Accounting Information Systems, a third choice for students?

March 7, 2012

Tim Davis
Systems Senior

When it comes time for deciding what area of accounting to pursue, most students are left with the traditional choices of tax or audit but today a third option is becoming a highly viable alternative, Accounting Information Systems. Accounting Information Systems (AIS) collect, store, process, and manage the financial data of an organization as well as provide the controls that safeguard the data. Data is one of the most valuable resources in the modern corporation and effectively managing that data is a needed competency for all organizations.

Education and Certifications
The study of AIS combines traditional business and accounting classes with a focus on management information systems. While most colleges offer a standard AIS course at the upper level of the undergraduate program along with courses in Tax and Auditing, few students realize that AIS is specialization within the accounting profession. Only a few schools offer a major in AIS, and only a few others offer it as a concentration within a typical accounting degree. Therefore, focusing on AIS at the undergraduate college level requires planning and initiative on the part of the student.

If you decide upon this career path only to discover that there is no established way to specialize in AIS at your college, you may be able to design your own program by taking the right combination of courses in accounting and computer systems–a minor or double major in CIS is an option. In addition to normal classes, training in computer networking and server administration will provide a good knowledge base to enable the entry level AIS staffer to speak intelligently with IT professionals.

Similar to public accounting, most positions in AIS require more than an undergraduate degree. Luckily, graduate education will allow the student more opportunities to specialize in AIS than are available at the undergraduate level. For those interested in becoming a CPA, this will also help meet the 150 college credit hours requirements of most states. Another popular certification for AIS professionals is the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). Certification requirements are similar to CPA and include a minimum of a year of relevant job experience, passing an exam, and continuing education.

What’s important? JOBS
AIS professionals have many opportunities to work for traditional public accounting firms as well as consulting firms, corporations, and government agencies. In addition to having the option to work for many different types of businesses, specializing in AIS opens up the possibility of obtaining many different positions with those organizations. Accountants with AIS experience may assist companies in designing software and accounting information systems. Financial auditors use AIS to examine the financial statements of a company and to ensure compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley requirements. Systems auditors examine data processing, data integrity, security, controls, and other aspects of information systems used by organizations. AIS consultants make recommendations for process improvements by determining the existing inefficiencies in the systems of companies. Finally, a career in AIS can even lead to becoming an executive or partner. New executive level positions of CIOs, CISOs, and CSOs all require a background in information systems while the traditional roles of CFOs and CEOs of even non-technology driven companies can benefit from this knowledge.

The Future
The various positions and job roles that can be pursued by the AIS professional can lead to a career that while rewarding and lucrative, is also in great demand. By improving inefficiencies in processes and management, AIS is critical to the profitable performance of the modern organization. As more and more business and industries are driven by data and the need to keep that data secure, accurate, and reliable, there should be no shortage of careers in accounting information systems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is in agreement with its employment projections indicating that careers in AIS will be growing much faster than average with excellent pay and career opportunities. Pretty sweet for a third choice!