Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 12, Issue 8, pp 601–610 | Cite as

Certified public accountants: Ethical perception skills and attitudes on ethics education

  • Suzanne Pinac Ward
  • Dan R. Ward
  • Alan B. Deck


This study investigated the proficiency of CPAs in recognizing and evaluating ethical and unethical situations. In addition, CPAs provided attitudes on ethics education. Respondents were asked to evaluate the ethical acceptability of CPA behavior as presented in six vignettes involving a variety of ethical dilemmas from questions of conflict of interest to questions of personal honor. The results tend to signify that CPAs can, to a degree, distinguish ethical and unethical behaviors. It appears that ethical behaviors and very specific unethical behaviors were more easily identified by practitioners. This may reveal uncertainty and apprehension as to exactly what constitutes unethical behavior since, in many circumstances, this resolution is made on a case-specific basis rather that via a universal rule. In addition, it is interesting to note that CPAs tend to picture themselves as more ethically-oriented than their peers.

With respect to ethics education, the CPAs indicated that instruction in ethical concepts and literacy was important and should definitely be embodied in the accounting curriculum as well as at all educational levels. However, the CPAs were remarkably uncertain and ambivalent as to the qualifications of university faculty to provide this instruction and guidance.


Economic Growth Educational Level Ethical Behavior Unethical Behavior Ethical Dilemma 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne Pinac Ward
    • 1
  • Dan R. Ward
    • 1
  • Alan B. Deck
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Business Administration, Department of Accounting & Legal StudiesUniversity of Southwestern LouisianaLafayetteUSA

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