The Public Accounting Report (PAR) is an annual report released in the United States with rankings of accounting programs for the benefit of students, members of the public, and academic institutions with such program offerings. The organization behind the report has released rankings every year since 1978. This creates a large body of past records to refer to when evaluating accounting schools. A significant change in rankings can be a sign of an upward or downward trend in academic rigor.
To compile the Public Accounting Report, the organization sends out a survey to accounting instructors in institutions across the United States. They rank schools with accounting programs at the graduate and undergraduate level, with the use of a 10-point scale. All the answers are compiled to generate rankings of the top 25 schools in a number of tiers. These are split by size, so small schools do not have to compete with large schools.
A high rank in the PAR indicates that accounting educators believe the program provides students with the tools they need for professional success. Graduates are more likely to progress through the ranks of an accounting firm to achieve partner or other important positions. They are also more capable of performing accounting tasks. Holding a degree from a highly-ranked school can be a significant advantage on a job application.
Rankings changes can occur for a number of reasons. When the Public Accounting Report split into a set of tiers, some schools appeared to have changes in their rankings because of the changes in the presentation of the rankings. When there are no changes in format between years, a rise can show improvement, while a drop can suggest that professors are concerned about the quality of the program and do not rate it as highly. Minor movements up and down can occur from year to year, but a school should remain consistently high in the rankings. If it does not, this can be a sign of a loss of confidence.
Students considering accounting careers can use the Public Accounting Report to learn more about the best choice of accounting school. Schools on the listing usually have press releases when it comes up, and these will provide details about other school rankings to give readers have some context. It is important to look at prior year rankings and to consider other factors that may be important, like the cost of the school or the location, when selecting a program to attend.