The world of business, finance, trade and commerce is highly dependent on the sophisticated profession of accountancy. The economic activity of these industries thrives on the fundamental values of sheer competence, utmost professional responsibility and a high-degree of work ethics. The pillars of this foundation are the valuable assets known as accountants and the liabilities they carry of ensuring efficient overview and examination of financial records. These assets and liabilities aim to balance themselves out through delivery of well-developed professional judgements. Without the combination of these three basic values, the ability to make sound reliable professional judgements is not possible. No matter how skewed, cultivation of professional judgement begins to take form in the early stages of postsecondary education.
Overwhelmed with unrelated material, students opting the profession of accountancy as their field of study ponder on the need for undergoing such rigorous curriculums and tough courses during the path of becoming an accountant. They find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of recitation, memorization and examination not realizing that all this preparation is required for mastering technical skills to become competent and well-rounded in all subjects. According to the Pathways Commission on Accounting Higher Education, these structured pathways influence development of new thought processes and alternative perspectives equipping students with the ability to make sound professional judgements (Stout, 2015).
Though the educational system is well-designed to teach accounting standards, such as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), basic frameworks, benchmarks and application tools, it fails to encourage students to “think ‘outside’ of the standards” which deeply affects their ability to provide professional judgement due to limited perspectives (West, 2006). When students are encouraged to ‘think’ by applying their knowledge, their professional judgement capacity expands (Accountant, 2005). Students who are unaware of the potential of this knowledge become fickle-minded regarding what career path to pursue within the field of accountancy. With a variety of specializations to choose from, students who obtain a thorough understanding of the aforementioned foundational work are better equipped with the ability to select the right path of recognition for themselves, such as becoming a Chartered Accountant, Chartered Certified Accountant, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Financial Analyst (CFA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and more (Whittington, 2016).
Therefore, if students dedicate time and attention to their education, comprehend the accounting standards and grasp an understanding of possible pathways within their scope, then only can the capacity of their professional judgement improve. Furthermore, post-graduation and certification, a newly qualified accountant stumbles upon a plethora of resources from regulatory agencies and professional organizations where they find an innumerable amount of material on rules, regulations, policies, procedures, codes, standardization and more in the forms of publications, journals and newsletters. Not knowing where to begin, the scrambled certified accountant begins to acquaint themselves with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board (FASAB), Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), National Association of State Boards of Accounting (NASBA), Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) (Whittington, 2016).
With no streamlined approach, excessive information leads to confusion ultimately impairing the learned accountant’s professional judgment. Therefore, professional guidance should be provided to graduates post-certification regarding which agencies and organizations are most relevant and applicable to their specialized profession because continuing education not only enhances their knowledge, skills and expertise in the real-world, but also refines their ability to make sound professional judgments and eliminates confusion from excessive and irrelevant information. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was introduced to make accountants well-aware of basic core values that should be adopted when it comes to their professional responsibilities. Topics addressed in this act included reforms made to accounting and auditing procedures, abstinence from situations where conflicts of interest existed, avoidance of fraudulent activities and white-collar crimes and proper disclosure of information when and as required (Sarbanes-Oxley, 2007).
In overview, the enactment of this law enforced values of professional responsibilities including the following elements: accountability, transparency, quality and compliance. This paradigm shift introduced an environment of conscious corporate and social responsibility along with competency in the profession and proficiency in laws and legalities applicable to the field preventing legal implications. Therefore, acquiring an understanding of law related to the field of accountancy through interpreting pertinent case studies on past scenarios enriches professional judgements and encourages accountability. Fostering an environment of accountability obliges an accountant to be careful in their professional practices, act with integrity and provide transparent information when sharing their professional judgement. Accountants are held accountable towards the validity and authenticity of the information being provided herein (Mintz, 2014).
Hence, professional judgements are expected to comply with accounting and ethical standards, be composed of concrete quality data and present unbiased information since the client/accountant relationship is built on trust (Accountant, 2005). Qualitative measures are set in place to standardize the process of reporting information to favor accuracy, consistency, consensus and reliability of information contained within professional judgements (Armstrong, 1973). Such an environment which harbors accountability can only be adopted when a culture of transparency has been embraced. Open dialogue, candidness and honesty are cardinal factors in promoting transparency and instilling confidence within this relationship (Mintz, 2014).
Such best practices of accountability, transparency, quality and compliance should be maintained for professional judgements to be considered reliable. Balanced judgements composed by highly competent and responsible accountants assure reliability of information when it is combined with a high-degree of work ethics and professional behavior. The integration of ethics in professionalism strengthens the bond of trust and confidence in client/accountant relationships as it incorporates the principles of independence, objectivity, integrity, confidentiality, morality, righteousness, honesty and professional behavior in all respects. According to the Code of Professional Conduct, Code of Ethics and Professional behavior entails of leadership, management, organization, communication and customer service derived from a code of conduct and ethics. One must understand why ethics are important in professionalism before going into the deeper side of ethics we must acknowledge the basic/stronger foundation that make professional judgment reliable. No business can run without having ethical values instill in their employees. Ethical values help organization or business to shape their future and held them accountable for their actions.
One must be a mindful by having great knowledge of code of conduct and professional behavior before passing a professional judgment. This value ensures accountants have a pinnacle standard point in the business world when they give advice, make decision or give their professional judgment to their clients. Their behavior must rely with professionalism and quality standard that help business or clients grow in the right direction. Thus, professional behavior demonstrate that account must reinforce their professional judgment in ethically moral way which assist their clients to make wise decisions.