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Technology and globalization are changing the world as we know it — and these changes are making a dramatic impact on the accounting world. Louise Single, the director of the Master of Accounting (MACT) program at St. Edward’s University, and Katherine Lopez, an assistant professor of Accounting at St. Edwards, weigh in on some of the biggest changes they’re seeing in the field.

Trend #1: A shift from rules-based to principles-based accounting 

Why? The United States has long used a rules-based approach that relies on strict and detailed guidelines and procedures. But thanks in part to an increasingly interconnected world, a principles-based approach that’s more commonly found in Europe is gaining popularity.

The details: “Principles-based accounting” makes more significant demands on accountants, says Lopez. “There is a greater emphasis on critical thinking and writing abilities of accountants because they must be able to justify their choices and document them so that years from now, the choices could be defended in court.”

Trend #2: IT and computer science competence

Why? The increasing number of data breaches and malicious hacking scandals means that accountants who can keep their clients’ data safe are in demand. In fact, a 2015 survey of more than 2,200 American CFOs found that the single greatest pressure facing accounting and finance teams is staying current with technology.

The details: Those who can master the intricacies of both accounting and IT will have no shortage of job offers, says Single. “There’s a huge market for people who understand how to get into firms’ systems and protect them from the front end,” she says. “There’s also a market for people who can come in on the back end when companies have a breach to help fix the system so it doesn’t happen again.”

Trend #3: Specialized certifications

Why? As the needs of companies grow increasingly specific, those who have certifications that attest to their expertise will have a leg up on the competition.

The details: “Certifications — in areas like information systems auditing and information systems control — can really help make students more attractive to hiring managers,” says Single.

Trend #4: An increasing reliance on social media

Why? Staying abreast of client information means paying attention to the myriad ways they’re putting their company’s information into the world.

The details: Is a client opening up a branch in a new city or launching a new service? By following the company’s announcements and posts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, accountants can often find out details that are critical to their client work earlier than ever. Staying on top of these announcements can help accountants help their clients even before they know they need it.

The Master of Accounting (MACT) program at St. Edward’s University helps students develop deep technical expertise in areas including accounting research, advanced federal taxation and fraud examination. CPA pass rates for St. Edward’s University graduates are among the top five in the state.

Erin Peterson is a freelance writer.

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