Written by Kathleen Swed


Prospective accounting students can choose from a variety of concentrations to customize their degree to their goals and interests. Knowing the details of each concentration, and how the choice affects career paths, can help simplify a challenging decision.

Businesses rely more on technology by the day. By specializing in accounting information systems, students learn to pair accounting expertise with the technological knowledge companies need to maintain industry-specific computer software, networks, and security.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12% between 2018 and 2028, far faster than the national average for all occupations. When considered alongside the healthy projected 6% growth for accountants and auditors, the concentration presents a promising choice for those interested in both business and technology.

What Is an Information Systems Concentration?

Often offered by accounting and business departments, an accounting information systems degree prepares students to understand the intricacies of the accounting profession while delving into the technology that helps businesses run. Students learn to develop and maintain industry-specific financial software, such as databases. Many program curriculums also cover information technology team management.

Students pursuing a degree in accounting information systems often complete the core accounting curriculum before branching into technology-specific coursework. Students can concentrate in accounting information systems at the bachelor's or master's level.

Many graduates pursue credentials as certified public accountants, or CPAs, after completing the necessary requirements. Those hoping to work as CPAs generally need to complete more than the usual 120 credit hours of undergraduate courses, and may decide to hone their accounting information systems focus at the master's level. With these double qualifications, graduates can work as accountants, management analysts, computer security or support specialists, and systems analysts.

Bachelor's Concentration

At the bachelor's level, accounting information systems students can expect to participate in many of the same required courses as those pursuing other concentrations. By securing a strong foundation in accounting, auditing, and taxation, students understand the field's particular demands before they go on to concentrate on programming, IT management, and systems analysis.

Accounting information systems concentrations may be offered as:

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Information Systems
  • Bachelor's in Accounting with a Management Information Systems Concentration
  • Dual Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Information Systems
Master's Concentration

Many employers seek accounting professionals with a master's degree. At the master's level, students typically dive deeper into accounting technology, potentially focusing on auditing, fraud investigation, and risk assessment. By obtaining a master's in accounting information systems, graduates further hone accounting and technological expertise, qualifying them for a wider selection of jobs.

Prospective students may find master's degrees focused in accounting information systems listed as:

  • Master of Science in Accounting Information Systems
  • Master's Degree with a Concentration in Information Systems
  • MBA with a Concentration in Accounting Information Systems

Why Get an Information Systems Concentration?

Graduates with a degree concentration in accounting information systems enjoy various benefits. By developing a strong foundation in both accounting and technology, students hone their expertise, prepare to earn professional credentials, and set themselves up for a range of career possibilities. Potential degree benefits include:

Expertise

With a concentration in accounting information systems, students develop in-depth knowledge of both accounting and the technology systems that support its practice. Graduates can program, maintain, and troubleshoot with a strong understanding of both organizational needs and system structures.

Professional Credentials

By focusing on technological aspects of accounting, students can prepare to add certifications to their resume, like certified information security manager (CISM), CPA, and/or certified management accountant (CMA).

Career Choice

Accounting information systems graduates can work as accountants, information technology specialists, or a combination of the two. With specialized knowledge, they enjoy access to a variety of in-demand occupations.

Experience

Many accounting information systems degrees require students to complete internships before graduation. Through internships, students gain experience, network with potential employers, and boost their resumes.

Job Security

Across industries, employers increasingly seek technologically proficient workers. With such high demand, information systems graduates can feel secure in their jobs and leverage their expertise for advancement opportunities.

When Is an Information Systems Concentration Better Than a General Accounting Degree?

By concentrating on accounting information systems, students gain niche expertise that prepares them for diverse career opportunities. In some circumstances, an accounting systems concentration may serve students better than a general accounting degree.

  • Varying Interests: Students with a strong interest in business and technology can seek positions that reflect both interest and set themselves up for career success.
  • Additional Credentials: Students can prepare for professional certifications beyond the commonly accepted CPA and CMA, such as CISM.
  • Diverse Careers: With an information systems concentration, graduates qualify for more positions in the field.

When Might a General Accounting Degree Be Better Than an Information Systems Concentration?

In some situations, students may find that a general accounting degree serves them better than a concentration like information systems.

  • Options: Especially at the bachelor's level, students without firm career goals may wish to pursue more general studies, keeping their options open until choosing a concentration at the master's level.
  • CPA Readiness: Students who know they want to work as CPAs do not need to choose a concentration to qualify for strong job opportunities.

What About Other Concentrations?

Accounting majors can choose from a wide variety of concentrations depending on their individual interests and career goals. Some examples include auditing, financial accounting, international tax, and sports accounting. To learn more about these and other concentrations available to accounting students, readers can peruse the list below.

Explore Other Concentrations


Courses to Expect With an Information Systems Concentration

Accounting information systems students typically complete a diverse curriculum that consists of core requirements, electives, internships, and capstone projects.

Core courses typically cover accounting basics, like auditing, cost accounting, and taxation. Information systems students generally take these courses alongside accounting students with other concentrations. Courses specific to the concentration examine information systems, exploring topics like programming and databases. Through capstone projects and internships, students gain hands-on experience in the field.

Requirements vary by program, but the list below describes a few common courses found in accounting information systems programs.

Intermediate Financial Accounting
A staple of undergraduate accounting programs, intermediate financial accounting courses are typically split into two parts. The course teaches students to prepare financial reports, a crucial skill in the field. Topics include structural framework, expected standards, and statement presentation. Students also delve into financial analysis, learning to study assets and investments. Advanced subjects include liability, cash flow, and equity.
Cost Accounting
Cost accounting deals with the management of expenditures and systems related to business costs. Students can expect to find this core accounting course at the undergraduate level. Learners study the theory and practice of controlling cost from an accounting perspective, including process, activity-based costing, budgeting, and cost-variance analysis.
Object-Oriented Programming
Specific to the information systems concentration, an object-oriented programming course may take place through the school's computer science department. Because accounting technology professionals may design and develop software, programming knowledge is essential to the concentration. Object-oriented programming introduces topics like programming paradigms and techniques, data abstraction, and programming languages like Java and Python.
Systems Analysis and Design
Employers expect accounting computer specialists to improve the computer systems they use in day-to-day tasks. Through a course in systems analysis and design, students learn how computer systems can solve business problems. Topics include problem analysis, design methodologies, interface designs, and system implementation. Students also study the acquisition of computer programs, in case a business elects to purchase the technology instead of developing it in house.
Cyber Forensics in Accounting
Typically appearing at the master's level, a course in accounting cyber forensics introduces participants to the tools used to investigate potential fraud. Students learn about common technologies, data analytics, and litigation, engaging in case studies that teach them to analyze financial data and prepare court-accepted reports.

Careers for Information Systems Degree Graduates

Graduates with a degree in accounting information systems enter an abundant job market. By obtaining CPA credentials, accounting information systems graduates with the requisite number of college-level hours expand their career opportunities. Though salaries vary by factors like experience, education, and location, the BLS reports that accountants earn a median annual salary of $71,550 nationwide. Information systems graduates may also seek a career in forensic accounting, earning an average salary of $68,531, according to PayScale.

Graduates with an interest in technology may obtain computer-specific positions, designing and maintaining accounting computer systems for their employers. The list below describes five potential careers for accounting information systems majors.

Certified Public Accountant

Employed by corporations, government agencies, and individuals, CPAs file taxes and advise clients on tax-related regulations. With a concentration in accounting information systems, CPAs offer additional expertise in computer analysis and systems operations.

Annual Average Salary: $66,287

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants analyze financial data to find evidence of fraud for banks, government agencies, and insurance companies. Because they use analytical software, databases, and computer-based research, a degree in accounting information systems can help employees succeed in the field. Some accounting information systems master's programs focus heavily on forensic accounting skills.

Annual Average Salary: $68,531

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts study company resources and market trends, providing reports to executives and shareholders. They assess potential risks and make recommendations based on their findings. Analysts typically hold at minimum a bachelor's degree related to accounting. An accounting information systems concentration benefits these professionals as computer proficiency assists greatly in the research process.

Annual Average Salary: $60,781

Information Technology Manager

With a degree in accounting information systems, graduates can opt to seek positions in the field of information technology. The degree particularly prepares students for systems design and maintenance related to finance and accounting. IT managers oversee all computer-related systems for their organizations, supervising staff and weighing in on important decisions. Typically, graduates qualify to work as IT managers after obtaining a bachelor's degree.

Annual Average Salary: $87,981

Financial Accountant

Financial accountants deal with day-to-day company operations, handling issues like payroll and income versus expenditures. They may advise on tax issues and search for budgetary inconsistencies, which they report to management. With a bachelor's degree in accounting information systems, graduates qualify to work as financial accountants.

Annual Average Salary: $55,230

Selecting an Accounting Program with an Information Systems Concentration

Prospective students should consider many factors when searching for the right accounting information systems program, including accreditation, program statistics, and cost.

Generally regarded as the highest standard of academic excellence, students hoping to study accounting information systems should choose a regionally accredited program. Candidates for CPA licensure typically must hold a regionally accredited degree.

Because accounting programs often prepare students for specific career paths, applicants should make sure a program aligns with their goals. Many schools offer a curriculum designed to ready students to qualify for CPA credentials and other industry certifications. Particularly at the master's level, students pursuing information systems degrees may find courses aimed at forensic accounting or other specific career paths.

Prospective students should also take their own learning preferences into account, including school size. Some students like a large, active campus, while others prefer a more intimate community. Additionally, students should factor in a prospective program's costs, including tuition and fees, and whether the location of the school contributes to the tuition costs.

Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is accounting information systems important?
Employers need strong technology to support their financial systems. By focusing on accounting information systems, prospective employees offer employers the expertise they need to operate smoothly.
What are the advantages of accounting information system degrees?
With a degree in accounting information systems, graduates demonstrate expertise in both technology and accounting, qualifying them for a variety of job opportunities.
How do accountants use information systems?
Accountants use information systems to input data, keep track of client information, and perform in-depth financial assessments.
What do you learn in accounting information systems programs?
Accounting information systems degree programs prepare students to understand the basics of accounting and support employers through programming, database management, and cybersecurity.
Can you get an accounting information systems degree online?
Yes, many schools offer online accounting information systems programs. The degree is particularly suited to online work, given that accounting programs typically do not feature in-person requirements.

Professional Organizations and Resources

By joining professional organizations, accountants gain access to resources that support their career goals and continuing education in the field. Professional organizations offer networking, professional development, and continuing education opportunities. Many professional organizations also produce regular periodicals, allowing members to stay informed about current events in the field.

  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants The AICPA sets professional accounting standards, makes connections with other industry associations, and participates in legislative and public advocacy. Members gain access to professional development opportunities; networking opportunities through committees, conferences, and the Young CPA Network; and a selection of magazines and newsletters.
  • Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business Originally the Institute of Management Accountants, IMA maintains a mission of support for management accountants and oversees CMA certification. Members gain access to free courses; certification preparation; ethics resources; online networking opportunities, local chapters, and annual conferences; and multiple professional publications.
  • National Society of Accountants Serving accountants and tax professionals, the NSA supports members through advocacy, public relations, and continuing education. Member benefits include career support at every stage, with a high-powered career center that features extensive job boards, an online network that encourages professionals to learn from one another, and professional discounts.
  • The Institute of Internal Auditors An international organization dedicated to supporting internal auditors, the IIA provides widely recognized industry certifications and works toward its mission of education, advocacy, and research. Members gain access to an online career center, job boards, training opportunities, local chapters, and several annual conferences.

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