The accounting industry has undergone major changes in the last several decades due to the increase in reliance on information technology. From incorporating new IT into the workplace, to making sure it’s working properly, to protecting data, CPAs have their hands full as the industry evolves to meet the demand for growth and innovation.

In particular, working with data analytics has become an expected part of an accountant’s career. This shift in focus hasn’t gone unnoticed by standard-setting bodies, including those who set the standards of education for accountants and CPAs. The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) recently incorporated data analytics into their formal standards, representing a shift to include data analytics into the education process. Below, we’ll discuss what that means for CPA candidates now and into the future.

What is the AACSB?

The AACSB is a global nonprofit providing quality assurance, business education intelligence, and professional development services. Their network consists of over 1,600 member organizations and more than 800 accredited business schools worldwide, and their mission is to foster engagement, accelerate innovation, and amplify the impact of business education.

The AACSB works with organizations to set educational standards, with the goal of improving the quality of business education around the world. They accredit business and accounting programs based on their adherence to the AACSB’s standards. Some of the best business schools in the United States are AACSB accredited, including the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, and UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.

Incorporating data analytics into education process

Data analytics has unsurprisingly become a key component for many companies as they look to grow in a more globalized and technologically advanced business environment. However, the incorporation of data analytics requirements within the AACSB’s educational framework represents a more formal incorporation of data analytics in the education process.

According to the AACSB’s update, the goal of adding data analytics to their Standards was to stay up to date with the actual requirements of a career in the accounting industry, and help students “develop the skills and knowledge related to the integration of information technology in accounting and business.” Employers are looking for entry-level candidates who can work with data and utilize technology in a way that paves a path forward. Through the AACSB’s standard update, business and accounting students at accredited colleges and universities will leave with a degree that prepares them to utilize statistical techniques, manage data, model, analyze, and use predictive analysis through data analytics.

Data analytics and the AICPA

As of July 1st, 2019, the term “data analytics” was added to the CPA Exam Blueprint for AUD and BEC. However, data analytics was already being tested on the CPA Exam; the revisions simply added more detail to the Blueprints without changing the nature or scope of content eligible for testing. To put it simply, despite the addition of the term “data analytics,” there haven’t been any CPA Exam content changes.

Despite the lack of content changes, it’s still worth noting that data analytics is becoming an integral part of the accountant’s role. CPAs, as elite professionals in the field, are likely going to be expected to work with data even as entry-level professionals.

What this means for CPA candidates

While there haven’t been any specific content changes to the exam, we believe these recent updates to include data analytics in the educational process signify a shift in what CPA candidates need to know coming out of the CPA Exam and into their careers. As information technology becomes a bigger part of the accounting industry, it’s inevitable that the CPA Exam will follow suit since the goal of the exam is to test the competencies of a base-level CPA candidate. Regardless of whether it is currently on the exam, CPA candidates should be well-versed in data analytics simply because the profession demands it.

Outside of the standards mentioned above, you’ll likely work with data analytics through required statistics classes in college and via your accounting classes. And as more colleges and universities become accredited through the AACSB, you’ll likely find a heavier emphasis on data analytics in your accounting, management, and general business classes. Taking time to dig into data analytics now will ensure you’re prepared for any future CPA Exam changes incorporating the subject, as well as give you the knowledge necessary for a successful career launch and future career success.

Whether you’re still in college, recently graduated, or have been working professionally for years, it’s important to stay up-to-date with changes to the CPA Exam and changes in the industry. Surgent CPA Review automatically updates its content to reflect the most current changes to the CPA Exam, so that you’re learning the most important and timely content.

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Ryan Hirsch serves as a Director of Market Development at Surgent CPA Review, focusing on Surgent’s curriculum solution, University Pass. Ryan previously worked at the National Association of State Boards and Accountancy (NASBA) where he managed the Ethical Leadership Training and Development Division. Ryan has a master’s degree in leadership and organizational performance from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, and a bachelor’s degree in mass media arts from Clark Atlanta University.