The changing roles of accountants in industry.

  • Andrew G. Powell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Both accountants and their professional associations have come under pressure in recent years to move with a changing environment. A research project was established therefore in order to study the present roles of accountants in industry, to consider how such roles have evolved, and to consider ways in which these roles might change in the future. Apart from these specific objectives, the thesis also attempts to come to terms with some of the major philosophical and theoretical challenges that face sociology. Given these broad aims, and given a limited amount of previous research, the approach was to derive tentative classifications and propositions from empirical investigation, rather than to test preconceived hypotheses. Data was obtained primarily from ninety-nine structured interviews with both accountants and other managers from twelve industrial enterprises. Aside from studying specifically the changing roles of accountants in industry, the following areas were investigated: the historical development of industrial organisations, accounting systems, and the professional accounting bodies; the process of occupational entry, socialisation, and career paths of accountants; and the current education, training, and career development of, and labour market for, accountants in industry. Despite variations according to accountants' positions, the sample's work characteristics and orientations were found to be similar to those of managers from other areas. In fact most accountants were more concerned with 'getting on' than committed to a career in accounting or to any particular professional association or employing organisation. While there was a move towards a more general business involvement for the majority of the sample, there was also in some cases an increasing demand for specialist accounting skills. In conclusion, although an eventual technological substitution for the work of accountants in industry is thought to be unlikely, their work is becoming more liable to evaluation and intervention form those outside their occupational group.
Date of AwardOct 1984
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJohn Child (Supervisor)


  • sociology
  • accounting
  • managers
  • professions
  • careers

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