Date of Defense


Date of Graduation




First Advisor

Sheldon Langsam

Second Advisor

James Penner

Third Advisor

Jerry Kreuze


In recent years, society has seen a major shift when it comes to the importance of ethical behavior, and also in what constitutes ethical behavior. One of the biggest reasons for this shift is because of scandals in the last couple of decades (ex. Enron). As the public loses trust in upper management because of these scandals, a greater emphasis is placed on the importance of ethics. This paper discusses ethics in relation to business majors and how their behaviors carry over into the workforce.

The thesis begins by determining different sources of ethical behavior, and what may drive people to act unethically. Modern definitions of ethics are examined, with special attention to what constitutes unethical behavior in the business world. Different studies performed on students of different majors are also analyzed. It was found that, in general, business students view themselves as the most ethical major. This speaks to their perspectives of themselves, but not necessarily their actions. It was also found that business students are more relaxed on their views of what is considered unethical behavior (or cheating). This means that, statistically, business majors may not cheat more. However, their views of what constitutes cheating suggest that they may be considered less ethical than non-­‐ business majors.

It is also important to understand where students’ ethical standards come from. The studies examined show that students believe that those who have the earliest contact with them have the most influence on them when it comes to ethical standards. College professors had a lesser impact on the students, showing that ethics education needs to begin much earlier than in college. If students have more consistent education starting at and earlier age, they may be more likely to develop stronger ethical standards that they carry into college and eventually the workforce.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Open Access

Included in

Accounting Commons