Accounting, Edición 56

Training Public Accountants To Be Successful

By: Ana María Díaz y Virginia Kalis

The figure of the public accountant has always been indispensable. However, globalization has resulted in greater operational complexity and an undeniable need to meet international standards.

The accounting profession has had to adapt and evolve with the environment. The figure of the traditional public accountant is no longer sufficient, rather it must be prepared to meet all these needs.

The accounting profession is facing great challenges, but it also has many opportunities. Every day companies require a higher level of competitiveness in their employees, and universities must prepare their students to meet the demands of the labor market and confront this globalized and competitive world.

Traditional education is being left behind. Universities are modifying their curricula so that students acquire skills, abilities, attitudes and values in their academic formation in order to thrive in the labor market. Among the various teaching models, competency-based training is currently considered as contributing best to this new learning.

There are general and specific skills. General skills are based on the development of personal, interpersonal and social environments, while specific skills are those with which graduates begin their professional life. With regard to the specific competencies of the public accounting degree, the current study plan should promote a teaching-learning process in the comprehensive formation of the accountant.

These ongoing changes in the environment that have so much influence on the professional development needs of the accountants are, among others, the following:

  • An increase in the depth and complexity of the operations.
  • A growing range of specialties in accounting, with different learning needs.
  • An increase in the demand for accountants able to work in different sectors and countries.
  • The creation of new ways of presenting information, such as integrated reports.
  • The constant updating of information technologies (IT), such as databases.
  • The increasing adoption or standardization of the International Financial Reporting Standards.
  • The need to acquire vocational skills with critical judgment.

Companies are going to recruit graduates who, in addition to their technical expertise, possess attitudes and skills to cope with the changing world of business, because the future environment will be different. The market requires public accountants who know how to negotiate, handle conflicts and communicate, as well as work in multidisciplinary and multicultural teams.

The impact of technology and the global economy, new sources of competition and accountability, among other factors, have led to a change in the nature of the accounting profession, which announced the emergence of a new generation of accountants.

Accounting students join a work force that is transformed daily by technology. Technology is an engine of change that responds to the new information needs. It is increasingly necessary for accountants to have an analytical mind with a great capacity to manage and analyze databases.

The academic programs, in addition to providing a comprehensive education and training for work in a globalized environment, as we said above, should include subjects of other disciplines to cultivate analytical thinking, leadership qualities and the skills to solve problems in business caused by demographic, economic, climate and technological changes, among others. They should also include and reinforce training in ethics and social responsibility, as the accountant has to generate confidence in society, the company and the users.

Accounting programs should be comprehensive and focus more on processes and less on content, because there is an increasing need to learn more in less time.

Demographic changes have implications for public policies, health, taxation, consumer habits and conflicts between generations. The new order of emerging economies makes companies diversify and expand opportunities for growth for their employees. Climate change and the scarcity of resources require understanding of the impact of organizations on the environment.

In accordance with the Brundtland Commission report, “sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are made compatible with future as well as current needs.”

Each day, sustainability and social responsibility are gaining more importance, and accountants must be familiar with these areas to contribute to the strategy and decision- making process in the organization, in order to generate value.

Public Accounting Curriculum

Finally, in addition to the above, the curriculum should consider ways to provide students with opportunities to get closer to the real working world through internships and study with professors who have extensive experience in business to help reduce the gap between theory and practice. Teachers themselves should be aware of the need to convey the latest knowledge in their field, and to do this they must be continuously up to date.

Public accounting is a complete profession that requires a comprehensive approach and a strategic business vision, without losing its tendency toward specialization in different areas, especially on international issues.


Gibson et al. (2013), “Using Classroom Competitions to Prepare Students for the Competitive Business World”, The Journal of Effective Teaching, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 64-77.

International Accounting Education Standards Board (2015), Meeting Future expectations of professional Competence: A Consultation on the IAESB’s Future Strategy and Priorities. Consultation Paper.

PWC (2015). Data driven. What students need to succeed in a rapidly changing business world.

Dextre, J. (2013), “Formación profesional: Los retos de la formación por competencias del contador público”, Contabilidad y Negocios (8) 16, pp. 35-47.

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