Accounting students are graduating each year with an objective of being employed in the accounting industry, either in public accounting or within the business industry. With the increase in online degrees in this major, university administrators, faculty, students and businesses in both the public and private accounting are concerned with how this may impact the accounting industry. The purpose of the current study is to find the perception of online accounting degrees by recruiters in public accounting. Results showed that Big Four and medium size regional public accounting firms saw a significant difference between traditional and online education and preferred a traditional accounting degree over an online degree. Results also showed that small firms were more open to recruiting candidates who earned their degree online because these candidates had experience with technology tools and the ability to multi-task and problem solve, these characteristics mirrored the environment found within a small firm. Additional results showed the criteria public accounting firms used to recruit candidates including passing the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam, the alma mater and accounting program reputation of the undergraduate degree, communication skills and work experience. Concerns regarding online accounting degrees included program reputation and accreditation of online degree institution, negative opinions of an online degree in the marketplace, and motivation for earning an online degree. Recruiters from Big Four and medium size firms built a relationship with local universities and recruited from them exclusively, none of these universities currently offered an online accounting degree. Until these universities offer a comparable online program, these firms will continue to prefer the traditional education. Small firms indicated a willingness to hire a candidate with an online degree, however, they did not hire on a regular basis.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Accountants -- Certification; Distance education -- Computer-assisted instruction -- Case studies; Employees -- Recruiting -- Attitudes

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Paul Sparks

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