Task Force Participants
Accounting has been deeply transformed due to analytics and access to large quantities of data. Much of the work that was done 20 years ago by 1st and 2nd year associates has now been automated, outsourced, and/or is being conducted by paraprofessionals. Newly hired employees in public accounting are doing work that is similar to what was performed by 3rd and 4th year associates two decades ago. Additionally, the demand for data scientists within the profession is on the rise, displacing in some instances the demand for accountants.
As a result, the need for foundational knowledge within accounting, including tax regulations, financial reporting standards and internal control processes and procedures has declined as large portions of this information has been programmed into automated systems. In contrast the demand for higher order thinking skills and fluency around the use, management, and creation of technological systems is on the rise. One important consideration remains the requirement that undergraduate accounting curricula have to provide the knowledge required by the examining bodies for the widely accepted certifications of CA/CPA (Charter Accountant / Certified Public Accountant), and as a result, there is relatively less variation in accounting programs compared to other disciplines.
The Accounting Task Force of the MaCuDE project did a thorough review of the accounting curricula of about 95 colleges and universities. A main conclusion is that digital content in accounting is primarily comprised of managing and manipulating large data sets, applying analytics tools to answer questions and tell a story, and understanding automation of accounting functions. More specifically, the task force found that the key digital themes covered in undergraduate accounting curricula are: Accounting & Business Analytics, Data Management, Modeling, Software & Programming. The majority of undergraduate programs have embedded digital skill acquisition into multiple courses while most of the rest provide this instruction in a standalone class. When embedded within existing courses, the content is most frequently included in Information Systems and Auditing courses. However, this content is also distributed across tax, advanced accounting and managerial classes. The products and topics that are most frequently included are Alteryx, data visualization software, textual analysis and modeling in excel.
The detail coverage within each of these topical areas varies. In the area of Accounting and Business Analytics, the courses tended to focus on acquiring the skills needed to examine data and tell a compelling story within a specific business or accounting context. Data management and manipulation courses teach data science type skills rather than analytics. Modeling classes focused primarily on decision modeling, visualization and predictive modeling, and financial modeling. Software/programmingcoursework covered statistical packages, programming languages (e.g. Python) and/or programs (mobile applications) that are frequently used within the area of accounting.
At the graduate level, digital content in the form of standalone coursework was found in the majority of the schools in the sample. The topical focus of those courses varies with the most common as a requirement or an elective being in the area of accounting and business analytics. Courses on data management, modeling and programming tended to be part of degree programs that had been designed with a focus on analytics.
Within the graduate curriculum, digital content is most frequently embedded in Accounting Information Systems followed by Auditing and then Managerial/Cost Accounting and Advanced Accounting. Again, the most common software used in the undergraduate course work are Excel and Tableau Alteryx was the sole additional software that is used in graduate programs.
This task force is currently surveying industry leaders for an assessment of future needs in the accounting area. It will then produce recommendations for the MaCuDE steering committee.
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Task force leaders:
Nicole Thorne Jenkins, CPA
Nicole Thorne Jenkins became the John A. Griffin Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia on July 1, 2020. Prior to arriving at McIntire, Dean Jenkins was the Von Allmen Endowed Chair of Accountancy and Vice Dean in the Gatton College of Business and Economics at the University of Kentucky. Dean Jenkins received her Ph.D. in Accounting from the University of Iowa and completed her undergraduate work in Accounting and Finance at Drexel University. Her research interests include the investigation of financial reporting failures, share repurchase, and the effect of social networks on performance outcomes. Her teaching experience has focused on financial reporting topics in both executive education, graduate, and undergraduate programs.
Dean Jenkins is a Certified Public Accountant and is the immediate past president of the Financial Accounting & Reporting Section of the American Accounting Association. Prior to becoming an academic, she was an Auditor and Consultant at PriceWaterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand. Additionally, she consults and serves as an expert witness in matters related to financial reporting, valuation, and estimation of damages.
Dr. Layton is Professor of Clinical Accounting at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. She is an expert in auditing and assurance and financial accounting, particularly in the areas of auditor liability and financial statement fraud. She is a Searle Fellow and a recipient of the Margaret Keldie Award from the American Society of Woman Accountants.