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These Big Data Courses At Michigan Ross Have Fundamentally Changed My View of Accounting


By Andrew Mei, MAcc ‘19

Coming into the Master of Accounting program at Michigan Ross, I thought I was in for a whole year of learning about crunching numbers and...well, nothing else. After 5 months of some of the most eye-opening courses of my college career, I have been proven wrong.

The accounting profession is more than just number crunching, bookkeeping, auditing, and tax preparing. While calculating and understanding the numbers remain at the core of the profession, accountants are now expected to serve as business advisors and strategists. Thanks to our increasingly technological and data-driven world, the accounting world must continuously adapt to these changes to enhance provided services and better meet client needs.

Many companies utilizing accounting services are likely undergoing transformations dealing with the advent and growth of big data, and accountants recognize the importance of understanding how to process and analyze large amounts of data in today’s business world. While technology has simplified the work accountants do, by reducing manual calculations, at the same time it has increased the complexity of the work: how do you now maintain heightened internal controls to ensure data integrity, or how do you account for the transactions that occur through new technologies like Blockchain?

These are questions that pose new challenges for rising professionals in the accounting world, but thankfully, Michigan Ross enables and prepares its MAcc students to answer these questions and tackle these issues.

Starting in the core classes in the MAcc curriculum, I dove into understanding more about the world of big data and how it relates to accounting. For example, in my Accounting Information Systems Design (ACC 601) course, we were trained to conceptualize and visualize how data flows through organizational processes and how to implement controls to protect data. In my Auditing class (ACC 630), we had professionals come in and discuss how they use data analytics and new technologies to simplify audits (like using drones to count inventory!). The rise of big data calls for more complex processes, but understanding how to gather and secure data paves the way for analyzing and deciphering the complexity.

MAcc students are certainly prepared to do well with financial analysis, but given how integrated the MAcc program is with the MBA program, I’ve been able to complement my accounting education with a variety of business electives, including those related to big data.

Most recently, I took TO 513, which focuses on Spreadsheet Modeling and Applications (sexy name, right?). Through the course, I learned how a simple everyday tool like Excel can be used to analyze large datasets, provide useful information behind the numbers, and prepare reports to use in strategic decision making.

Other TO electives focus directly on how to manage big data using software packages (TO 640), analyze big data to obtain insights (TO 628), and utilize big data to forecast business operations (TO 572). This is just an initial list; most of the TO courses at Michigan Ross now include some element of big data. Some student organizations at Ross even focus on data analytics, and those can be a way to explore data outside of the classroom. Students have many options to check out this growing field!

Understanding (or even having been exposed to) big data analytics can be a source of competitive advantage in your career.

While employers don’t necessarily require new hires to have big data skills, it definitely serves as an added plus to the recruiting process as businesses are growing their own usage of big data services.

In my own recruiting experience, I have seen companies incorporate their technological advancements, especially in the field of data analytics, into presentations and marketing materials — they know that data is where the future of business lies. Having an understanding of, or simply being exposed to, data in classes at Michigan Ross can be beneficial to the recruiting process and future business careers. Whether it be for providing crucial business strategy decisions, or trying to find a solution to a business problem, big data can help provide those answers. Having data analytics skills and experience using data software can be a resume boost — something that can provide you with a competitive advantage over other candidates.

I thought I would just receive an accounting education during my MAcc at Michigan Ross, but I am learning way more than the typical debits and credits; I am getting a better understanding of the business world through numbers and integrating other business topics into accounting. Ross knows what trends are occurring in the business world, and it caters its course offerings to reflect those trends. As a result, students like me feel more prepared to enter the workforce and help make an early impact in our careers.

Learn more about the Ross Master of Accounting Program