Integrating technology into accounting curriculum as CPA Exam evolves.

AuthorNickell, Erin
PositionCertified public accountants

Employers continue to emphasize a need for accounting graduates with an expert-level ability to analyze and interpret large amounts of data using current and emerging technologies. With the automation of many more menial tasks, such as rolling over prior years' files and importing financial information, new tax practitioners are now asked to hit the ground running--completing a greater variety of more complex returns than previous generations.

Current technologies can also be used in new ways. For example, recent graduates might use visualization software to sort prior tax returns and explore how proposed tax policies might affect taxpayers with different filing statuses or from different states. Technology is ubiquitous in their job, and employers expect near-immediate technological proficiency.

To meet these expectations, a few professional accounting organizations took action by implementing new requirements and rolling out new programs, all of which serve to reiterate the message that accounting curriculum must incorporate technology--not just some of it, but all of it.

This column considers these challenges and proposes strategies to comprehensively integrate technology into the curriculum in a way that simultaneously meets employer demands and academic accreditation requirements and aligns with the structure of the new CPA Exam.

Accreditation requirements and CPA Evolution

In 2013, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) started requiring all separately accredited accounting programs to incorporate information technology into their curriculum. Then, in 2018, the AACSB upped the ante by adding a requirement that both faculty and students master current technology and learn emerging technologies and that technology be incorporated across the entire accounting curriculum (see the AACSB's 2018 Standards for Accounting Accreditation, Standard A5, p. 21).

The CPA Evolution Initiative--a joint effort of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and the AICPA--recently released planned updates to the CPA licensure model, which will roll out in 2024. The "evolved" CPA Exam is intended to reflect the realities of practice today and involves a "core + discipline" approach to licensure, offering candidates an opportunity to elect a specialization (see the AICPA's 2021 New Model for Licensure).

Under the new model, three parts of the Exam will cover core concepts related to accounting and data analytics (ACCT), audit and accounting information systems (AUDIT), and taxation (TAX). A fourth, discipline-specific section will cover material related to the candidate's chosen specialization. Candidates may choose one of three specializations from the following: business analysis and reporting (BAR), information systems and controls (ISC), and tax compliance and planning (TCP).

The new licensure model emphasizes data analytics, technology, and digital acumen across all four parts of the Exam. The AICPA has also released a CPA Evolution Model Curriculum guide, outlining content covered by each part of the evolved Exam and mapping it to various accounting courses. A notable addition to the planned content of the core sections of the Exam is "technology and digital acumen." Each specialization option also includes technology content such as advanced data analytics and information security. (See the chart, "New CPA Exam Model.")

New CPA...

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