Modern business professionals rely heavily on accounting software, and accounting students acquire some training on these programs during their undergraduate accounting information system (AIS) related courses. All accounting transactional data is captured electronically and stored within databases that comprise the bulk of AISs. These systems are so integral to the operations of many accounting firms that some universities offer AIS concentration areas of study. Accountants who have these types of technical skills are also hired by large accounting firms to monitor, modify and maintain their companies’ AISs. Here are some examples of what accounting students learn within AIS classes, common professional development opportunities associated with the specialization and the career outlook for accountants who want to combine their interests in business with technology.
Accounting students primarily learn how to establish and maintain AISs when they specialize in this niche accounting knowledge area of study. The curricula for such programs are guided by industry standards for creating and keeping AISs secure, accurate and accessible to authorized parties. The AIS concentration area considers all aspects of the system which include the software, hardware, databases, security internal controls, processes and procedures for operations and system users. The software that students learn to use while they practice processing financial data and further analyzing data to create customized reports are sometimes proprietary programs or simple yet powerful spreadsheets.
Continuing Education and Certifications
Technology changes quickly and AIS specialists often have to take professional development training to keep their knowledge of the subject up to date. Also, these systems come under heavy scrutiny during internal and external audits of corporate accounting practices, and managers often seek training about AISs to gain better insight about security internal controls within the systems. Accounting practitioners often use these training courses in preparation to gain certifications like the Certified Information Systems Auditor. This designation is acquired by people who have the appropriate combination of AIS education and auditing work experience. They must successfully pass a rigorous exam, adhere to a code of ethics and accomplish periodic continuing education to receive and keep the credential. Certified Internal Auditor, Certified Information Technology Professional and Certified Management Consultant credentials may also give accountants an edge in the job market after they acquire their certified public accounting (CPA) licenses.
Professional organizations provide accountants with a variety of resources that they can use to increase their job knowledge and enhance their career options. Associations like the American Institute of CPAs and the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) provide members with access to publications, certification programs and special events that help to build up practitioners’ subject knowledge and professional networks. Some organizations like ISACA even give members opportunities to sharpen their leadership skills and gain real world experience through association sponsored volunteer activities and special projects.
Expertise in AIS can lead to careers in system auditing, consulting, business systems analysis and forensic accounting if business professionals obtain the appropriate credentials. These accounting professionals find employment in accounting firms, government agencies, non-profit organizations and consulting businesses. In 2014, accounting and auditing professionals earned median annual salaries of $65,940 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Mastering AIS fundamentals and principles is a skill that can help all accountants throughout their careers even if they do not pursue jobs in that specific area. For instance, entry level accounting analysts focus on accurate and efficient input of accounting transactional data, but more senior level accountants use these technology systems to collect and analyze financial data for decision making purposes. Both financial accountants and managerial accountants benefit from undergraduate courses in popular accounting software.