Degrees in accounting systems analysis are available at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels. Topics of study include income tax laws, information systems auditing, forensic accounting and statistical analysis. At the graduate level, students may specialize in advanced fields such as public accounting or federal tax law. Programs prepare graduates for careers as accountants, auditors and chief financial officers.
Experienced candidates who hold the requisite degrees may earn the Certified Information Technology Professional designation by passing an examination.
Bachelor's Degrees in Accounting Information Systems
A bachelor's degree in accounting information systems is typically completed in four years and prepares a student for entry-level work in financial system design and management. Students practice advanced mathematics, develop business management skills and learn technical proficiency in industry software for designing accounting systems. Most schools award a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees in accounting information systems. Applicants are usually required to be high school graduates or to have passed the General Educational Development (GED) exam in order to qualify for admission to this degree program.
Students of accounting generally take increasingly advanced mathematics, economics and business classes. Elective courses allow students to select classes that incorporate elements of computer science, financial law and accounting systems, often including course topics such as these:
- Business law
- Enterprise technology
- Computer networking and security
- Database design
- Income tax law
- Accounting information systems
Master's Degree in Accounting
Many students who seek a senior-level position in accounting system analysis pursue a Master of Science (M.S.) in Accounting. This degree program is usually completed in 2-3 years and is designed to develop professional experience as well as classroom education in general accounting or in a subspecialty. Popular concentration tracks include accounting information systems, public accounting, taxation and auditing. Students who focus on accounting information systems acquire skills in computer science, accounting database design and business management. Though not always required, some programs include an option for students to complete a research project or internship in their final year.
In general, a student must hold a bachelor's degree in a related subject, such as economics, accounting or business administration. Many degree programs require students to have completed a certain number of undergraduate credits in accounting before they qualify for admission. Students are also typically required to submit scores from the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).
Following core coursework in advanced business and accounting principles, students generally select elective courses in a particular subspecialty of accounting. A student interested in the design of accounting information systems or creating efficient database software may choose courses that include the following subjects:
- Information system security
- Forensic accounting
- E-enterprise systems design
- Accounting management
- Accounting queries and reporting
Ph.D. in Accounting
Students interested in advanced research and teaching or in senior-level positions within government or corporate industry may seek a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Accounting. Some schools offer Ph.D. degrees in business or business administration that have concentrations in accounting. Doctoral candidates must complete core classes in their first years; later years are devoted to teaching undergraduate students as well as pursuing research in such topics as accounting theory, systems design and federal tax law. Most students complete their dissertation and graduate within 5-7 years.
To enroll, a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration or another closely related subject is the standard prerequisite. In their second or third year, students usually take a qualification examination to prove their competence in the subject. Most schools also require students to submit scores from the GMAT and Graduate Record Examination (GRE).
Doctoral candidates generally take the same core courses required of master's students in their first few years, and they may select elective courses related to their research. Students often focus on economics theory, accounting practices and problems of accounting governance or management. Those who focus on accounting information systems may research the following topics:
- Statistical analysis
- Accounting information systems
- Business management
- Taxation law
- Accounting application programs
Popular Career Options
Bachelor's degree holders are prepared to pursue further education at the graduate level or to seek entry-level positions within the accounting industry. A graduate interested in accounting system analysis may pursue the following popular career options:
- Financial analyst
- Internal auditor
- Accounting consultant
Graduates of these degree programs are prepared for management positions or for teaching at the university level. Here are some popular career options:
- Chief financial officer (CFO)
- Senior accounting systems auditor
- Accounting systems consultant
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of accountants and auditors are expected to have 11% job growth for the years 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the annual median wage of accountants and auditors in 2015 was $67,190.
Continuing Education and Certification Requirements
Depending on his or her professional specialization, an accounting professional may seek to become a Certified Public Accountant or CPA. According to the American Institute of CPAs, each state has a different set of requirements for aspiring CPAs; many states require a certain number of hours of additional education and professional experience beyond the bachelor's degree (www.aicpa.org). An accountant specializing in analyzing accounting systems may seek to become a Certified Information Technology Professional or CIPT. Applicants for this certification must have already become CPAs and demonstrate a number of hours of professional experience.
Individuals interested in accounting or auditing can pursue programs in accounting systems analysis. Bachelor's degree programs prepare graduates for entry-level positions as accountants, while master's and doctorate degree programs offer intense, specialized coursework that may lead to management or teaching positions.