We talk about skills quite frequently on our podcast – the skills we’re going to need to remain relevant in a changing and complex world – so it seems appropriate that we spend some time talking about where we’ll be getting these skills, and who’s going to teach them to us.
Here’s my question: Should accounting education change to reflect our changing reality? And if so, how should it change? And how quickly should it change?
These are the questions we explore with Kelly Richmond Pope, a Ph.D., a CPA, and an associate professor at the School of Accountancy and Management Information Systems at DePaul University, where her research focuses on organizational misconduct, ethics, fraud, and how organizations can design cultures and compliance systems to confront these challenges. She has some really interesting ideas about how accounting education needs evolve to better prepare students for the evolving profession they’re about to enter.
In this conversation, we cover:
- Reinventing the classroom experience.
- What a true future-ready accounting curriculum looks like to Kelly.
- The competitive advantage of passion.
- What a newly graduated accounting major should know.
Listen to our conversation here:
Accounting education of the future
Speaking of education, I stumbled on an article from the Charlotte Business Journal titled “Tradition-bound accounting degrees expand to include artificial intelligence, forensics as industry grows.”
Here’s what reporter Frank Costanza writes:
“Nearly 1.4 million accountants and auditors were employed nationally in 2016, and that figure is expected to grow by 10 percent by 2026, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. And 80 percent of companies recently surveyed by the National Association of Colleges and Employers say they intend to keep hiring accounting majors.
“However, those percentages do not mean that companies are only looking for entry-level employees who are master number crunchers. Rather, most firms, especially those that can invest in the latest software to automate basic accounting tasks, will want well-rounded candidates. They need individuals to accurately collect and report figures, analyze and explain their meaning, and offer critical and timely advice to their supervisors.
“Accounting has moved away from its bookkeeping roots and has become a background for data analysis, high-level advising, and increasingly partners with decision-making in other functional areas of business.”
Costanza goes on to say that more and more organizations are looking to hire accounting students who have backgrounds in things like forensics and higher-level experience in the areas of financial accounting, managerial accounting, governmental accounting, and auditing – and for accountants with experience in new technologies and analysis.
And as always, they want people who can go beyond just the numbers, who can tell the stories behind the numbers and communicate their meaning and value, Those types of skills haven’t been part of traditional accounting education.
Kelly Richmond Pope says what we’re teaching students has to change, but so does how we teach them. She incorporates things like filmmaking processes into her classrooms. In fact, she has directed a documentary that’s on Netflix right now called “All The Queen’s Horses” about a comptroller in a small Illinois town who financed her successful horse-breeding business by embezzling $53 million in public funds. She also has given a TED talk about whistleblowers called “Why Do We Hate Whistleblowers?” – did I mention that Kelly’s research focuses on misconduct, ethics and fraud?
She has some really insightful and creative ideas for how we can better prepare students for the realities they’ll face when they enter this changing and complex profession.