Bean Counting: Alive & Well At B-School


Savannah Windhorn talks too much to be an accountant. At least that’s what friends and acquaintances tell her when she informs them she’s an accounting major with plans to work for one of the big four accounting firms after she graduates from the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Windhorn plans to take the CPA exam, and has an internship lined up next semester in Ernst & Young’s audit department.

“I always get that comment. I think there’s still that stigma that you’re sitting behind a calculator and punching numbers,” said Windhorn, a senior admitted to the school’s Integrated Master of Accountancy degree program. “I tell everyone I know that the accounting industry is not black and white. For me, it’s more about what you do in the field and how you do it.”

In today’s booming tech and startup world, where companies like Google and Facebook reign supreme on college campuses, the idea of pursuing a career in accounting as an undergraduate may seem tedious and even a bit dull. While it’s true that accounting may be a hard sell for many of today’s undergraduates, the appeal of the stable and recession-proof career still holds strong appeal.


Enrollment in undergraduate bachelor’s accounting programs stood at 207,071 for the 2013-14 academic year (the latest year data was available), a nearly three percent increase from 2011-12, according to the American Institute of CPAs’ (AICPA) 2015 Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report. Accounting ranks fourth in terms of pay for undergraduate business majors, with graduates earning average starting salaries of $51,475, according to a salary survey conducted last January by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Looking ahead, hiring is expected to remain strong, with 91% of firms reporting that they expect to hire at the same or an increased level in the following year, the AICPA report showed. That’s promising news for the industry group, which is keeping a close eye on the number of students who graduate with accounting degrees and go on to take the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam, as the Baby Boom generation retires, says Rebecca Blough, the AICPA’s senior manger of college and university initiatives.

“Accounting is definitely still a attractive major to students,” Blough adds. “Students choosing an accounting major know they’ll have a job after graduating and that it will be a stable one. The job prospects for these students are really bright.”

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