4 min read

How accounting education is changing


Most accountants feel that the accounting profession is undergoing a monumental shift (and it is). The whole world is on a fast-moving technology train, and the financial tech (Fintech) space is one of the engines driving the train. Have trouble keeping up with the massive advancements in AI, machine learning, and automation, particularly in the accounting space?

You’re not alone.

Many in the accounting industry (examples here and here) feel that the current accounting curriculum in colleges and universities lacks relevance and fails students beginning their careers.

A few primary issues include:

  • Lack of courses for current, in-demand services (fractional CFO, advisory, and controllership).

  • A shocking dearth of technology training (CPA Journal says tech should be a focus in nearly every course…we agree).

  • Failure (harsh, but true) to ensure soon-to-be graduates' ability to pass necessary exams before graduating.

But it’s not all bad. Several entities offer curricula that propel the next generation of financial professionals. While many colleges still offer paper ledgers instead of QBO, we’ll discuss the current update to accounting education — particularly what these new programs do that the “traditional” courses don’t.


Why is this relevant?

After all, you’ve already finished your primary accounting education. How does the current accounting curriculum fit into your business and career?

The answer is in the shift. Moving your firm toward those in-demand services means continuing your education in certain ways, such as:

  • Learning how tech plays a role in the shift toward high-value services (controller, CFO, FP&A).

  • How to best prepare for the future through implementing the tech you’ve researched and launching new services.

  • Understanding the shape of the education system is great for empathy, too. If you’re hiring graduates, you’ll understand they’re (possibly) not educated the way you would imagine, in addition to not being used to the day-to-day of the accounting profession.

Horrors of busy season

But are the current higher education programs truly under-preparing students?


The accounting curriculum of the past present

After a good bit of research, you’ll see even the best higher accounting education programs are lacking in those three focus points mentioned above (in-demand services, tech, and help with certifications).

For instance, we looked at one university’s curriculum (no names). This university is on nearly everyone’s list regarding who’s the best at training accountants. It’s a fantastic institution and looks like a comprehensive and sought-after education.

That said, when looking at their accounting course catalog, those three shortcomings remain. A page search for both “CFO” and “tech” yields zero results. (There is one class that covers “Introduction to Management Advisory Services.”)

The exercise isn’t to pick on a particular entity, but to highlight how those entering accounting need deep education in subjects not (or barely) covered by current programs. The good news is that organizations recognize the issue and have introduced potential solutions.


The accounting curriculum of the future

It’s true that big organizations take time to move. It’s also true that businesses need professional advice and tech implementation, like, yesterday. Colleges and universities often have dozens, if not hundreds, of programs and degrees. It’s hard to have your finger on the pulse of any one profession when you’re that big.


Organizations with a better understanding of accounting are the ones we see stepping up to fill the gap in accounting education, but it’s still a very recent development. One example is the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) teaming up with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA).

In June of 2021, the two organizations released a supplemental curriculum to address the specific shortcomings of the current collegiate material. And if you’ve been nodding your head “yes” to the lack of education in advisory, tech, and exam preparation — the modules here cover things very well.

The AICPA put together a great website resource, geared toward current students, but it’s great for continuing education, too. A quick search of the overview and you’ll find tech in nearly every section, as well as detailed FP&A training. While it’s not a fully accredited college program, it is intended to fill gaps found during intense study of accounting curriculum.


How to educate yourself and your team

As it turns out, there haven’t been too many changes over the past couple of decades. But be sure of this — there is a gap.

The gap exists between the current accredited education system and the needs of your prospective clients. They (clients) want your expertise and advice. They need analysis, modeling, and controller-level services.

You must fill this gap to land where your clients already want you. The question is, how?

Here are a few quick potential solutions:

  • Pair tech research with self-led education: Any financial software that’s worth your time includes a number of educational resources. They’ll likely have some material for bettering your firm and some for using their particular tool. For example, here at Botkeeper, we have an entire library full of options like helping you improve capacity, implementing a tech stack, and dozens of other options. We also have an in-depth knowledge base, when using our automated bookkeeping system.

  • Plan your CPE credits wisely (for you and your team): The accounting industry is one that requires certain professionals to continue their education. This requirement keeps things moving in the right direction, because tech and needs change over time. Many things qualify for credits; it’s important to actively and intentionally seek out those that fill the education gaps in your firm.

  • Keep tabs on continuing education: Apart from CPE credits, there are dozens of certifications and accreditations available to accountants (CPA, CFA, CFSA, the list goes on). Maybe the best answer is to either go back to school or offer assistance for your team to further their education.

The need is there, and while we’re waiting for education programs to catch up with the current state of the profession — the resources exist to place your firm, your team, and yourself exactly where you desire.

If you’d like to fit in a little education for yourself, check out Botkeeper's resource center. It's filled with ebooks and white papers on an array of accounting topics that can help you stay abreast of the latest.


Gimme the resources!