One of the specializations often explored in accounting curricula is information systems. This provides an overview of how financial information is stored, managed, and protected at an organization or firm. Many organizations have their own internal infrastructure or outsource data to a third party.
Accounting Information Systems Degrees
Typical accounting tasks have become simpler with technology automating features. Transactions are automatically logged and financial statements are easily generated with accounting software. Machine learning makes it easy to determine trends and patterns with an organization's goods and services.
It is important to understand the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and latest technological innovations in this field. Protecting information is essential to an organization and its clients. Ethical and legal responsibilities are more crucial as information is easy to access when compared to a physical location.
Content for accounting and information systems can be found at various higher education systems. Standard accounting and business disciplines may offer data analysis, software tools, and security techniques. These are designated as specializations or electives. Some universities provide a singular discipline in Accounting Information Systems (AIS).
What is the Difference Between Information Systems and Information Technology?
While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between them. An education in information systems generally refers to the processes involved. This means studies are focused on how to use the technology and work with others to manage tasks.
Information technology refers to the architecture of storing and transmitting data throughout the organization. It is important to design a proper system that meets the desires of a company in any sector. For example, new small businesses can outsource to cloud computing services to lower internal costs.
Are There Online Accounting Information Systems Degrees?
Many business programs have specific courses or their entire curriculum online. This holds true for accounting-specific disciplines and working with information technology. It is already important to be familiar with computer hardware and technology when working with AIS.
This availability tends to go down when reviewing PhD programs. Seminars and multiple examinations are often attended in-person on campus. In order to pay for the program, students may partake in assistantships that are only available at the campus.
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Students can prepare for the certified public accountant (CPA) and certified management accountant (CMA) exams.
Typical Online Requirements
Technological requirements depend on the learning management system used by the university. In many cases, the Windows or Mac operating system is needed for application compatibility. Certain tools can only be used on these platforms, but there are extenuating circumstances for the Linux OS and mobile devices using iOS or Android.
High-speed internet access is often mandatory to complete these courses. Many programs offer asynchronous education, but streaming/downloading lectures and submitting large assignments require more bandwidth. Videoconferencing software is often needed to communicate with faculty and other peers when needed.
Many applications are often distributed to students through the program or purchased at a small fee. Accounting information systems can include a variety of options depending on what is being studied. SQL is common for database querying and QuickBooks is used to maintain financial information.
It is important to determine the validity of online educational programs. An easy way to do this is by looking at regional and national accreditation. This membership designates that the curriculum has been reviewed and graduates are prepared for their profession.
A popular national accrediting organization within business is the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Less than five percent of institutions have their business school receive this level of accreditation. The AACSB offers an additional accreditation for accounting-specific programs.
The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) is specific toward showcasing programs at various levels. Topics in information systems can be explored at the undergraduate level through certification and associate degrees. Smaller institutions are more recognized through this organization and programs must have their accreditation reviewed every two years.
Top Online Programs
The School of Business offers a fully online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems. A specialization is directly available in Accounting Information Systems (AIS). Coursework emphasizes managing accounting data through the latest applications in the field.
Examples of available courses include a general overview of AIS and performing auditing procedures. There is a specific course in auditing IT hardware to determine authenticity and security. Other opportunities include computer programming and communication development.
120 total credit hours are needed in the Bachelor’s degree with multiple start times annually. With an eight-week course format, students can graduate in a span of three and a half years. This curriculum is accredited by the ACBSP.
Holding an AIS-focused degree qualifies students to certify with popular vendors such as Cisco. Special tuition discounts are available for military members and veterans. Up to 75 percent of the curriculum can utilize transferrable credits.
University of Maryland
The Global Campus offers a Master’s degree in accounting and information systems topics. This interdisciplinary degree focuses on a variety of business and technology courses. Specifically, students can choose data analytics, cyber forensics, auditing, risk management, and more.
Prerequisites include financial and managerial accounting courses. Required accounting courses include ethics, advanced finance, auditing, and fraud examination. Foundational topics within information security culminate with a capstone project.
Various tools are available for the analytical process, including Tableau. Graduates have the ability to sit for the Certified Public Accountant exam in Maryland. This is also available in many other states after completing the program.
Admission requirements require 15 credit hours of accounting-specific courses as an undergraduate. All courses must be completed with a C grade or higher. As an alternative, already holding a CPA is also accepted in the admission process.
Florida Atlantic University
One of the specializations in the Master’s degree is Accounting Information Systems. To break into the program, applicants must have a Bachelor’s degree and high academic merit in the last 60 credit hours. This program is accredited by the AACSB.
The curriculum breaks down to three foundational course and five core courses in accounting. Core topics include advanced theory and federal income tax concepts. A communication course is needed to improve upon reporting and working with other professionals.
Four different electives are needed with one accounting-specific course. More electives can be selected within the accounting field. Two or less accounting and taxation courses may be selected at the 5000-level.
There is an opportunity to complete courses online in a hybrid format with on-campus learning. The program is not anticipated for a fully online experience. Some topics in this area can be taken as electives through the online Executive Master of Accounting.
Top Campus-Based Programs
University of Arizona
The Eller College of Management offers a Master of Science in Accounting with content in information systems. This program provides all accounting courses needed to pursue the CPA exam if desired. Graduate complete the program in as little as nine months and there are optional dual-degree opportunities.
Related electives include an overview in AIS, and forensic and investigative accounting. The basics explore how AIS can improve efficiency in processes and database design. The overview is bypassed if learned at the undergradaute level. Students may also gain competency in software such as Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks, which are vital to many AIS-focused positions.
Incoming students that did not study in business or accounting may take prerequisites within the curriculum. Example topics include financial and managerial accounting, federal taxation, and cost accounting. Needing prerequisites, the approximate completion time can be up to 18 months.
There is an option to dual-degree with a Master of Science in Management Information Systems. This blends design and infrastructure concepts of information technology with processes and implementation. Professionals with this full understanding can move to management and executive-level positions.
The Fisher College of Business features undergraduate study in information systems. This specialization explores Java programming, database systems, and file processing. Discrete Mathematics topics aid in programming coursework in understanding algorithms, functions, and matrix theory.
26 total credit hours are needed in the specialization. In addition to required courses, students select nine credit hours worth of electives. All courses in the specialization must be completed with a 2.0 cumulative GPA or higher.
Not limited to undergraduate education, the department also offers a Doctorate of Philosophy in Accounting and Management Information Systems. This is offered in two separate tracks with minor options in finance, statistics, and more. All students complete coursework on a full-time basis at the campus.
Five total seminars are needed along with the basic curriculum. Topics include econometrics, management analytics, and capital markets. There is interdisciplinary study that blends various topics and experimental topics that change based on current events. Students have the capability to complete all undergraduate and graduate study with accounting information systems.
The Department of Accounting and Information Systems provides a concentration in the Doctor of Philosophy in Management. Course work is completed in the first two years leading up to the qualifying examination. There are two research requirements, with the second one frequently being the dissertation proposal.
Core content is based around management and analytical methodology. Topics in the PhD curriculum may include econometrics, qualitative methods, and survey research. The last two years of the program are generally dedicated to dissertation research and preparation for the defense.
An easier pathway for students to gain advanced IS skills is pursuing the Master in Information Technology. The admission process is less demanding and credit can be transferred into the PhD curriculum. Holding a Master’s degree is not required to get into the PhD program.
AIS-specific courses can be found in various graduate level curriculum at the Rutgers Business School. The Master of Business Administration in Professional Accounting requires the Advanced Auditing and Accounting Information Systems course. This emphasizes benefits and risks in using information technology, and detecting and verifying fraudulent activity.
Top Courses for Accounting Information Systems Degrees
Foundations in Information Systems
Wide-ranging courses are typically found within Bachelor’s and Master’s degree curricula. Explores basic functions in storing and distributing information through databases and servers. Content may extend in security measures, importance of design, and various options given to organizations.
Builds on fundamental topics that are introduced to students when they first get into accounting. This typically falls under financial accounting and the development of cash flow statements, revenue and expense recognition, and inventory analysis. More generally accepted accounting principles are often explored.
Processes for organizations to budget their spending is covered under cost accounting. Professionals determine areas where costs could be allocated or eliminated in order to make important decisions. Topics within the course may feature marginal costing, cost volume profit analysis, and job costing.
Develop skills that improve technological operations and security measures within the information systems. Specific topics can feature how to identify attacks or weaknesses and how to make recommendations to management. There are job opportunities that focus on auditing and managing the information technology department.
Investigates criminal activity taking place in information systems. Skills include how to identify the source of these issues and mitigating future attacks. These courses can also be found in cyber security and information assurance degrees or specializations.
Legal and Ethics
One or more courses in the curriculum often give students familiarity with legal procedures and ethical responsibility in accounting. This can differ slightly with managing sensitive information within an information system. Reviews new policy put in place for innovative technology. Some courses may look at specific code of conduct from an established organization, such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
Many programs offer direct courses that specialize in accounting software. This may include structured query language (SQL) to access and manipulate databases. QuickBooks is a more common accounting-specific software manages financial information. Analysis and program development utilize popular programming software such as Python and R.
Infrastructure and Design
Electives may feature an in-depth look at the hardware used with information systems. This includes compatibility checks with computers, servers and storage that are secure, and routers that successfully move information. It is also important to determine design and what type of systems should be put in place.
Statistical analysis and research methods are often explored at the graduate and doctorate level of accounting education. Disciplines in business administration often include specializations or electives in intelligence or analytics. Information systems provide an easy process to gather information to improve goods and services, process efficiency, and mitigate risk.
Focuses on skill development to identify strengths and weaknesses within organization. This determines major decision making to improve weaknesses and improve on what has been accomplished. This course is often found in the Business Administration and Management Information Systems disciplines.
Typical Admission Requirements
There are different sets of criteria for admission into a program based on education level. Undergraduate business programs generally require a high school diploma or GED equivalent. High testing scores with the ACT or SAT or often needed, but some institutions are phasing out standardized testing.
Graduate-level education requires the completion of a Bachelor’s degree. This does not have to be within the business or accounting disciplines, but is recommended. Applicants that do not meet a set of prerequisites may have to complete additional courses that do not go toward the graduate curriculum.
At least a 3.0 cumulative GPA, or earned over the last 60 credit hours, is a common threshold. Provisional admission may be available with a need to complete entry-level courses at a specific GPA. For a completely different alternative, professional work may count instead of prior education.
At the graduate level, GMAT or GRE scores are the common requirement for standardized testing. This is not always required for programs, but could be helpful in the application process. Other needs may include letters of recommendation, resumes, and personal essay.
Transcripts are always needed whether it is for undergraduate and graduate degrees. Official transcripts may not be required in the initial process, but the institution will need them prior to enrollment. This is needed for verification purposes and approval for potential transfer credit.
Career Goals and Job Titles for This Degree
Gaining a degree in accounting information systems opens the door to many positions. Accounting duties that use complex software or interpret analytical information can benefit with these programs. This expands potential to analyst roles and information technology integration with competence in software and hardware.
Having this knowledge can be used in consulting jobs. Technology companies may evaluate existing accounting systems and determine potential upgrades. This could be used to improve operation efficiency or to better protect worker and client data.
In a similar fashion, this technology can be used for third-party solutions to help other accounting firms. They may offer services such as database storage or use their analytical skills to determine the best solutions. Whether internal or external, consulting requires strong communication skills and ability to manage multiple projects at once.
Systems analysts and auditors focus directly on the maintenance of the information systems themselves. They implement changes themselves and perform tests to analyze overload potential and disaster recovery. Similar to consultants, they are experts when performing troubleshooting and when security has been breached.
At the executive level, the chief financial officer of an organization relies heavily on accounting information systems. Data that is retrieved and analyzed determines important business decisions. Data is contrasted with other variables that can be used for cost-cutting measures, merger acquisitions, and marketing tactics.
Having education within accounting and information systems provides a lot of opportunities for individuals. Management Information Systems is a popular discipline for higher positions that are not limited to accounting topics. Students should review the curriculum to determine if courses are proper for the field they wish to enter.
How Much Can You Expect to Make With This Degree?
Professional accountants and auditors make a national average of $71,950 annually according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is general across all accounting positions and not specific to information technology. These positions generally require the completion of a Bachelor’s degree.
These potential opportunities often rank higher with the growth and competition among information systems experts. The highest 10 percent of workers represented make an estimated $124,450 annually. Highest-paying states overall include New York, Virginia, and California.
At an advanced level, management analysts make a higher average. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a national average of $85,260 as of May 2019. This ends up being slightly higher for specific technical services, but on par with workers in the finance and insurance industries. Government positions are slightly lower at $79,720 annually.
Job outlook for management analysts is at 11 percent growth between 2019 and 2029. This is due to larger growth in accounting and consulting firms relying on information technology. It is important to have more analytical capability than performing typical accounting tasks that are becoming automated.
Highest employment can be found in some of the more populous states, including California and New York. The state of California represents over 103,900 workers in management analysis positions. They also provide some of the highest salaries at $97,170 annually.
Many states located along the East Coast provide high-paying opportunities. The state of New York is highest at approximately $112,280 for the annual mean. Statewide, Massachusetts, NewNew Jersey, and Connecticut round out the top five with over $105,000 annually.