September 18, 2018 • By Christine Byrd
The digital revolution has upended the accounting practice and employers are demanding students with skills in data analytics and manipulation.
The UCI Paul Merage School of Business is meeting those demands by educating accounting students in the latest methods of data analysis. The school’s Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) program recently jumped to the top 25 in the nation — a leap that reflects the strengthening reputation of the 5-year-old program.
The Paul Merage School of Business’ Master of Public Accountancy (MPAc) program was recently ranked among the top 25 in the US by a nationwide survey of accounting professors. The significant jump reflects the growing reputation of the 5-year-old program.
“The Merage School is a growing institution with a start-up culture, and we like to be at the forefront of global changes,” says Burt Slusher Director of Recruitment and Admissions Specialty Masters Programs. “You see that reflected not only in the school’s rankings, but in its exciting new programs.”
UCI, which is in the category for programs with 16 or fewer full-time accounting faculty, ranked 13th nationally in the Public Accounting Report’s 37th Annual Professors Survey, which was published this year. In the Western region, UCI was one of only four schools on the West Coast to break the top 25, regardless of size.
Not content to rest on its past success, the Merage School launched two new tracks in the MPAc program this fall: taxation and data analytics.
“Employers aren’t looking for ‘traditional’ accounting program graduates anymore. Firms want students who understand technology and data processes well enough to be able to analyze and manipulate data in a way that increases overall effectiveness and efficiency,” says Patricia Wellmeyer, clinical assistant professor of accounting and faculty director of the MPAc program. “We’ve added data analytics to our curriculum to train accounting graduates with exactly those skills.”
A fast-changing global business environment has spurred demand for students who can excel in a digitally driven world. To train those students, the Merage School collaborated with the accounting firm Deloitte to develop a three-course data analytics track within the MPAc curriculum. Deloitte provides both instructors and materials for the classes in the track, which is already among the most popular in the program, with nearly half of the accounting students signed up for the fall course.
The tax track was also developed with the needs of the changing accounting marketplace in mind. “Employers told us they don’t want an accountant who is 80 percent specialist,” says Wellmeyer. “Firms prefer bigger-picture thinkers who not only have a solid foundation in accounting and taxation principals, but who understand how changes in the economic and regulatory landscapes can impact companies’ businesses.”
By paying attention to companies’ evolving needs, the Merage School has bolstered the reputation not only of its programs but of its graduates. “Employers come back to us and say they can spot our MPAc students a mile away,” says Wellmeyer. “We know what firms are looking for and what’s going to create a successful graduate.”
Newly minted alumna Kristin Nguyen, MPAc ’18, who works in the audit group at EY, a professional service firm, agrees. ”I look back and am filled with gratitude for the MPAc program,” says Nguyen. “They instilled in me values and skills – both soft and technical – that ultimately transformed me into a strong and marketable candidate who is highly sought after in the accounting industry today.”