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New Course: Accounting Data and Analytics

What data points do COVID outbreaks and rat sightings in New York City have in common? How are draft round pick, position, and lifetime earnings correlated in professional sports? What about a custom map that shows how much each section spends at a sporting event?

These were just a few topics explored as part of the School of Accounting’s newest course set offering: Accounting Data and Analytics. The target audience for the course series is Master of Accounting students, but some MBAs and MSFs are taking it because the information is so relevant.

The course set demonstrates the Lundquist College’s commitment to innovation in experiential learning. It also draws together students across a variety of disciplines to access this sought-after added competency.

“One of the major developments in the field of accounting has been the emergence in the last five or so years of accountants using data much more in the work they do,” said Porter Faculty Fellow and Professor of Practice Stephanie Peel, who developed the courses for the School of Accounting using her 30 years of experience at PwC, of which accounting data and analytics were a signature element.

“Data is so central to the firms accountants work for and with,” said Peel, adding students will use this training at audit firms, in tax work and tax consulting, and corporate work including developing financial statements.

Increasingly, Peel said, the larger pubic accounting firms are recognizing the need for all members of an organization to be data competent and able to use these data analysis tools.

Peel describes this as a case of the industry having a need and the Lundquist College of Business responding with a pipeline of students skilled and up-to-the-minute in this area.

“We built a course series from the ground up,” she said. “There is literally one textbook for this right now.”

Accounting Data and Analytics I is taught through the lens of different accounting specializations, such as internal auditing, external auditing, and managerial accounting. These are positions that many students will either hold or be working with directly in their career.

Using real products and real sales that have been anonymized, students get the data, clean the data, complete the analysis, and see if the results are expected or lead to some surprises. The course also makes use of the data visualization tool Tableau.

Course II in the series, Peel says, dives deeper into the technology: How can you optimize data technology to produce results that are more informative to stakeholders? A major project for the intermediate course centers around a real world scenario: an employee quits with a project half done. How does the team evaluate the work and make adjustments to finish the job?

Course III gets into the fundamentals of making a more engaging analysis through storytelling with data, such as how to make the best choices based on what we understand of how the brain and the eye work together to interpret size, length, and color. It also digs deeper into the features of products like Excel that allow decision making in the hands of the end user to more flexibly create their end product.

Courses build on each other and the three course series for graduate students is offered in the fall, winter, and spring.

This new offering and others make up a comprehensive accounting education experience, where high-achieving students have the option to be fast-tracked for admission to the Lundquist College of Business one full year before their contemporaries and complete both their bachelor’s degree in accounting and their master of accounting degree in just four years.

“Larger public accounting firms need data competent people,” Peel said. “If new graduates come in with that knowledge they are ahead of their peers. We’re giving students much deeper technical skills.”

—AnneMarie Knepper-Sjoblom ’05, Lundquist College Communications