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Analytics and Accounting Collide

Written By: Alex Turcinov, Designed By: Rachel Kosnik

Last autumn, the Fisher College of Business was chosen by KPMG as a founding partner for the Master of Accounting with Data Analytics Program. Starting this semester, KPMG sent 25 of its hires to Ohio State to begin the nine-month long MAcc program. There are several other schools involved in the program including the Villanova School of Business, the other founding partner.

Data analytics is a newer topic that has not been covered in-depth by many business programs. “We believe this is an important part of the future jobs skills required by accountants and auditors in general,” says Professor Tzachi Zach, director of the Masters of Accounting Program. “In response to demand in the marketplace for auditors and accountants for skills specific to data, we have partnered with KPMG to increase the exposure of students to these kind of skills,” Zach explains.

KPMG is a worldwide professional services firm with revenues over 25 billion in 2016. They are one of the “big four” accounting firms providing services in audit, advisory, and tax.  KPMG spoke with many business schools about the program and Fisher was quick to respond. “As part of our partnership, several faculty have worked closely with KPMG to develop course material based on the tools and the data KPMG provides,” says Zach. “KPMG allows us to use some of their tools used in house that implement data analytics and give real sample data.”

Students can apply to the program through KPMG. The company is sponsoring 26 students this year. KPMG will cover tuition and the selected students will commit to work for the company for three years after finishing the program. Those not sponsored by KPMG can still gain entry to the program by applying through Fisher. All students enrolled in the MAcc program, not just KPMG employees, will have access to the data analytics courses.

The MAcc program has four core courses in fundamentals of accounting and data analytics, accounting policy and research, financial reporting and management of control. The program offers electives in areas such as auditing, managerial decision making, operations management and logistics, which allows students to develop their business knowledge beyond accounting alone. “Two-thirds of the credit hours in the program are electives,” Zach says.

As business becomes more data-driven, business schools must integrate related coursework in their curriculums. Undergraduate students at Fisher work with data in their business statistics and analytics courses often using Microsoft Excel. The data analytics component of the MAcc program goes more in-depth working with data sets as large as one million units. Topics covered include data mining, or analyzing raw data to identify trends, and data visualization, in which students present the data with visually. Companies want to use data analytics to develop new and better ways to do business. Students with knowledge in this area can be very attractive to employers.

Zach explains, “the program provides a much deeper understanding of how to obtain data, ask questions using data, design tests that would answer these questions, and interpret the findings. I think that when students come into their firms, they will be found immediately by the more senior people who have not been exposed to this stuff.”

When asked what skills prospective students should have, Zach explained, “I think it is important for them to have a good technical understanding of accounting.” He emphasized the importance of quantitative skills as well as the many benefits of having a graduate degree regardless of the affiliation with KPMG. When evaluating job candidates, “Employers want to distinguish better between job candidates,” Zach explains. He believes a graduate degree proves a “student is willing to make an investment and commitment for higher learning.” With bachelor degrees becoming more common in the U.S., a master’s degree helps students to stand out.

Zach encourages interested students to look into the program and reach out to the Graduate Program Office. “They have a very good staff whose job is to work with future applicants,” he mentioned. Students from all undergraduate majors are eligible to apply for the MAcc program. The requirements to apply include a minimum GPA of 3.0, GMAT scores (preferably 600 or above) and two letters of recommendation.

Fisher also offers a combined BSBA/MAcc program for undergraduate accounting students. It allows for students to earn both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in four years. The requirements to apply include having 120 credit hours completed by the end of the third year and a cumulative GPA of at least 3.50. Applicants must also complete all business core classes (except MHR 4490) and ACCTMIS 3200, 3201, 3300 and 3600. GMAT scores and letters of recommendation are also necessary. Students can learn more about the MAcc program and its application process at fisher.osu.edu/macc.