THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES OF
INCORPORATING ACCOUNTING ETHICS
INTO THE ACCOUNTING CURRICULUM
Jan Williams, University of Baltimore
Raymond J Elson, Valdosta State University
It is critical that accounting educators prepare students to address issues, such as ethics, that
they are likely to encounter in their careers. The accounting scandals of the 21st century have
caused the public to criticize the ethical standards of the accounting profession. Accounting
organizations have called for increased coverage of ethics in accounting curriculums. Yet, research
shows that only minimal time is being spent on ethics in accounting courses. Numerous state boards
of accountancy have adopted the 150-hour requirement to sit for the CPA exam; therefore making
room for additional courses such as a separate accounting ethics course in the accounting
curriculum. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy’s (NASBA) proposal to
include a separate accounting course in the curriculum was not adopted by accounting educators.
The authors still advocate that a separate accounting course in accounting ethics has merit. This
paper discusses some of the challenges and opportunities surrounding the teaching of accounting
ethics as part of the accounting curriculum.
Key Words: Accounting Education, Ethics
The accounting scandals in the early 2000s have had a devastating effect on the reputation
of the accounting profession. The public perceives the scandals as a lack of ethics in the profession.
Who is to blame for this demise? Russell and Smith (2003) point their fingers at academia. They
If we are looking for a primary contributing cause of corporate malfeasance at firms
such as Enron, Equity Funding, WorldCom, Sunbeam, Arthur Andersen, and
HealthSouth, we need to look no further than the classrooms of colleges and
university accounting programs that have not significantly adapted their methods of
Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, Volume 13, Number 1, 2010
instruction or approach to accounting and management education over the last 50-
60 years (p.1).
Since the Bedford Committee report was issued in 1986, the American Institute of Certified
Public Accountants (AICPA), the American Accounting Association (AAA), the Accounting
Education Change Commission (AECC), and the National Commission on Fraudulent Financial
Reporting (NCFFR) have all called for increa