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Accounting students’ need for important generic and technical accounting skills in university education and as accountants in the workplace

Recent changes in the nature of accounting have led to an increasing amount of importance being placed on generic and technical accounting skills within the accounting workforce. However, universities providing training to accounting students do not always adequately teach these skills, such as communication skills, decision making skills and teamwork skills. Very few studies to date have focussed on the generic skills perceived as being important by accountants and accounting students in the Middle East and in Saudi Arabia in particular. This study aimed to research the generic and technical accounting skills perceived as being important by accounting students studying this subject at the major universities in Saudi Arabia and by accountants working at nine major companies in Saudi Arabia. The study employed a survey questionnaire that followed a mixed methods research protocol. Survey respondents were asked about the skills that they perceived as being important, how well the skills were taught and to what extent the skills were used during their degree course, their current level of skill the level of skills they currently held and the level of skill required to get a job in the accounting workforce, and the comparative importance of generic skills compared to technical accounting skills. Survey respondents were also asked to rank a selection of generic skills (communication skills, interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, capacity for analysis and presentation skills) and technical accounting skills in order of importance, and were asked whether there were other generic and technical accounting skills that were important in the workplace. The study explored the differences and similarities between the views of accounting students and accountants, and also the similarities and differences between different subgroups as follows:  Undergraduate students vs. postgraduate accounting students,  Male students vs. female accounting students,  Accountants working for government organisations vs. those working at non-government organisations,  Male vs. female accountants, Overall, the study found that the responses of the accountants and the accounting students matched quite closely. One major difference between the two groups was that accounting students were much more likely to be unsure as to the level of skill needed in order to get a job. Accountants were also more likely than accounting students to rate the technical accounting skills above the generic skills. Another very striking finding was that presentation skills were consistently rated as the least important skill by all groups and that it was the skill area that was least likely to have been covered by the accounting degree course. The reasons for this may be cultural or may arise from uncertainty about the definition of “presentation skills”. The findings of this study differed from others in that the accountants in our survey were more likely to consider technical accounting skills as being more important than generic skills. This may be a result of culture and the Saudi Arabian context. These findings suggest that further work in the Saudi Arabian context is necessary.
Type of thesis
AL Mallak, M. A. A. (2012). Accounting students’ need for important generic and technical accounting skills in university education and as accountants in the workplace (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7555
University of Waikato
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