Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) have been referred as the watchdogs and guardians of integrity of financial markets. The accounting profession has enjoyed a stellar reputation of professional ethics and integrity. However, the reputation of the entire accounting profession, which was once firmly grounded in ethical principles, has been somewhat sullied due to series of accounting scandals over the past two decades. This phenomenological qualitative research study was designed to explore and understand the practicing CPAs’ perception of ethics relative to the accounting profession, as well as issues with respect to the essence of their perception on ethical reasoning, mandatory continuing professional education (CPE) in ethics, and the impact of recent accounting scandals on the accounting profession. The resulting analysis of data revealed that participants viewed the ethical reputation of the profession as very strong and positive, as 70% of participants believed that 90% of CPAs consistently acted in an ethical manner. Follow-up study inquiries also revealed participants’ overwhelming preference for the use of prior real case scenarios to which they could relate, based on their own knowledge and experience in learning accounting ethics. This finding was consistent with adult learner theories advanced by Malcolm Knowles. Furthermore, the study revealed a trusted CPA colleague as participants’ number one source for ethical guidance when faced with an ethical dilemma. This interdependency magnifies the utmost importance of providing effective CPE courses in ethics for the entire profession.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Accountants -- Case studies; Accounting -- Moral and ethical aspects

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Schmieder-Ramirez, June;