Accounting Information Systems Description and Career Outlook
As an accountant, finding ways to set yourself apart from your peers is important to growing throughout your career. You can follow traditional paths to become a CPA and work directly for clients, or you can specialize in a number of areas such as payroll or accounting information systems. Accounting information systems are not accountants on their own, but accountants that work with programs to more effectively deliver information. This is a specialized part of the accounting field and you will need to know a little bit about the career before deciding if it is right for you.
An accounting information system is comprised of people, software, information technology, specific procedures and specific data. Within an organization and accounting information system collects and stores data about activities and transaction, processes that data into useful information that can help for decision making and provides controls and safeguards for an organizations assets. The basic flow of an AIS includes a number of cycles starting with buying and paying for goods or services that the organization using the system needs. Next is a cycle of converting raw materials and labor into finished goods which then leads to activities including hiring and paying employees. Selling goods and services and collecting payments for those sales follows with the final piece of the cycle including all activities in financing the organization, such as repaying creditors, obtaining funds for to run the organization, and distributing profits to investors.
Where do Accountants Fit In?
Accounting itself is considered an information system with the primary objective of providing information that is useful to those that make the decisions within a company. With financial information reporting and identification of information, development, measurement and communication processes at the forefront of what should be expected. Studying AIS will prepare you to collect the data that is so important to the organization, transform that data into something that is understandable by those that aren’t in the field and check the information to ensure it is reliable and accurate.
You will need to understand AIS as an auditor or accountant to ensure that you know that the information provided is accurate and that the system is working effectively. Like any information gathering process, things can go wrong and not understanding the systems will lead you to missing potentially dangerous mistakes.
Learning the Ropes
Most students that pursue a concentration in accounting information systems earn a master’s or PhD, though this is not always required. Check with employers in your area to learn more about the specific requirements that they expect of those that they hire. As with most accounting positions, you can expect an average income of around $75,000 a year based on location, experience and employer according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. An internship early in your education will give you a leg up on your peers when it comes to job hunting and enhancing your resume.
Some colleges, such as the University of Maryland University College offer a certificate in Accounting and Information Systems which will enhance your education to understand more about how information systems affect accounting. You can also pursue a CISA Certification as an auditor by passing an examination. More information can be found here.
Pros and Cons
Working with a concentration on accounting information systems will put you in a position to take your career well into the future. As the internet become more integrated into businesses tools for success and the software becomes more advanced, learning the systems now will prepare you for the inevitable future of accounting. This will require extra education and investment in your learning, and may not lead to a significantly higher payoff right now, but in the long run, the chances of you earning higher paying and more rewarding positions should be expected. Your education will not stop upon graduation as continued education is a necessity in accounting. You should expect to have to spend more time learning new systems than if you went from something like a CPA license. This shouldn’t drive you away from the concentration though as demand will likely rise as companies fully integrate accounting information systems into their daily activities. You may also want to pursue additional courses throughout your education with a focus on advanced computer knowledge to ensure that you are able to quickly adapt to the constantly changing and advance software that you will work with. The journey won’t be easy, but you should find plenty of rewards as accounting starts embracing new types of software and technology to assist accountants or auditors in their daily duties.