The Rationalization of the Certified Public Accountant Occupation By: Shuban Gouru | Professor. Alrdich | Spring 2024

“Accounting is the art of turning chaos into clarity and confusion into financial wisdom.” - Michael Carter (Woods CPA, n.d.)

Historical Recap: From 7000 to 100 years ago

Manual Bookkeeping to Digital Systems

The history of accounting stretches back over 7,000 years, evolving from simple tracking of livestock in ancient Mesopotamia to the financial management cornerstone of modern businesses. Early record-keeping helped people manage goods and trade, but the rise of complex currencies in the 1400s necessitated bookkeepers to assist those unable to write. A major breakthrough came in the 1490s with Luca Pacioli's double-entry bookkeeping system, a foundation that persists today. The growing complexity of businesses in the 1800s created a demand for dedicated accountants, and the 20th century ushered in an era of digitalization and automation within the field.

Globalization’s Role on Accounting

Over thousands of years, civilizations have become increasingly interconnected. People around the world trade goods, services, cultures, and more. This globalization has been driven in part by multinational companies operating in many regions. These regions all have their own accounting standards. As a result, global accounting firms have been created to meet these needs. However, globalized accounting faces challenges due to geopolitical issues, regulation changes, and ethics. This has led to a call for more standardization and regulation to ensure ethical practices and trust in companies worldwide.

Race and Gendered Inequalities

Despite comprising nearly half (46%) of accounting professionals, women hold a much smaller share of leadership roles. A significant gap exists, with women making up only around 39% of partnership positions at CPA firms [AICPA & CIMA, 2019]. This disparity extends to advancement, as women take considerably longer to reach executive levels compared to men. Factors contributing to this imbalance include a corporate culture that can be perceived as favoring men and challenges for women in achieving work-life balance. Additionally, minority accountants are underrepresented within the profession (Ex: Only 2% of CPA's are Black).


As various stakeholders have demanded easier-to-interpret and more accurate and consistent financial information, the accounting profession has been rapidly rationalized. According to George Ritzer, in the book The McDonaldization of Society, Rationalization, is the process by which the principles of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control are prioritized to consistently support success (Ritzer, 2020). Through utilizing the perspectives of the four theories of rationalization, the motive to gain trust and transparency becomes clearer.


Control within organizations, particularly evident in the profession of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), ensures consistency and standardization amid escalating demands for transparency.

Key regulatory bodies play pivotal roles in upholding high standards and public trust. Founded in 1887, the AICPA not only sets technical standards and administers the Uniform CPA Exam but also advocates for its vast membership. Similarly, NASBA, established in 1908, supports state boards of accountancy, oversees licensing, and aids in exam preparation. AAAHQ, formed in 1916, focuses on education, research, and publishing within the accounting field. FASB, created in 1973, develops Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and influences international accounting standards, thereby enhancing consistency and trust.

Professional Codes of Conduct serve as pivotal regulatory frameworks, ensuring ethical conduct, transparency, and consistency in accounting practices. The AICPA's Code of Professional Conduct underscores transparency, ethics, client confidentiality, and integrity. GAAP, established in 1934, mandates standardized accounting principles, thereby increasing transparency and reducing fraudulent activities, Additionally the, IFRS, developed in 2001, provides international standards for financial reporting, thereby bolstering trust between stakeholders and corporations worldwide.


Efficiency is crucial for minimizing task completion time and fostering transparency and trust.

Year-round workflows, facilitated by scheduled meetings and workload distribution, enable CPAs to proactively address issues, lessen burdens during peak periods like tax season, and enhance profitability by accommodating more clients.

Outsourcing to the 'Gig Economy' aids in managing workload fluctuations, with offshore gig workers offering flexibility and expertise, reducing operational costs, and fostering trust through high-quality work.

Cloud-based software revolutionizes collaboration, data integration, real-time access, and scalability, enabling firms to showcase reliability and build client trust.

Robotic Process Automation further boosts operational efficiency by automating tasks, allowing employees to focus on strategic endeavors, enhancing client interactions, reducing errors, and meeting firms' preference for automation.


Consumers seek consistent service quality and stability in processes.

Standard Operating Principles (SOPs) help streamline procedures, guiding CPAs in compliance while facilitating recording, analysis, and auditing.

Financial Planning (including risk management and investment planning) has also become an extended branch of work performed by CPAs. This expansion aligns with consumer expectations for proactive advice.


Calculability, emphasizes quantification and measurement of actions and outcomes.

Client Side: CPAs utilize business intelligence and data analytics systems to enhance the quality of their actions, thereby fostering trust. CPA's leverage Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as budget variance and operating cash flow to gain insight into a business's current state and identify potential issues. Big Data processing enables CPAs to identify patterns in real-time and historical data, facilitating better forward guidance for corporations and informing strategic decision-making.

Internally: CPAs utilize business intelligence measures like time-tracking software to understand time expenditure, streamline workflows, and identify opportunities for automation. Tracking accountant time expenditure not only optimizes resource allocation but also builds trust with clients by providing transparency into the quality and depth of work performed.


What are Irrationalities?

According to Ritzer, the irrationality of rationality “means that rational systems are unreasonable systems... [which] deny basic humanity... [to] the people who work within them or are served by them... they are dehumanizing” (Ritzer, 1993). When specifically looking at Certified Public Accountants, it becomes clear that the utilization of ‘standardized’ tools meant to increase trust and transparency has resulted in engagement with tasks that have increasingly led to many irrationalities, including those of enforcing feelings of disenchantment and homogenization (Ritzer, 1993).


Disenchantment, the loss of enchantment or inefficiency, has driven corporations to standardize the roles of CPAs. This push for standardization was exemplified by James M. Landis's speech to the Investment Bankers Association of America in 1936, where he argued for increased regulation, portraying it as a necessary choice with no middle ground. Landis's stance suggests that disenchantment was not merely a consequence but also a deliberate strategy to enforce standardization. This approach, characterized by a lack of consideration for individual perspectives, disregards the impact on accountants. Consequently, policies enacted to promote standardization have further distanced accountants from their work, reflecting a disenchanted mindset fixated solely on efficiency and standardization.


Homogenization, characterized by a focus on predictability, efficiency, calculability, and control while disregarding individual differences, permeated the procedures of the certified public accountant profession (Crossman, 2020). This approach not only impacts the individuals performing accounting tasks but also undermines the relevance of the accounting itself. For instance, localized customs in certain regions may conflict with internationally or nationally applied policies, compelling accountants to conform to standardized systems that may not align with their clients' specific needs (Mert, 2022). Consequently, this imposition can devalue the work and create a rigid system that prioritizes efficiency over creativity, leading individuals to further reinforce structural constraints within the accounting framework (Chakravarthy, 2014).

Expecting Irrationalities – The Counter Argument

Supporters of adding structure to the work of Certified Public Accountants assert that it standardizes the industry and reduces bias, allowing for the objective presentation of facts This perspective aligns with those advocating for homogenization in accounting, emphasizing transparency and ease of interpretation. Standardization, they argue, makes accounting documentation clearer and less prone to misinterpretation. Additionally, some contend that accounting, as a discipline of proofs, should not allow for individual interpretation, thus fostering a deliberate disenchantment with the job.

Future Outlook

The Utilization of AI

AI's integration into accounting is transforming the profession, automating tasks and generating financial reports previously the domain of humans. Organizations are exploring how AI can streamline mundane tasks, allowing accountants to focus on client relationships. Governmental bodies are increasingly employing AI to enhance oversight, ensuring transparency in financial filings. While AI augments rather than replaces accountants, its inability to perform tasks requiring human creativity suggests job growth rather than loss in the accounting field. Firms are hiring specialists in data analytics and digital platforms to support accounting processes, reshaping the nature of accountants' work. Tax firms are leveraging AI to offer quicker insights at lower costs, revolutionizing their operations and attracting new clients through innovative services like free tax filings. Regulatory agencies like the IRS are turning to AI to enhance fraud detection and streamline auditing processes, signaling a new era of AI-driven regulation in accounting.

The Consolidation of Firms

As corporations demand a wider array of services from CPA firms in response to globalized complexities, mergers among accounting firms are increasing. This trend, evident in the significant number of mergers involving G400 firms in 2018, facilitates access to skilled professionals and diversification of services. Smaller firms face competition from the dominant "Big 4" accounting firms, which audit a large majority of US public companies. Rising barriers to entry and challenges in sustaining operations contribute to a decline in the number of public accounting firms. Overall, mergers enable firms to expand their services and cater to evolving client demands in a competitive landscape.


Chakravarthy, Jivas, et al. “The Ideological Homogenization of the FASB.” Kellogg School of Management, 2014,

Crossman, Ashley. “McDonaldization and Why Sociologists Are Not Lovin’ It.” ThoughtCo, 28 Jan. 2020,

Ritzer, George. Enchanting a Disenchanted World : Continuity and Change in the Cathedrals of Consumption. 3rd ed., Pine Forge, 2013.

---. The McDonaldization of Society : Into the Digital Age. 10th ed., Sage, 2020.

Ritzer, George. The Mcdonaldization of Society : An Investigation into the Changing Character of Contemporary Social Life. Pine Forge Press, C, 1993.

Acknowledgments: I would like to personally thank Professor Howard E. Aldrich for his support in my journey exploring the rationalization of various occupations. I'd also like to acknowledge my usage of Chat GPT, Gemini, and CoPilot in the creation of this webpage.