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The factors influencing


accounting school students
career intention to become
a Certified Public Accountant
in Japan

Factors
influencing
career intention
5

Satoshi Sugahara
Faculty of Commerce Sciences, Hiroshima Shudo University, Hiroshima, Japan

Kazuo Hiramatsu
School of Business Administration, Kwansei Gakuin University,
Nishinomiya-shi, Japan, and

Greg Boland
School of Business and Government, University of Canberra,
Canberra, Australia
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate the factors influencing career intentions toward
becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by students who are studying at the accounting schools
in Japan. This paper focused on students work experience, prior major/s at their undergraduate level,
gender, attitude toward the opportunity cost of becoming a CPA and their perceptions of the CPA
profession.
Design/methodology/approach The sample comprised students studying at 13 accounting
schools in Japan. A questionnaire was given to these students in order to empirically examine the
relationship between these influential factors and their career intention, with particular reference to
those who intended to pursue a CPA career. Those studying in these accounting schools generally
consist of two type of students; those who want to become a CPA and those who merely want to brush
up on their accounting skills and do not wish to sit the CPA entrance exams. A total of 349 effective
responses were analysed.
Findings Findings indicate that students who have work experience and major in disciplines
other than accounting or business are more reluctant to become a CPA. This is in direct contrast to one
of the objectives for the CPA reform scheme in Japan, which is to extend the diversity of CPA
candidature.
Originality/value This paper is the first study undertaken in Japan to successfully provide a new
dimension on the factors that influence career intention of students aspiring to become a CPA.
Keywords Accounting, Perception, Accounting education, Japan
Paper type Research paper

Introduction
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Japan has experienced serious
accounting irregularities similar to those in other countries such as Enron and
WorldCom in the USA and HIH insurance in Australia (Pontell and Geis, 2007; Miura,
2006). For instance, Livedoor Co., Ltd, which was a gigantic Internet service provider

Asian Review of Accounting


Vol. 17 No. 1, 2009
pp. 5-22
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1321-7348
DOI 10.1108/13217340910956487

ARA
17,1

based in Tokyo, had once achieved Enronesque successes but suddenly collapsed in
a maze of stock splits, stock swaps and other falsified accounting incidences (Pontell
and Geis, 2007). Following such accounting failures in Japan, drastic reforms within the
Certified Public Accountants profession (CPA) have been undertaken to ensure quality
control and to reinforce the effectiveness of auditing practices. To help achieve these
goals, an action reform plan, driven by the Financial Service Agency (FSA) of Japan,
focused on increasing the annual recruitment of CPA examinees. It was argued that a
fair and competitive labor market would force the CPA to engage itself in
self-improvement, which in turn would lead to more transparent and effective auditing
practices. For this to occur, the FSA amended the CPA entrance examination scheme in
2003 to make it more examinee-friendly with particular emphasis on making it more
attractive to people with little or no accounting background. With such reform, the
FSA expects the number of CPAs to more than double by 2018 (Financial System
Council, 2002). However, official figures released so far have shown that the number of
CPA examinees have in fact declined over the three years under investigation from
16,310 in 2004 to 15,322 in 2005 with only a slight improvement to 16,210 in 2006 (FSA,
www.fsa.go.jp).
It was believed that such a decline was partly due to the fact that the CPA
profession in Japan had previously required candidates to pass very competitive exams
based on technical knowledge requiring mechanical memorization (Financial System
Council, 2002). This previous examination system is now considered inadequate in the
selection process of suitable CPA professionals. It was also believed that the negative
image toward the profession only attracted those students who did not possess the
diverse competencies required in todays rapidly changing financial environment
(Financial System Council, 2002).
In response to these criticisms, new accounting educational institutes known as
Accounting Schools were established in Japan. These professional graduate schools
aim to attract and educate as many CPA candidates as possible from a wide variety of
backgrounds and personalities and who have developed certain levels of well-balanced
generic competencies (Financial System Council, 2002). This reform was introduced in
conjunction with the amended CPAs Law in 2003 and reflected the entry requirements
prescribed by the International Education Standards (IES) (Financial System Council,
2003). The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has developed and
published IESs since 2003. The standards prescribe the education required in pre
and post qualification stages, professional skills, attitude and ethics, and continuing
professional development of IFAC members to ensure the output of highly qualified
global professionals (IFAC, 2003). The Japanese finance authority carefully considered
and incorporated the IES when establishing the new Accounting Schools to assist with
the global convergence in accounting education (Financial System Council, 2003).
It remains debatable whether such a radical reform has successfully achieved its
desired outcomes and the fact that there have been no previous studies examining the
effectiveness of this revised framework has fueled the debate. Our research seeks
answers on whether these accounting schools have actually succeeded in recruiting
students from diverse backgrounds and whether these students possess the
personalities sought by the profession. In preliminary investigations it was found
that there are two types of students enrolling in these schools. These are students who
seek professional accreditation by becoming a CPA (CPA students) and those who do

not wish to become a CPA but simply want to brush up on their accounting skills
(non-CPA students). Accordingly, this study attempts to investigate the reasons why
students are attracted to these accounting schools and the factors that influence their
career intentions.
The CPA reforms in Japan will also have a great impact and present challenges to
neighbouring countries in Asia due to the unique process that occurred in Japan
compared to other Asian countries. The reforms in Hong Kong and Singapore for
example were based on directly replacing their current systems with the IES. In Japan
the IES were simply incorporated into the CPA structure rather than one of
replacement. Other Asian countries such as China and Korea are still considering the
most effective way of introducing the IES proposals (Joo et al., 2007). This current
study will provide assistance to these countries when developing their own accounting
education systems and professional CPA structure.
The next section presents a brief overview of the CPA scheme in Japan. The
following two sections review literature, develop hypotheses and outline the research
methods used in our empirical analyses. Statistical analyses are then presented to test
our research hypotheses. The final section summarises our findings and outlines some
important limitations of this study.
The CPA scheme in Japan
The educational structure of the accounting profession in Japan is quite unique
compared to those of other western countries. The CPAs Law in Japan has always been
open to school leavers and other non-graduates who wish to become a CPA. Unlike the
150-hour rule in the USA, which requires a potential CPA to complete at least 150
semester hours in a baccalaureate or an advanced degree that incorporates an
accounting emphasis before taking the CPA exam (Bierstaker et al., 2004), the CPA
exam scheme in Japan allows candidates to attempt the CPA exam without any
dedicated accountancy education or with any degree for entry, as long as candidates
can pass the preliminary exams (The CPAs law, 2003, Art. 2-5). This unique entry
method in Japan could be viewed as a precedent to the latest mode seen in the Institute
of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), that has proposed to open the Chartered
Accountant qualification to well-qualified school leavers and other non-graduate
entrants until 2010 (Gammie and Kirkham, 2008; ICAS, 2003). These latest shifts in
entry requirements have also influenced other global institutes in Australia (ICAA),
New Zealand (NZICA), and Canada (CICA) to make their conditions of entry more
flexible in order to entice highly-qualified but diversified candidates (Gammie and
Kirkham, 2008). In response to what is occurring in other countries regarding CPA
entry requirements, one could argue that the Japanese CPA exam scheme was ahead of
its time.
With regard to the CPA exam scheme, there are currently two types of exams that
potential CPA students in Japan must attempt and these consist of multiple choice and
essay style questions. Upon satisfactory completion of these CPA exams, students
become associate accountants. They are then required to complete training courses
offered by the Japanese Institute of Certified Public Accountants (JICPA) and
participate in a two-year work experience programme in an accounting firm. Once
completed, candidates become certified with a government issued license, which allows
them to practice audit activities as a CPA. Before attempting the CPA exams, students

Factors
influencing
career intention
7

ARA
17,1

will have either studied at a university in any discipline or attended a cram school
(preliminary private school). In addition, new professional schools referred to as
accounting schools were established for potential CPA accredited candidates in 2003.
The accounting schools offer a two-year postgraduate degree designed for students
with a previous undergraduate degree. Graduates from the accounting schools can
apply for exemption in three out of the four multiple-choice sections of the CPA
examination.
The only accounting professional body in Japan is the JICPA. It is rare for a Japanese
accounting professional with a government CPA licence to join international
professional bodies such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
(AICPA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA). In 2008 the total
number of CPA accounting professionals in Japan was 18,851. A further 8,750 had
associate status (see the web site for JICPA: www.hp.jicpa.or.jp/english/e-member.html).
Literature review and hypotheses development
Overseas studies in accounting have historically investigated factors influencing
students career decisions in professional accounting. Such studies investigated
differences in factor profiles between students who wanted to become accountants and
those who did not (Paolillo and Estes, 1982; Felton et al., 1994; Hermanson et al., 1995; Lowe
and Simons, 1997). The influencing factors in these studies included nature of the job,
earning potential, required study duration and the influence from others such as ones
teacher during school or in tertiary institutions. Findings confirmed that the differences
that existed between accounting and non-accounting students were due to personal and
psychological differences. Although these studies have been undertaken outside of Japan,
some of them provide guidance on how the current issues in the accounting schools should
be researched. In particular, the five factors of work experience, previous learning
experience, gender, opportunity cost, and students perception of the accounting
profession were addressed in this current study as outlined below:
(1) Work experience. As mentioned Accounting Schools in Japan are currently
endeavoring to increase the number of CPA candidates by targeting a variety of
student from diversified backgrounds (Financial Service Council, 2002). From
these backgrounds, students work experience is considered a key attribute.
Prior studies that have addressed work experience include the study by Lowe
and Simons (1997) who explored the role of work experiences in determining a
students choice of a major. The study was based on data obtained from second
year college students in the USA. The ANOVA found that accounting students
tend to regard work experience as a factor of less relevance in their process of
choosing a major compared to management and marketing students. Similarly,
Auyeung and Sands (1997) studied the potential influence of work experience
on students career choice in accounting by comparing students from Australia,
Hong Kong and Taiwan based on cultural differences. The results indicated
that the rated scores of job experience for both Australian and Chinese students
were relatively higher, although the authors could not find significant difference
in this factor across cultures. This result was contradicted by the Lowe and
Simons (1997) study, and provided us with an opportunity to re-examine the
importance of work experience for students in the accounting schools of Japan
using the following null hypothesis:

H0-1. A students work experience has no significant relationship with their


career intention of becoming a CPA.
(2) Previous learning experience. Previous learning experience in accounting has also
been considered an important aspect that may influence a students career
intention. One of the purposes of the latest CPA reform was to recruit as many
candidates as possible from a diversity of academic backgrounds (Financial
System Council, 2002). Previous studies have examined possible associations
between career choice in the accounting profession and previous learning
experiences. Among them, Felton et al. (1994) used a sample of Canadian students
and discovered that exposure to accounting in secondary schools was significantly
related to ones career choice in chartered accountancy. This finding was supported
by the US study of Chen et al. (2005) where students decision to major in
accounting was strongly associated with their overall experiences and satisfaction
in preliminary accounting courses. Conversely, Ahmed et al. (1997) examined
tertiary students in New Zealand and found that exposure to accounting in
secondary school had no significant influence on a students career path. Our
current study was not interested on whether students had exposure to accounting
in secondary schools or equivalent introductory accounting courses but rather on
their exposure at the undergraduate level prior to entering an accounting school in
Japan. To examine this, the following hypothesis was developed in null form:
H0-2. A students previous major at the undergraduate level has no significant
relationship with their career intention of becoming a CPA.
(3) Opportunity costs. It is considered that attending an accounting school in Japan
places high stress on students as they cope with the opportunity cost of time and
workload. Some prior studies have researched these costs and found they had a
strong influence affecting a students career choice in accounting. Allen (2004) for
example explored students perceptions of the 150-hour rule in the USA, where
students are required to study at least 150 semester hours of college education prior
to sitting a CPA exam. This study concluded that the cost of education and the
additional year required under the 150-hour rule limited students interest in
studying an accounting major. It was also found that non-accounting major
students perceived these two factors as being extremely negative. Other studies
however, for example Bierstaker et al. (2004), have examined the relationship
between students perceptions of the150-hour rule and their career intention toward
a CPA and found that the majority of students indicated they would continue their
goal of becoming a CPA despite this 150-hour requirement. Since the results have
been contradictory in prior studies, this factor should be incorporated into this
current study in order to examine any such affects on students studying at the
accounting schools in Japan. Accordingly, the following hypothesis was developed:
H0-3a. A students attitude towards the opportunity cost involved to become a
CPA has no significant relationship with their career intention of
becoming a CPA.
Additionally, it was felt that students attitude towards the cost of becoming a
CPA may be related to their age. This is because older students may view the

Factors
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9

ARA
17,1

time taken to invest in this opportunity as being relatively more precious


compared to their younger counterparts. Therefore, our study also developed
the following sub-hypothesis in null form:
H0-3b. Students age has no significant relationship with their intention of
becoming a CPA.

10

(4) Gender. Gender is another important factor for Japanese CPA candidature. The
profession considers that by improving gender balance a further diversification
will occur (Financial System Council, 2002). Data obtained from the JICPA
indicated that the number of male CPAs was 15,834 in Japan compared to 1,867
females (www.hp.jicpa.or.jp/). Sugahara and Boland (2006) examined several
influential factors affecting career intentions among Japanese undergraduate
and graduate students (excluding students from the accounting schools), and
found that students who did not intend to become a CPA perceived the
profession to be much more male dominated than CPA students did.
Accordingly, gender balance is viewed as a critical challenge in the reform
scheme, so the following hypothesis in null form was constructed to examine
this factor:
H0-4. A students gender has no significant relationship with their career
intention of becoming a CPA.
(5) Students perceptions of the accounting profession. Other researchers have
pointed out that a lack of information and sometimes misinformation on what an
accountant actually does could be one of the primary factors affecting students
career aspirations (Albrecht and Sacks, 2000). Such prevailing misinformation
has recently been confirmed by studies in UK (Marriott and Marriott, 2003),
Ireland (Byrne and Willis, 2005), Australia (Jackling, 2002) and New Zealand
(Tan and Laswad, 2006). Among them, Jackling (2002) examined Australian
undergraduate students and discovered that skewed images toward the
accounting profession has led to a failure in attracting students with creativity
and people-oriented personalities that are so desperately sought by the
profession. A US study by Saemann and Crooker (1999) developed an
instrument to measure respondents perceptions of the accounting profession.
Applying this instrument, they statistically found that the traditional image of
accounting being based on structured problem solving and being undertaken
in a solitary work environment produced a negative correlation with students
interest toward the profession. More recently, Byrne and Willis (2005) used the
same instrument as Saemann and Crooker (1999) in their study on the
perceptions of the accounting profession by Irish secondary school students.
They found these students basically viewed accounting and its profession with
the traditional stereotypical images of it being boring, definitive, precise and
with a sense of conformed dimension. It is interesting to note in this latter study
that although accounting students were more interested in professional
accounting careers than non-accounting students, they both held the same
traditional stereotypical views. However, no prior studies have been undertaken
in Japan to examine the perceptions of the accounting profession by students
studying in the accounting schools. Sugahara and Boland (2006) replicated

overseas study techniques and investigated possible relationships between


vocational factors and perceptions among students studying in the tertiary
schools but not in the accounting schools. Their findings revealed that non-CPA
students tend to view the CPA as a profession with low communication skills,
poor career prospects and being very much male dominated. Although this
exploratory study simply compared statistical differences in the perceptions of
the CPA between students who wanted to become a CPA and those who did not,
it has provided important implications to our understanding of this dichotomy
where influential factors can determine a CPA career. To address this factor, the
following hypothesis was developed in null form and applied to our research
cohort in the Accounting Schools:
H0-5. Students perceptions toward the CPA have no significant relationship
with their career intention of becoming a CPA.
Research methodology
The sample
Data for our research was collected via a questionnaire distributed to students who
were studying at 13 of the 17 accounting schools in Japan. Among these schools, two
are affiliated with large northern universities managed by public organizations, seven
with large private universities in eastern Japan with the remaining four in western
Japan being managed by large public universities. Questionnaires were administered
in the classrooms at the end of first semester (July) and during the first week of second
semester (October) of 2006. As previously mentioned there were basically two groups
of students in these accounting schools. One group was preparing for the CPA exam in
order to become a CPA while the second group was seeking additional professional
knowledge to fine-tune their practical skills to work in areas other than the CPA
profession. Our study focused on possible links between a students CPA career
intention and factors influencing this decision. The total number of students enrolled in
these accounting schools was 412. Questionnaires (366) were distributed in the 13
accounting schools to students on the day the survey was conducted. After extracting
unusable questionnaires, 349 responses (84.71 percent effective response rate) were
analysed. The unusable responses were eliminated mainly due to incompletion.
Data collection
Table I provides descriptive information for our sample. This table is also categorized
according to students career aspirations. Of the total students, 214 intended to become
a CPA (61.31 percent) while the remaining 135 students sought a career other than a
CPA in fields such as finance, business or economics. The average age of respondents
was 28.86 years old reflecting the fact that many students have been in the workforce
for a number of years since completing their undergraduate degree. The surveys were
administered by academics who were not responsible for the course delivery and data
collection was anonymous (no names or ID required).
The questionnaire was divided into three sections. The first section sought
responses on demographic questions such as gender, age, work experience, previous
major at their undergraduate level, academic year, and career intention. The second
section sought responses to 36 queries on a five-point scale using opposing adjectives
based on their perceptions of the CPA (Table II). This method was originally developed

Factors
influencing
career intention
11

ARA
17,1
Age

12
Work experience

Previous major

Academic yeara

Gender

Table I.
Descriptive information

Table II.
The measurement of
students perception

Mean age
Max
Min
Available data
N/A
Total
No experience
In the past
At present
N/A
Total
Accounting
Other business
Undecided
Others
N/A
Total
First year
Second year
N/A
Total
Male
Female
N/A
Total

CPA students

Non-CPA students

Total

27.54
65
21
204
10
214
124
67
22
1
214
68
87
12
47
0
214
132
73
9
214
154
60
0
214

30.92
55
21
125
10
135
42
31
52
10
135
19
50
15
41
10
135
82
35
18
135
95
30
10
135

28.86
65
21
329
20
349
166
98
74
11
349
87
137
27
88
10
349
214
108
27
349
249
90
10
349

Notes: N/A, non response or not available from students. aFirst year students of the accounting
schools, second year students of the accounting schools

Creative solution/cut and dry


Repetition/varietya
New ideas/established rules
Boring/interesting
Challenging/easya
Dull/exciting
Flexible/structured
Solitary/interaction with othersa
Conformity/originalitya
Dynamic/stable
Adaptable/inflexible
Standard operating procedures/new
solutionsa

Extrovert/introvert
Conceptual/analyticala
Innovation/compliance
Intuition/facts
Ambiguity/certainty
Planned/spontaneousa
Changing/fixed
Methodical/noveltya
Record keeping/decision makinga
Benefits society/profit-driven
Prestigious/ordinarya
People-oriented/number
crunching

Practical/theoreticala
Tedious/absorbing
Fascinating/monotonousa
Abstract/concrete
Effectiveness/efficiency
Imagination/logic
Thorough/superficiala
Unpredictable/routine
Details/overviewa
Accurate/imprecisea
Mathematical/verbala
Alternative views/uniform
standards

Note: aThese pairs were reverse coded

by Saemann and Crooker (1999). It was designed to measure students perceptions of


the accounting profession. This same inventory measure has also been used in several
other studies (Worthington and Higgs, 2003; Byrne and Willis, 2005). The third section
was based on the opportunity costs incurred in becoming a CPA where students were

asked to respond on a five-point Likert scale that ranged from one (strongly disagree) to
five (strongly agree). The questionnaire used in this study was written in Japanese. The
instrument adopted from Saemann and Crooker (1999) in the second section of the
questionnaire was translated from the original English version. Upon initial translation
a pilot study was performed after which the questionnaire was fine tuned with
assistance from one of the authors whose first language was English.

Factors
influencing
career intention
13

Results
(1) Work experience. For this factor the x 2 test was applied to explore statistical
differences in students proportions across their choice of career (CAR) according
to three categories of students work experiences (JOB). These categories were
students with no work experience (No Exp.), those who had previously worked
(in the past) and those who work at present (at present). Table III displays these
results. It shows that there were significant differences in profiles of CAR across
the three work experience groups. The proportion of CPA students who work at
present (10.3 percent) was statistically lower than students without work
experience (58.2 percent) and those who had previously worked (31.5 percent).
Accordingly, hypothesis H0-1 was rejected at the 0.01 level.
(2) Previous learning experience. Our study also examined potential differences in
career intentions of becoming a CPA (CAR) by students who had various learning
experiences during their undergraduate level (MAJ). To achieve this, students
were categorized into four groups according to their previous major/s. These
categories were those who had majored in accounting (Accounting); those who
majored in a business related area (Business); those who had not chosen a major
(Undecided) and those who had majored in a non-accounting/business subject
(Others). The business related subjects consisted of finance, economics and
business administration. Table IV reports the outcome of the x 2 test for students
previous majors. The results found that there was a significant difference in the

CAR/JOB
n

No Exp
166

In the past
98

At present
74

CPA
Non-CPA

124 (58.2)
42 (33.6)

67 (31.5)
31 (24.8)

22 (10.3)
52 (41.6)

x2
46.11 * (100)

Notes: *Significant differences via x 2 test at the 0.01 level. The value in parenthesis are in percentage

CAR/MAJ
n

Accounting
86

Business
137

Undecided
27

Others
88

CPA
Non-CPA

68 (31.8)
19 (15.2)

87 (40.7)
50 (40.0)

12 (5.6)
15 (12.0)

47 (22.0)
41 (32.8)

Table III.
x 2 Test results for work
experience

x2
16.08 * (100)

Notes: *Significant difference at the 0.01 level. The value in parenthesis are in percentage

Table IV.
x 2 Test for previous
major

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17,1

14

profile of career intention (CAR) across the four student categories. It was
statistically found that the majority of students who had majored in accounting
or business related subjects were CPA orientated students (31.8 and 40.7 percent,
respectively). It was also found that even though a large number of students had
previously majored in another discipline (88 students), only about half of them
(41 students) didnt intend to become a CPA. In this context, hypothesis H0-2 was
also rejected at the 0.01 level.
(3) Opportunity cost. This study also examined students attitude toward opportunity
cost (OPP) and age (AGE) in becoming a CPA to determine if these factors affect
career aspiration. For this purpose, t-tests were applied to examine possible
differences in these variables between CPA students and non-CPA students.
Table V displays the results, which indicate that the mean scores for both OPP and
AGE for non-CPA students were significantly higher than those of CPA students
at the 0.1 and 0.01 levels, respectively, so our hypothesis H0-3 was also rejected.
(4) Gender. This study applied the x 2 test to investigate possible relationships
between students gender (GEN) and a CPA career choice (CAR). The results
reported in Table VI show that the gender proportion between CPA
students and non-CPA students did not show any significant differences,
which indicated that gender was equally distributed across the two student
groups. It was also noted that male students were more dominant in both the
CPA and non-CPA student groups.
(5) Perceptions of the accounting profession. To examine the role that student
perceptions of the accounting profession have on ones career intention, this
study employed a similar technique used by Saemann and Crooker (1999). Here,
the principal component analysis was applied to raw data using 36 opposing
adjective type questions (Table II) and is displayed in Table VII. This method is
usually applied to condense any underlying pattern of relationships among
large numbers of variables. Each score of component attribute was refined by

OPP/CAR
OPP
AGE
Table V.
The t-test results for
opportunity cost and age

Non-CPA students

4.35 (0.85)
27.54 (7.49)

4.52 (0.77)
30.92 (8.01)

t-value
2 1.831 *
2 3.804 * *

Notes: Significant at the less than *0.1 level; * *0.01 level. Scores in brackets show standard
deviations. The opportunity cost of time to become a CPA anchored from 1 for strongly disagree to 5
for strongly agree

GEN/CAR
Table VI.
x 2 results for the effect of
gender

CPA students

Male
Female

CPA students

Non-CPA students

x2

154 (72.0)
60 (28.0)

95 (76.0)
30 (24.0)

0.660

Note: The value in parenthesis are in percentage

Factors
1 pair of words ! 5
Creative solution/cut and dry
Variety/repetitiona
New idea/establishment rules
Flexible/structured
Originality/conformitya
New solutions/standard operation procedurea
Innovation/compliance
Alternative views/uniform standards
Changing/fixed
Adaptable/inflexible
Intuition/facts
Ambiguity/certainty
Spontaneous/planneda
Imagination/logic
Imprecise/accuratea
Novelty/methodicala
Boring/interesting
Dull/exciting
Tedious/absorbing
Monotonous/fascinatinga
Interaction with others/solitarya
Dynamic/stable
Extrovert/introvert
Cronbach asb
Eigenvalues
Variance (%)

1
Structured
(STR)

2
Precision
(PRE)

3
Interest
(INT)

4
Solitary
(SOL)

0.751
0.788
0.886
0.638
0.638
0.656
0.567
0.510
0.421
0.412

Factors
influencing
career intention
15

0.616
0.700
0.528
0.655
0.482
0.482
0.761
0.938
0.830
0.753

0.864
7.747
21.520

0.766
4.603
12.785

0.844
1.771
4.921

0.944
0.491
0.830
0.732
1.512
4.200

Notes: Extraction method, principal component analysis; Rotation method, promax technique with
Kaiser normalization. Factor loadings .0.4 reported. aThese pairs were reverse coded in the original
instrument and converted to normal positions before employing the factor analysis. bThe internal
reliabilities of the response to the four component factors were measured in terms of Cronbach as.
Basically, a score greater than 0.7 of Cronbach as are acceptable to indicate sufficient internal
reliability. Our a scores of 0.864, 0.766, 0.844 and 0.732 for the STR, the PRE, the INT and the SOL,
respectively, compared favorably with the range of 0.64-0.89 achieved by Saemann and Crooker (1999)
and 0.71-0.81 obtained in the Byrne and Willis (2005) study

principal component analysis from observed variables measured by the


semantic differential scale. Under this scale, one indicates agreement with the
left hand word and five indicates agreement with the right hand word. Subjects
were asked to select from one to five in terms of how best they feel it describes
the CPA. The original instruments invented by Saemann and Crooker (1999)
contained some of the pairs being reverse coded (Table II). These were
converted to normal positions before employing the factor analysis. This
analysis used the Promax rotation technique to assist with the interpretation of
potential influential factors. The Kaiser Meyer Olkin adequacy value was
calculated as 0.874, which indicated that the correlation matrix was appropriate
for the factor analysis. Table VII also contains details of the extracted

Table VII.
Principal component
analysis

ARA
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components, eigenvalues, percentage of variance for each factor and component


scores for all factors allocated in each perceived dimension. The latent
constructs with a greater than 0.4 score were used to provide appropriate labels
for each component factor. The Cattells screen test enabled us to pick up four
dominant factors. Using this technique the component factors are plotted on the
X-axis and the corresponding eigenvalues on the Y-axis. Insignificant
component factors starting at the elbow on the grid were deleted. The
resulting factor scores produced a total 43.426 percent of cumulative percentage
of variance in this model.
To interpret each component factor, our study compared all attributes
allocated in the factor groups to the outcomes of Saemann and Crooker (1999).
The component factors obtained in this study were labeled structure (STR) for
the first factor, precision (PRE) for the second factor, interest (INT) for the third
factor and solitary (SOL) for the fourth factor in accordance with those used by
Saemann and Crooker (1999). It was found that the attributes for the third and
fourth factors, interest (INT) and solitary work environment (SOL)
corresponded exactly to Saemann and Crookers (1999). The first factor,
structure (STR) contained two different attributes that did not appear in
Saemann and Crookers (1999) study. These two attributes were
variety/repetition and originality/conformity, which were synchronized with
the factor label structure (STR). The second factor comprised three attributes
that corresponded to the precision (PRE) factor of Saemann and Crooker (1999).
The remaining three of the original six attributes were intuition/facts,
ambiguity/certainty and imagination/logic. Together, these are likely to become
components that could reinforce the meaning of precision (PRE).
Following the above preliminary analysis, this study then examined four
perception variables to determine any significant association with students
career aspirations. For this purpose, t-tests were applied to investigate possible
differences in structure (STR), precision (PRE), interest (INT) and solitary work
environment (SOL). The results indicated significant differences in INT and
SOL between CPA students and non-CPA students at the 0.01 level (Table VIII).
The outcomes also discovered significant differences in STR between the two
students group at the 0.05 level. CPA students response for INT was higher
than that of non-CPA students, while scores for STR and SOL were smaller for
the CPA students than those of non-CPA students. In this context, our
hypothesis H0-5 was rejected to the extent of structure (STR), interest (INT) and
solitary work environment (SOL).

16

JOB/CAR

Table VIII.
Perceptions of the CPA
using t-tests

STR
PRE
INT
SOL

CPA students
3.10
4.04
3.56
2.46

(0.70)
(0.54)
(0.76)
(0.90)

Non-CPA students
3.29
4.00
3.19
2.86

(0.76)
(0.64)
(0.77)
(0.91)

t-value
2 2.379 *
0.501
4.284 * *
2 3.893 * *

Notes: Scores in the brackets for STR, PRE, INT, and SOL show standard deviations. Significant at
the less than * 0.05 level; * * 0.01 level

(6) Logistic regression analysis to investigate influential factors. Our study


concluded with a logistic regression analysis where the significant factors
discussed above were used as the independent variables to investigate
relationships with students career aspirations in becoming a CPA. This
technique is used to assess which variable/s predicts a students intention of
becoming a CPA and how these variables affect his/her decision. In our model,
students intention to pursue a CPA career was used as the dependent variable
(CAR) and this was then regressed with the independent factors of work
experience (JOB), previous major (MAJ), opportunity cost (OPP), age (AGE),
structure (STR), interest (INT) and solitary work environment (SOL). The
regression model was developed as follows:

Factors
influencing
career intention
17

CAR a b1 JOB b2 MAJ b3 OPP b4 AGE b5 STR b6 INT b7 SOL 1i


Where:
CAR 0 for students intention to become a CPA, 1 for students intention to
follow a career other than as a CPA.
JOB 1 for students with no work experience, 2 for students who have work
experience (either in the past or at present).
MAJ 0 for prior major in accounting, 1 for prior major in other subjects.
OPP The opportunity cost of time to become a CPA anchored from 1 for
strongly disagree to 5 for strongly agree.
AGE Students actual age.
STR Mean scores for 10 component attributes originally anchored from 1 to 5.
INT Mean scores for 4 component attributes originally anchored from 1 to 5.
SOL Mean scores for 3 component attributes originally anchored from 1 to 5.
Table IX reports the results of our logistic regression for students career intention
toward a CPA (CAR) using the seven independent variables. First, the score for x 2 for

Coefficient (B)

Standard error

p-value

Predicted sign

(Constant)
22.154
1.431
JOB
0.671
0.336
MAJ
0.866
0.319
OPP
0.358
0.177
AGE
0.004
0.021
STR
20.198
0.224
INT
20.559
0.207
SOL
0.268
0.166
Overall classification accuracy 63.7 (%)
x 2 44.051, degree of freedom 7 (Significant 0.000)
R 2 0.178

0.132
0.046 *
0.007 * *
0.043 *
0.866
0.378
0.007 * *
0.108

2
2
2

Notes: Significant at the *0.05 level; * * 0.01 level. Positive effect by the variable, 2 negative effect
by the variable

Table IX.
Logistic regression
results

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18

goodness of fit was 44.051 with seven degree of freedom at the 0.000 level of p-value.
The function classified 68.1 percent of cases in the validation sample accurately at the
0.01 significant level. The results indicated that a students major (MAJ) returned
significant and positive associations with CAR at the 0.01 level. Additionally, both JOB
and OPP showed significant and positive relationships with the CAR at the 0.05 level.
Conversely, the INT had a significant but negative relationship with CAR at the 0.01
level. No significant differences were found in AGE, STR, and SOL. The R 2 of this
model was 0.178.
Interpretation
First, the results of our x 2 test reported a significantly lower proportion of CPA students
work at present compared to the other two student groups of those with no work experience
and those who had previously worked. In contrast, the number of non-CPA students who
work at present was relatively larger than those of the other two categories. These findings
were consistent with the results of our logistic regression analysis, where students work
experiences were significantly but negatively related to their career intention. This
suggests that students who presently work were more reluctant to become a CPA.
Compared to the prior study by Auyeung and Sands (1997), this finding represented a
contradiction. This prior study discovered work experience as being a positive indicator for
a career choice in accounting among respondent students, but our research found that
although job experience is a strong indicator, it was nonetheless a negative predictor of
career intention for CPA students studying at Accounting Schools in Japan.
The second finding in the x 2 test showed that the number of CPA students who had
previously majored in either accounting or a business related subject were significantly
larger than those who had majored in another discipline. This finding was supported
by the logistic regression analysis that revealed students who had previously majored
in subjects outside accounting were significantly reluctant to become a CPA. This
result is also relevant to the US study of Chen et al. (2005), which empirically probed
the significant association between learning experience and the choice of a major in
accounting. Similarly, an earlier exposure of accounting for Japanese students works
better to encourage their aspiration of becoming a CPA.
Third, our regression analysis also found a significant association between OPP and
students intention of becoming a CPA (CAR). This finding implies that the more likely
students find the opportunity cost of studying in the accounting schools high, the less
likely they will pursue a CPA career. In other words, students higher sensitivity of
opportunity cost discourages their intention to become a CPA. This finding is consistent
with Allen (2004) in the USA. In addition, our t-test analysis revealed that non-CPA
students tend to avoid bearing its opportunity cost more strongly than CPA students. This
finding also means inversely that CPA students are encouraged by their aspiration of
becoming a CPA regardless of their higher perception of the opportunity cost, which
supports the findings of Bierstaker et al. (2004). In terms of the factor of age as being one of
the opportunity costs, although our study found that the average age of CPA students was
significantly higher than that of non-CPA students, our regression result statistically
illustrated that age did not influence students career intention in becoming a CPA. Thus, it
was found that students aspiration of CPA is independent of their actual age.
Fourth, the results for both the x 2 test and regression analysis did not produce any
significant evidence suggesting that gender (GEN) could affect ones CPA career

intention. The survey also found that 28.0 percent were female CPA students and 24.0
percent were female non-CPA students. Compared with the survey administered in
other countries, the gender proportion of female accounting graduates was found to be
smaller in Japan (Sanders and Romeo, 2005 in the USA; Gasper, 2006 in Hong Kong).
Sanders and Romeo (2005) discovered that females who received accounting Bachelors
and Masters degrees in 2003 and 2004 consisted of 55 and 54 percent, respectively, of
the total accounting students in the USA. This relatively smaller proportion of the
female gender in Japanese accounting schools may have an insignificant impact on
students aspirations of becoming a CPA.
Fifth, given the results of t-tests for students perceptions of the CPA, it was discovered
that significant differences existed between the scores for structure (STR), interest (INT)
and solitary work environment (SOL). However, the findings from our regression reported
that (INT) was the only factor that had a significant relationship with a students career
intention of becoming a CPA (CAR). It is interpreted from this outcome that the more likely
students were interested in the CPA, the more likely they were willing to become a CPA.
This finding is supported in a recent Australian study by Jackling (2006), which
discovered that students who were interested in the topics of accounting would more likely
become an accountant than those who were not interested in the topic.
Even though our t-test results reported that the mean scores of (STR) and (SOL) for
non-CPA students were significantly higher than those of CPA students, there were no
significant associations found between the (STR) and (SOL) and students career
intention to become a CPA (CAR). These findings indicate that although some
non-CPA students have certain biased images of the CPA in terms of structure (STR)
and solitary characteristics (SOL), these factors were not the influential factors that
predict students CPA career intention. Previous global studies have found negative
images do discourage students aspiration of becoming a CPA (Albrecht and Sacks,
2000 in USA; Marriott and Marriott, 2003 in UK; Byrne and Willis, 2005 in Ireland; Tan
and Laswad, 2006 in New Zealand; Jackling, 2002 in Australia). However, it was found
in this current study that Japanese students were unlikely to be influenced significantly
by negative images of the CPA profession when they decided on their career choice.
Conclusion
The purpose of this study was to examine the factors influencing career intentions in
becoming a CPA among students studying in Japanese accounting schools. The results
of our empirical analyses revealed that students who had work experience and majored
in disciplines other than accounting/business were more reluctant to become a CPA.
This is in direct contrast to one of the objectives for the CPA reform scheme, which is to
extend the diversity of CPA candidature (Financial System Council, 2002). Accounting
schools in Japan have simply attracted students who have previously majored in
accounting at the undergraduate level and entered directly after graduating from
university without any work experience. This important finding suggests to policy
makers that they should reconsider and redefine whom they want to recruit into
the accounting sector. Literature and official documentation from related institutions
have remained silent on this issue. For example, the Vision Paper recently released
from the JICPA (2007) actively discussed how to encourage potential candidates into
the accounting sector, but ignored whom they should target. Alternate strategies are
required to attract students from these other diverse backgrounds.

Factors
influencing
career intention
19

ARA
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20

It was also found that non-CPA students were more likely to be concerned with
the opportunity cost of studying in these accounting schools as this was one of the
influential factors affecting their aspiration toward a CPA career. This result was quite
plausible for students in the accounting schools in that they usually take into account
the cost/benefit of their vocational decisions. This result is consistent with some
previous studies in the USA that pointed out the disadvantage of the 150-hour rule
(Allen, 2004). This outcome may suggest to policy makers and the professional body in
Japan that they should restructure their marketing plans in order to concentrate on the
benefits of becoming a CPA in an attempt to outweigh these disadvantages. One
possible strategy could be to grant additional exemptions toward the CPA exams,
which would reduce the sensitivity of accounting school students toward the
opportunity cost of becoming a CPA.
A possible solution to enhance positive images of the CPA profession among
non-CPA students could simply lie in promotional strategies aimed at this sector. As
this research also discovered students interest in a CPA career was the significant
influential driver of ones career intention, so successful enhancement through effective
CPA promotions may encourage such targeted individuals to apply for these
accounting schools and pursue an accounting career.
This study does have limitations. First, it investigated statistical associations
among specific influential factors that affect career intentions toward the CPA among
students learning at Accounting Schools. Although our study found significant
relationships in several of these variables, the smaller R 2 of our regression result
implies the existence of other stronger influential factors that this study failed to
incorporate. For example, this research could be extended to address the legislative
architecture of the CPA scheme from both the historical and societal perspectives, due
to the uniqueness of the CPA exam system in Japan compared to other countries.
A cultural comparative study could then be undertaken between Japan and other
countries which would add extra dimensions along this research line.
Second, the sample for our study was quite limited as it comprised only those
students studying in Accounting Schools in Japan. Even though these students make
up the majority of CPA candidature, a large number of CPA examinees and other
non-CPA students still come from undergraduate levels and this aspect was ignored in
this study. Comparative analyses between these other group of students would further
enhance our understanding on the strengths and weaknesses existing in the Japanese
CPA career market and assist in establishing effective strategies.
Despite these limitations, this paper is the first study undertaken in Japan to
successfully provide a new dimension on the factors that influence CPA career
intentions among students studying at the accounting schools in Japan.
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Corresponding author
Satoshi Sugahara can be contacted at: sugahara@shudo-u.ac.jp

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