April 09, 2019 • By Jessie Yount
The world of accounting is changing, but not everyone is prepared.
Businesses today produce an enormous volume of financial data that accountants must sift through. Only those who can think critically, recognize opportunities and use new technology will be able to stay relevant and jumpstart their careers.
That’s why the UCI Paul Merage School of Business launched a new Data Analytics Track in partnership with the accounting organization Deloitte to inculcate in future accountants an analytic approach and a digital-first mindset.
The Data Analytics Track is part of the Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAc) program, which was launched in 2013.
“On a broader scale within our MPAc program, we’ve looked at existing curriculum and embedded the digital mindset across our courses,” said Patricia Wellmeyer, assistant clinical professor of accounting and MPAc program director.
“With the addition of the data analytics track, we are able to more concretely help students develop the types of applied programming and analytical skills they will need to tackle the world of big data,” she added.
The specialized, three-course track equips students with both tangible and technical skills. Students learn how to prepare and manage data across accounting applications. In audit, for example, students use data analytics to perform risk-based reviews and interpret data. They also explore data analytics in specialty settings such as cybersecurity and forensics.
All students in the program can take the Introduction to Data Analytics course with Eric Wrobel, a managing director at Deloitte.
Drawing on his experience in the corporate world, Wrobel provides students with an understanding of both real-world data and analytics challenges and objectives, while giving them practical approaches to address those challenges.
“There’s a tremendous amount of hype around data analytics,” Wrobel said. “But I want to give my students concrete skills. I want them to understand the art of the possible –– how and when these new techniques can be applied.”
Wrobel also works to demystify data analytics by breaking down core concepts, and dispelling the idea that big data and artificial intelligence will take over the field.
That message is getting through to students, who are learning the difference between the mountains of data businesses generate and the analytical methods accountants and other number crunchers can apply to make effective and efficient use of the data.
“Data is facts and statistics collected together to be referenced and analyzed, while analytics is the discovery, interpretation and communication of the data, which can be used to make decisions,” said Jackie McGraw, MPAc ‘19, who is currently enrolled in the specialized track.
McGraw, who will apply her knowledge in data analytics as an audit associate at Grant Thornton this fall, is confident her new knowledge will help her stay ahead of the curve.
“Data analytics leads to effective decision making,” McGraw added. “You still need a human factor to make good decisions, use judgement and apply common sense. This is going to help advance our careers, not eliminate them.”