The accounting profession, which has commercialised its services extensively in the past two to three decades, is facing the challenges of change. An early and concerted response to the changes in the scope of work was the emphasis on developing generic skills in accounting higher education. This study recognises the relevance of accounting practitioners' experiences of the manifestations of change in actual work situations and investigates their conceptions of accounting work. A phenomenographic approach identified practitioners' focus of awareness on the functional, outcome and ethical aspects of accounting work. In particular, practitioners described the prevalence of ethics in all facets of their work, their autonomous position and ethical tensions. The pressures of commercialism are also reflected in their conceptions. The findings have raised concerns regarding the adequacy of the present curriculum for preparing accounting graduates for the ethical challenges of work in today's accounting profession. The relevance of developing professional values and identities as a trajectory both within and beyond university learning is advanced.