Introduction Numerous professional governmental and media so
Introduction Numerous professional, governmental, and media sources report a strong demand for and even a scarcity of new entrants to the fields of professional accounting and auditing. Furthermore, reports emphasize expectations of continuing high demand in the future (AICPA, 2015, Manpower Group, 2013, RandstadUSA, 2015, Starzee, 2013). This strong demand has been observed both domestically and internationally (BBC, 2013, Ying, 2015). Monga (2017) observes a 2.5% unemployment rate among accountants and auditors and few candidates available for non-public accounting positions. Drew (2015) notes survey evidence that accounting firms view finding and retaining qualified accountants to be a particularly pressing issue. Wagaman and Maginnis (2017) cite recent AICPA survey results showing that 75% of current CPAs will retire within 15 years, and that only one third of accounting graduates ultimately pass the CPA exam. Bishop (2015), President of National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, notes that, “… the number of new CPAs neither fills the void created by retiring CPAs nor the increased need for new talent.” Collectively, these reports suggest that maintaining the supply of licensed accounting professionals presents a challenge, though the severity of this amatoxin challenge likely varies geographically. Franklin and Myers (2016) posit that the shortage of new accountants creates an opportunity to attract non-traditional students to accounting programs by offering accelerated or distance learning programs, which allow those holding an undergraduate degree unrelated to accounting to fulfill the educational requirements for the CPA in a significantly shorter time. A number of studies have examined the factors that attract and repel entrants to the profession. Nelson, Vendrzyk, Quirin, and Kovar (2008) report that job availability is the most influential factor attracting students to accounting. Starting salaries, the undergraduate and graduate course loads necessary for the major, the educational requirements necessary for CPA licensure, and declines in the academic preparedness of incoming freshmen have been noted as factors that may be limiting the supply of new accounting graduates (Billiot et al., 2004, Carcello, 2008, Dunn and Hooks, 2009, Gramling and Rosman, 2013). The costs of meeting accounting licensure requirements can be a significant factor in whether a student, and especially an older student, elects to pursue an accounting career. There have been significant changes over time in the education and experience requirements for CPA licensure. The educational requirements vary by state, but the general trend has been in the direction of increases (Briggs & He, 2012). In 1983, Florida was the first state to implement a requirement for 150 semester hours (225 quarter units) of post-secondary education, essentially making entrance to the profession contingent upon completing the equivalent of five years of higher education. By 2015, every state had followed suit. There are clearly potential pros and cons to this requirement. While one might expect entrants to be better prepared because of the additional education, there are also concerns as to whether increasing the out-of-pocket and opportunity costs of entering the profession constrain the diversity and supply of accountants. Most studies considering the effects of regulatory change on the supply and quality of CPA candidates find that requiring 150 semester hours of post-secondary education (i.e., the 150-h rule) has led to a modest increase in CPA exam pass rates, but a reduction in the number of candidates taking and passing the exam (Allen and Woodland, 2006, Allen and Woodland, 2012, Jacob and Murray, 2006, Carpenter and Hock, 2008, Boone et al., 2006, Briggs and He, 2012, Grant et al., 2002, Jacob and Murray, 2006, Raghunandan et al., 2003). Conversely, Gramling and Rosman, 2009, Gramling and Rosman, 2013 find no reduction in the number of candidates taking and passing the CPA exam. Bierstaker, Howe, and Seol (2005) find that the increased burden of the 150-h requirement negatively impacts the intention of women but not minorities to enter the profession. AICPA data suggest that a substantial portion of the applicants for licensure are meeting the 150-h requirement without completing a graduate degree. Many obtain the required units in the course of a four-year degree or through additional study outside of or after their undergraduate programs (AICPA, 2015).