In June of 2021, the Association of International Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) announced the CPA Evolution focused on updating the licensure “to recognize the rapidly changing skills and competencies the practice of accounting requires today and will require in the future.”
Due to take effect in 2024, these changes will align the CPA exam to three core areas: Tax Compliance and Planning; Business Analysis and Reporting; and Information Systems and Controls, adding a section for specialization.
Eastern Washington University (EWU) is incorporating the AICPA’s changes to keep its online Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) program at high quality. Spearheading the effort are EWU professors Christine Kuglin and Jean Bradley.
Eyes on the Prize
Professors Kuglin and Bradley are making curriculum adjustments to ensure students enrolling in the program are as prepared as possible. In service of this project, faculty members must understand the goals of the AICPA, creator and facilitator of the standardized test for professional certification.
“The AICPA is prioritizing skills and knowledge bases with an eye toward future needs,” Professor Kuglin said. She believes it’s crucial for professors to keep their skills updated so they can help students evolve and change.
The goal is to keep the coursework fresh. To that end, faculty are seeking every opportunity to engage students with various examples of software in the field, like Idea or Tableau.
In addition, faculty members are studying the latest developments in the accounting world as they design new courses. The incorporation of a course on Accounting Information Systems (AIS) is the latest example. Students will learn how to manage and track data for decision-making, adding a skill set that would serve them well in leadership roles.
The updated curriculum will impact not only MPAcc enrollees but also undergraduate coursework and students who enroll in the online Graduate Certificate – Professional Accounting program to gain information and required course hours to sit for the CPA Exam.
The Future is Now
The increase in computing power over the last decade has led to a sea change within the accounting field. For example, once just a concept, continuous auditing now allows for more comprehensive fraud investigations than ever before.
Likewise, incorporating relational databases offers unprecedented speed and accuracy of research as companies gain new and enterprising ways to access information. The benefit: Companies can respond to volatile markets and ever-changing economic factors with greater agility.
“What this means for our students is that there’s more pressure on them early in their career to perform,” Professor Bradley said. “They’re going to be expected to utilize these critical thinking skills earlier. That’s both an opportunity and a challenge because you need to be able to do those higher-level functions, but you still have to understand the guts underneath.”
The advent of new technological tools may offer accountants greater computing power and data processing capabilities. Still, at its core, accounting remains rooted in a foundation of trust and collaboration. Thus, the endeavor remains focused on managing past expenditures and directing future goals and intentions for companies regardless of their size.
“Your clients are people, and you cannot forget that,” Professor Kuglin said.
Innovation Starts with Education
As the marketplace continues to expand for all industries, so does the landscape for accounting professionals. Students worldwide take the CPA exam, engaging in the field from diverse backgrounds, including finance and information sciences. As a result, graduates will continue to face an exponentially more competitive environment than previous generations.
EWU has added significant investments of time and energy to the financial commitments it is making to meet its curriculum development goals. This process includes incorporating all the latest materials to follow the CPA Evolution transformation through 2024 and beyond.
EWU’s degree programs seek to offer the most current insights into the shifting world that graduates face. Therefore, its professors remain engaged in an ongoing process of curricular transformation. They rebuilt more than 10 courses over the summer of 2021, and when the year concludes, they will come together to assess curriculum changes going forward. Updates will continue every nine months, as EWU aims to give its students all they need to succeed in the field.
Assisting with decision-making on an increased level means that communication skills are more vital than ever to enhance the collaborative process between accountants and business leaders. The future of accounting involves harnessing information to develop corporate business strategies, and EWU is scoping out curriculum refinements to build that knowledge base.
Professor Kuglin recently studied for and passed the CPA Exam at the age of 60. She said, “No amount of learning is too much in this world today. You will be up against people like me — those who understand that learning is a lifelong process.”