New accounting program prepares students for rise of analytics


New Master of Accounting program prepares for the rise of analytics.

Accounting is changing, and no one knows that better than the firms that court FIU College of Business graduates. They want new employees to understand big data and how to use it.

FIU is on the front lines of helping firms meet that challenge. Beginning in fall, the School of Accounting will offer a master of accounting with a specialization in analytics, which will focus on how accounting professionals can capture and use the flood of data now available.

School of Accounting Director Ruth Ann Mc Ewen noted that College of Business leaders designed the program (MACC-Analytics) with feedback they received from accounting firms. “Things have just changed so drastically for them,” Mc Ewen said.

Ruth Ann Mc Ewen
Ruth Ann Mc Ewen

Traditionally, accounting relied on the time-tested statistical sampling model, which analyzes a limited but representational group of transactions. But computers, software programs and the internet changed all that. “Now, they can look at every single transaction,” she said, adding that technology has also drastically reduced the cost of acquiring data.

Software also now lets companies combine financial and non-financial data to get useable results. “It allows you to assess risk better,” Mc Ewen said. That means better fraud detection, and a stronger ability to predict future conditions, such as cash flows and costs. Companies rely on this kind of information when making key decisions–for example, whether to lease or buy big equipment.

The new degree “is definitely going to make our students more marketable,” Mc Ewen said. Among the key courses are Accounting Information Systems Technology and Control and Audit, which teach data visualization, how to take enormous amounts of data and summarize it in graphic form. New technology allows professionals to go beyond putting information in graphs and charts, to learn how to slice and dice data to isolate what is pertinent and what is not.

Going forward, accounting firm interviewers will ask hiring prospects about their prowess in analytics and associated software programs, Mc Ewen said. “Students who have had the courses and talk the language will be much more competitive. She noted that that analytics is becoming central to business education across the board: “I think it will become an integral part of all business degrees because it is so useful.”

For more information about the Master of Accounting’s new analytics program and other graduate accounting programs, visit the Master of Accounting website.