degree, namely accounting or business sciences;
(ii) a professional internship; and
(iii) a written exam.

Several key skills related with CPA profession have already been scientifically explored by Finn, Chonko, & Hunt (1988), Hahn & Fairchild (2015), Hsiao (2015) and Dunbar, Laing, & Wynder (2016). Those research studies evaluate mostly the impact of some of these skills in the professional practice. It seems important to understand if academic learning outcomes do reflect the key skills that current CPAs agree to be essential for practitioners.

So, the main question of this research study is: are learning outcomes of business sciences programs in line with the key skills recognized by current practitioners as critical for their job exercise?

To pursue this research study goal, and after a prior literature review, we compared data from two different databases. The first database was gently provided by the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education - A3ES, and it allowed to analyze all learning outcomes of the business sciences programs, since 2008, looking for those that specify the skills that current CPAs highlight. To obtain the second database it was led an empirical study with the participation of CPAs, in which they were enquired to fulfill a survey. The survey took place from November 2016 to November 2017. From the 966 respondents, it was used only 751 answers, because these were CPAs and the questionnaires were completely answered. The survey was applied in a training program to about 3,000 CPAs and through direct contact with about 2,000 CPAs in LinkedIn. The answer rate was about 15%.

Shortly, we compared the number of study programs which have learning outcomes where 14 key skills emerged with the importance level that current CPAs attribute to those same skills.

Findings show some gaps between what higher education institutions expect from their students and what current CPAs considerer significant to accountancy practitioners.

The main contribution of this study is to better understand the skills that current CPAs consider as key skills in the exercise of the profession and the importance given to these skills if we look at the learning outcomes of the business sciences degrees.
Certified Public Accountant, CPA, Learning Outcomes, Portugal.