New Demands Require New Skills in Accounting Profession

Yvonne Hinson, academic in residence at AICPA, expands on AICPA's research that shows the accountancy industry expects incoming accountants to have skill sets beyond what was expected in the past. Technology has demanded new employees to operate at a higher level.


Yvonne Hinson: [0:05] The accounting profession is very different today than it was 10 years ago. It will continue to change but at an exponential pace. What we're seeing in our research at the AICPA is that the basic functions that are being performed are changing.

[0:30] Whether you're talking about public accounting, or you're talking about a corporation and business and industry, the skill sets that students need are really being ratcheted up as they come into the workplace. They're expected to operate at a higher level than those of us who started in the corporate world or the public accounting world many years ago.

[0:51] Nobody does what we did anymore, so they are expected to come in and operate in more of an advisory capacity and use skill sets that you would think of as having been skill sets that you would have used two or three or even four years out in the past. What we're seeing is that technology is able to do some of those more mundane, rough tasks.

1:13] It leaves the young professionals in a really great position to add significant value earlier in their career. The key issues that business programs should be assessing in the accounting curriculum and incorporating in are some of the same things we've been hearing for a long, long time communication, soft skills.

[1:33] These remain critically important skills in the curriculum. Also critical thinking, as accounting majors and new graduates are expected to perform at a higher level. That critical thinking skill is incredibly important as well.

[1:48] Technology is where I think we've seen the largest change here. The accounting profession has always been thought of as using technology to benefit, to support it, but now we are really entering a time period, or have entered a time period where the accounting profession is technology.

[2:08] It's really important that business schools and accounting programs understand that it's the context. It's great to teach a student data analytics, data science, technology skills. What's really important for them to be successful in the marketplace is for them to be able to integrate them in context. The whole idea around creating a growth mindset and ensuring that students are digitally agile is very important.

[2:38] We know for a fact that the chances of a student learning something in college and then using that exact same program when they move into their profession is probably slim to none. It will probably be a different technology.

[2:52] Once they've learned how to incorporate technology into their decision making and they've learned it in context, it's very easy for them to be flexible and slide over to new technologies.

[3:03] There are many ways to ensure that you have technology in the classroom and many ways to teach the students. Some of it is as simple as doing things differently. Teaching something in a slightly different way, using technology. You're teaching the same subject, but you're teaching it with the technology. We often hear from faculty, "What am I gonna take out if I add something?"

[3:24] Sometimes, it's not about taking out but it's really about teaching it differently. Also, I think that probably incorporating in some experiential learning, I would recommend that faculty and programs talk with the profession. We're at a point where it's just critical that the profession and the academic world come together.

[3:45] There's always been a lot of that, but with the rapidly changing environment right now, I think it's more critical than ever.

Filmed September 2019 at AACSB's Global Accreditation Conference in San Antonio, Texas, USA.