The emergence of accounting information systems programs: as more and more companies seek out accounting professionals with IT skills, some universities now are offering a major in accounting information systems, which mixes topics from each area to provide students with the requisite skills employers want.
THE NEED FOR INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY
Recognizing these worker trends and economic conditions, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) report the need for computer and information technology concepts to be a part of the knowledge, skills, and abilities of accounting professionals. Both say accounting professionals should be able to apply productivity improvement software, such as spreadsheets and accounting-specific software, and be able to interpret, integrate, and implement information technology.
In its report, the AICPA cites five core competencies to guide its members: (1) communication and leadership, (2) strategic and critical thinking, (3) customer focus, (4) interpretation of converging information, and (5) technological skills. (4) IMA's 1999 Practice Analysis identified four work activities that are now expected to consume more of an internal accountant's time: (1) long-term strategic planning, (2) internal consulting, (3) computer systems and operations, and (4) process improvement. (5) It also identified the most important knowledge, skills, and abilities accountants had developed in the prior five years: computer skills, technology and networks, accounting software, teaching or mentoring, speaking and communications, and project management.
In the last 15 years, accounting information technology has transformed from an environment dominated by expensive mainframe computers that were programmed by specialized information system staff to user-friendly, integrated Internet-based systems. (6) The knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for the entry-level accountant now include the application and integration of information technology into the accounting process, as well as financial and managerial accounting principles. Organizations rely on the new generation of accountants to be familiar with today's systems and to prepare for those of tomorrow. To accomplish this, they must have technical skills and conceptual knowledge of accounting information systems. (7)
ACCOUNTING EDUCATION PROGRAMS
In 1990, the Accounting Education Change Commission, a committee of business leaders appointed by the American Accounting Association (AAA), recommended to accounting educators that students learn and understand more about accounting systems. (8) The faculty of leading undergraduate accounting programs in the United States responded to the Commission's recommendations by initiating one or more of the following changes: (1) significantly increasing the amount of information systems coverage in graduate and undergraduate accounting classes; (2) creating undergraduate and graduate "accounting systems" courses that cover topics such as transaction cycles, information technology, databases, the systems development life cycle, internal controls, and fraud detection and deterrence; (9) (3) shifting graduate program coursework in the direction of accounting information systems (AIS); and (4) incorporating a significant amount of cross-disciplinary content that combines courses from both accounting and information systems departments. (10) It is this fourth call for change that has resulted in today's new undergraduate curricula, or major, in AIS. (11)
The AIS concentration, track, or major--whatever it is called--offers an opportunity for students to go beyond elementary exposure to accounting information systems. In an AIS program, students master today's technology tools and develop a conceptual basis for understanding and evaluating the information technology tools of tomorrow. For an AIS program (graduate or undergraduate) to be successful, it must have characteristics that blend accounting and information systems. (12) Students in such a program will graduate with stronger IT qualifications and will be in greater demand by the profession. (13)
Because undergraduate AIS programs are new and there are a variety of definitions of them, we are defining them as "an integration of cross-discipline content of both accounting and information systems courses." (See Figure 1 for examples of some goals and objectives of AIS programs.)
Figure 1: Sample Goals and Objectives of AIS Programs BENTLEY COLLEGE "The Accounting Information Systems (AIS) major joins together the skill sets of two areas experiencing rapid growth and change, accounting and information technology. Electronic commerce, direct business-to-business communication, paperless work processes, and many other technology-intensive innovations have created new challenges and opportunities for accountants who also have expertise in information systems. Many traditional accounting functions are now embodied in systems that require a different combination of technical and financial knowledge. The AIS major is designed to provide this combination of knowledge and skill sets to meet the new challenges and opportunities of the information technology world." BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY "The information systems auditing and control (ISAC) specialization blends accounting with management information systems and computer science to provide graduates with the knowledge and skills required to assess the control and audit requirements of complex computer-based information systems. Graduates of this program can: * analyze an organization's informational system, * determine the controls and audit processes required to provide assurance that the information produced is reliable, and that the * system and data contained therein are secure." JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY "The Accounting Information Systems concentration is intended to provide students with additional background, conceptual knowledge, and hands-on experience to meet the need for accounting professionals who are trained and comfortable with advanced information technology."
As further research, we conducted a study that analyzed undergraduate AIS programs. We asked (and, we hope, answer here) a number of questions, particularly:
1. Where are undergraduate AIS programs?
2. What does the typical undergraduate AIS curriculum (major, track, or concentration) look like?
3. What is the content of the undergraduate AIS curriculum?
4. Is the material taught from an accounting perspective?
The intent of our study was to analyze undergraduate AIS programs from the perspective of accounting students and faculty. We initially identified AIS programs through the accounting literature. (14) As of 1999, only 12 AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited universities offered an undergraduate program in accounting information systems or openly encouraged students to pursue a double major in accounting and information systems. (15) To locate more universities, we searched college listing sites and the general Internet. In addition, we made requests to several listservs. We then removed from our compilation those institutions whose undergraduate AIS programs were not accredited by the AACSB or were not listed in the accounting or information systems section of their university catalog or website. We selected undergraduate programs for inclusion in this study if the university catalog or website mentioned any form of specialty, major, track, concentration, or emphasis that followed the broad definition of AIS programs. This resulted in our adding six more AIS programs.
Next, we reviewed AIS curricula from university catalogs and determined that a double major that includes accounting and some other discipline, such as computer information systems (CIS) or management information systems (MIS), would not be included in this study. Our objective was to learn what an AIS program is or should be. A double major denotes that the student must complete two required curricula, one in accounting and one in an information systems area, so it does not meet our definition for an AIS program or the goals and objectives of an AIS program (see Figure 1). The faculty of an accounting program that encourages students to pursue a second major in information systems (IS) may not have instituted a curriculum review process to identify the needs of an AIS program or to blend the content of the two majors. Therefore, we eliminated those universities that require a double major to acquire information systems skills.
We contacted representatives from all AIS programs and requested detailed information about their program. This information included demographic data about the accounting program, the college, and the university. In addition, we asked for syllabi for each required course. All 13 universities that did not require a double major in accounting and CIS or MIS that replied to our requests are listed in Table 1.
ANALYSIS OF AIS PROGRAMS
Demographic Analysis of AIS Programs
Each program we studied is in a department of accounting, accounting and information systems, or accounting and finance, giving the impression that all of the AIS programs in this study are taught from an accounting perspective. To be certain, we reviewed course names and further analyzed the course content, finding that our impression was accurate.
All AIS programs but one are at public universities, and all are in a college or school of business or management, as shown in Table 1. University student populations vary greatly from a low of 8,000 at Bentley College and the University of West Florida to a high of 47,000 at Arizona State University. No matter what their size, state universities are responding to the profession's needs.
Excluding Central Michigan University and the University of Massachusetts, all of the universities that offer an undergraduate AIS program also offer a master of science in accountancy. The availability of graduate coursework in accounting may be due to the recent increase in college credit hours required to sit for the CPA exam, or the faculty of undergraduate AIS programs may be providing other accounting education opportunities. Also noteworthy: Only Arizona State University advertises a master of accounting information systems, and three of the universities in our study have doctoral programs in accounting or accounting information systems.
It appears that AIS programs are developed to meet local employers' needs. Not surprisingly, however, all but two of the programs are within a two-hour drive to large metropolitan areas, such as Boston, Detroit, and Washington D.C. The two universities that are more than two hours from a major metropolitan area are Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Murray State University. The Virginia Tech AIS program, established for more than two decades, produces a large number of graduates each year. The Murray State AIS program is just as established but graduates far fewer students.
Required Coursework for AIS Programs
All programs require a similar body of business knowledge that includes course content in basic accounting, economics, math and/or statistics, legal issues, oral and written communication, marketing, organizational management, financial management, operations management, and information technology issues and applications.
The number of required major courses (accounting, information systems, or hybrid) for each AIS program varies by university, ranging from a minimum of four at Oakland (12 credit hours) and five (15 credit hours) at the University of Massachusetts, to a maximum of 11 required courses (33 credit hours) at James Madison University (see Table 2). The median number of required courses is nine (27 credits hours). From those required credits, a number of programs dictate all required content. Others provide a smaller core of AIS content and permit elective choices from IS or accounting. Programs that include a large number of electives made it difficult for us to determine the core AIS competencies that the program faculty deem necessary for the completion of an AIS program. A selection of electives does provide flexibility for students to choose course content they are interested in learning, but the more elective courses in a program, the harder it was for us to analyze the depth and breadth of the program.
Undergraduate AIS Curriculum Content
To gain a complete picture of the content, we obtained a syllabus from each of the courses in all of the AIS programs we examined. We entered the content of each syllabus into a database that ultimately exceeded 900 records, each record representing an AIS content issue. While actual course content may have covered several issues, we used only topics listed in the course syllabi. We then did a content analysis combining similar topics, as presented in Table 3. Although some of the more detailed topics overlapped with broader ones, the table offers readers a comprehensive list of the topics covered in all courses of the AIS programs we studied, whether or not they are in the accounting, systems, or hybrid course categories. (16)
It was difficult for us to compare programs because we could not discern to what extent each program covered the topics in Table 3. For this reason, we chose to present the content that appeared most often. The presentation of "content" is important because course titles may be similar, but the subject matter may be different, or the course title is different but subject matter the same. Also, there is a technology shift taking place in many courses that heretofore may have previously been considered "pure accounting." For example, spreadsheet software has been introduced into problem-solving exercises in managerial and cost accounting, tax preparation software has been used in tax courses, and expert system software has been used in auditing classes. (17)
Because most AIS programs are relatively new or dynamic, we found that many were in the process of making major changes or minor modifications prior to, during, or immediately following the period we studied (2001-2002). This reflects the dynamic nature of today's business environment, especially those fields utilizing information technology. In addition, the dynamic nature of the AIS programs in this study complement the faculty who continually maintain and update their technology skills and knowledge of technology concepts, accounting theory and models, course content, and the most suitable program curriculum.
As the AIS major continues to integrate technology and systems issues into accounting processes, all AIS content will be assimilated into a pure AIS major as category boundaries deteriorate.
A FUTURE OF AIS EDUCATION
A limited number of U.S. colleges and universities offer undergraduate AIS programs. They provide AIS graduates to organizations in major metropolitan areas, such as Boston, Detroit, and Washington, D.C. The average undergraduate AIS curriculum contains nine required courses, with most taken from a combination of traditional accounting and information system programs. A few hybrid courses are also included in most AIS programs. Two common examples are accounting information systems and information systems control and auditing. All of the AIS programs in our study are at universities accredited by the AASCB and are housed within accounting units, such as accounting departments or schools of accounting. Each program requires a core of business content in addition to the AIS subject matter.
These programs are meeting the challenges of business trends and economic conditions. They are beginning to fill employers' needs: Accountants now better understand computer and information technology concepts and issues. With the proper curriculum content, AIS programs will continue to prepare students to interpret, integrate, and implement information technology, a necessary professional skill for 21st century accountants.
Table 1: Demographics of AIS Programs Computer Public Information Student or Systems Name of College Population Private Majors Arizona State University * 47,000 public 310 Bentley College 8,000 private 200 Bowling Green State University 23,000 public 375 California State University, Chico 16,000 public 400 Central Michigan University 28,000 public 175 Eastern Michigan University 23,000 public 675 James Madison University 15,000 public 640 Murray State University 8,900 public 100 Oakland University 16,059 public 193 University of Massachusetts * 24,000 public 135 University of Nevada, Reno * 14,500 public 105 University of West Florida 8,000 public 250 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University * 25,600 public 800 Computer Information Accounting Systems Name of College Majors Faculty Arizona State University * 430 50 Bentley College 800 30 Bowling Green State University 260 24 California State University, Chico 125 7 Central Michigan University 135 24 Eastern Michigan University 900 11 James Madison University 390 16 Murray State University 275 11 Oakland University 104 10 University of Massachusetts * 135 16 University of Nevada, Reno * 60 16 University of West Florida 385 4 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University * 800 27 Accounting Graduate Name of College Faculty Programs Arizona State University * 50 MAIS (#)/Ph.D. Bentley College 27 MS Bowling Green State University 30 MSA (+) California State University, Chico 9 MSA Central Michigan University 22 MBA Eastern Michigan University 13 MSA James Madison University 17 MSA Murray State University 10 MSA Oakland University 10 MSA University of Massachusetts * 16 MBA/Ph.D. University of Nevada, Reno * 16 MSA University of West Florida 12 MSA Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University * 27 MSA/Ph.D. * AIS program draws from information systems and accounting faculty. (#) Master of Accounting Information Systems (+) Master of Science in Accounting Table 2: Required Courses for AIS Programs ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY External Process Analysis and Design, External Reporting I and II, Internal Reporting, Tax Accounting, Auditing, Programming Concepts for Accounting Majors, Visual Programming, and Database Concepts (nine courses for a total of 36 credits) BENTLEY COLLEGE Financial Reporting and Analysis I, Accounting Information Systems, Fundamentals of Auditing, Advanced Accounting Information Systems, Information Technology Auditing Principles and Practice, Algorithm & Data Abstractions, Programming with Visual Basic, Analysis, Modeling & Design, Data Management with SQL, and three electives (nine courses for 21 credits--five three-credit courses and four 11/2-credit courses--and three electives for nine credits, combined for a total of 30 credits) BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY COBOL Programming, Advanced Programming, Intermediate I, Accounting Information Systems, Auditing, Information Systems Auditing and Control, Database Management, Data Communications, and Systems Analysis and Design (nine courses for a total of 27 credits) CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, CHICO Intermediate Accounting I and II, Cost Accounting, Accounting Information Systems, Database Design, Systems Analysis, Distributed Systems, ERP: Systems Configuration and Use, and Planning Control and Performance (nine courses for a total of 27 credits) CENTRAL MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY Intermediate Accounting I and II, COBOL Programming, Managerial Cost Accounting, Accounting Systems and Controls, Systems Analysis and Design, a second programming language course, three accounting electives, and an information systems elective (six required courses for 18 credits, three accounting electives for nine credits, and two information systems electives for six credits, combined for a total of 33 credits) EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY Intermediate Accounting I and II, Cost Accounting, Income Tax, Auditing, Accounting Information Systems, Accounting Information Auditing, Accounting Information Systems Implementation Projects, COBOL Programming, Introduction to Database, and two information systems electives (10 courses for 30 credits, two electives for six additional credits, combined for a total of 36 credits) JAMES MADISON UNIVERSITY Intermediate Accounting I and II, Cost Accounting, Income Tax, Auditing, Accounting Information Systems, a programming language, Database Design, Advanced Accounting, Advanced Systems Technology, and Advanced AIS (11 courses for a total of 33 credits) MURRAY STATE UNIVERSITY Intermediate Accounting I and II, Cost Accounting, Income Tax, Auditing, Accounting Theory, COBOL I, Database Design, and two information systems electives (eight courses and one lab for 25 credits--eight three-credit courses and one one-credit lab--and two electives for six credits, combined for a total of 31 credits) OAKLAND UNIVERSITY Introduction to Financial Systems and Databases; Financial Information Systems: Analysis; Financial Information Systems: Design; Financial Information Systems: Audit and Control; one accounting elective, one management information systems elective, one finance elective, and two electives from finance or production management (four required courses for 12 credits, five electives for 15 credits, combined for a total of 27 credits) UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS Business Applications of Computers, Financial Reporting I and II, Auditing, Advanced Legal Studies, and two accounting electives (five required courses for 15 credits, two electives for six credits, combined for a total of 21 credits) UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO Financial Reporting I and II, Management Accounting I, Income Tax, Systems Control and Auditing, Microcomputers in Business, Computer Information Systems Development, Database Design, Information Systems Analysis and Design, and one information systems elective (nine courses for 27 credits, one elective for three credits, combined for a total of 30 credits) UNIVERSITY OF WEST FLORIDA Intermediate Accounting I and II, Cost Accounting, Auditing, Accounting Information Systems, Intermediate AIS, AIS Special Topics, a programming language, and an information systems elective (eight courses for 24 credits, one elective for three credits, combined for a total of 27 credits) VIRGINIA POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE AND STATE UNIVERSITY Cost Accounting, Information Systems Development, Accounting Information Systems Development, Information Systems Audit and Control, Database Management, Management Information Systems, Management of Information Systems and Technologies, Applied Software Development Project, Networks and Telecommunications, and Object-Oriented Systems Development (10 courses for a total of 30 credits) Table 3: Topics Covered in AIS Programs accounting cycle accounting information systems algorithms and data structures assurance and accounting services audit concepts, planning and reporting auditing: sampling, testing of transactions auditing: computerized AIS/EDP auditing procedures, standards, and ethics C++ programming capital budgeting CASE tools COBOL coding, testing, and system integration communication skills computer crime computer security consulting contracts cost accounting data dictionary data-flow diagrams data modeling data validation data warehouses database design and implementation database programming debugging decision making depreciation distributed databases documentation electronic commerce employee benefit plans entity relationship diagrams ERP systems event-driven programming event-driven accounting system external audit file organization and processing financial statements and reporting flowcharting GAAP general ledger computer hardware information gathering techniques input and output design intangible assets internal auditing and control Internet inventory management investments Java programming job order costing lease accounting legal liability local area networks logical and physical design long-term debt management information systems Microsoft Access Microsoft Excel and spreadsheets Microsoft Windows network management network security networking and data communication normalization object-oriented analysis and design object-oriented programming Oracle software partnership accounting Peachtree software pensions pricing decisions process modeling processing controls and cycles professional services and responsibilities program design and development programming project management skills purchasing cycles relational data model relevant costing request for proposals requirements analysis and gathering techniques revenue cycle risk and control issues SAP R/3 models and systems security and control for accounting systems software SQL strategic cost management structured programming system design and implementation systems development life cycle systems development controls systems implementation systems maintenance tax codes, concepts, and research telecommunication systems total quality management transaction analysis and controls transaction systems and reporting unified modeling language Visual programming web page development wide area networks
(1) Christine Maitland, "Introduction," Thought and Action, Fall 1999, pp. 9-10.
(2) Ming-Te Lu, Chi-Wai Chung, and Pien Wang, "Knowledge and Skills of IS Graduates: A Hong Kong Perspective," Journal of Computer Information Systems, Winter 1998-1999, pp. 40-47; Myron Magnet, "The Productivity Payoff Arrives," Fortune, June 27, 1994, pp. 79-84; and J.E. Weber, V. J. McIntyre, and M. Schmidt, "Explaining IS Student and IS Industry Differences in Perceptions of Skill Importance," Journal of Computer Information Systems, Summer 2001, pp. 79-83.
(3) Brenda Massetti, Thomas Abraham, and Thomas Goeller, "Computer Technology in Undergraduate Business School Curricula," Journal of Computer Information Systems, Winter 1995-1996, pp. 44-49.
(4) The CPA Vision Project: 2011 and Beyond, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York, N.Y., 2002.
(5) Keith A. Russell, Gary H. Siegel, and C.S. Kulesza, "Counting More, Counting Less: Transformations in the Management Accounting Profession," Management Accounting, September 1999, p. 38.
(6) David R. Fordham, Stephanie M. Bryant, and Ralph L. Benke, "The Evolution of an Accounting Concentration: Concepts and an Example," Review of Accounting Information Systems, Summer 1997, pp. 1-9.
(8) Accounting Education Change Commission, "Objectives of Education for Accountants: Position Statement Number One," Issues in Accounting Education, Fall 1990, pp. 307-312.
(9) Bill Cummings, Robert E. Bennett, and Carol J. Normand, "Meeting the Challenge: The University Accounting Program Corporate America Needs," Management Accounting Quarterly, Winter 2001, pp. 1-10.
(10) Zafar U. Khan, S. Thomas A. Cianciolo, and Eileen Peacock, "A Plan for Reengineering Management Accounting Education Based on the IMA's Practice Analysis," Management Accounting Quarterly, Winter 2000, pp. 1-8.
(11) Keith A. Russell and Steven Berlin, "A Position Statement for the New Millennium," Management Accounting Quarterly, Fall 1999, pp. 1-8.
(12) Fordham, Bryant, and Benke, pp. 1-9.
(13) Russell and Berlin, pp. 1-8.
(14) Stephanie M. Bryant, Judy K. Weishar, and David R. Fordham, "A Survey of Accounting Information Systems Programs in U.S. Colleges and Universities," Review of Accounting Information Systems, Summer 1999, pp. 1-11.
(16) Charlotte S. Stephens and Margaret T. O'Hara, "Benchmarking the Required Information Systems Course in AACSB Accredited MBA Programs: An Analysis of Course Content and Processes," Journal of Computer Information Systems, Summer 2001, pp. 28-42.
(17) Thomas W. Dillon, Michael Garner, Jean-Pierre Kuilboer, and Joseph D. Quinn, "Accounting Student Acceptance of Tax Preparation Software," Journal of Accounting and Computers, Fall 1998, pp. 17-29.
This research was funded by a Faculty Enhancement Grant from the Institute of Management Accountants.
Thomas W. Dillon, Ph.D., is an associate professor of computer information systems in the College of Business at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. He can be reached at (540) 568-3015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
S. E. Kruck, Ph.D., CPA, is an associate professor of computer information systems in the College of Business at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. She can be reached at (540) 568-3016 or email@example.com.
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|Author:||Dillon, Thomas W.; Kruck, S.E.|
|Publication:||Management Accounting Quarterly|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2004|
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