(ARA) - When you think about the backbone of a business, it's not the owner, CEO or board of directors who keep everything trucking along. Instead, it's the accountant who leads the finances of small and larger companies into the future.
"Accounting has always been a crucial part of running a business. You simply can't run an efficient or profitable company if you aren't keeping an eye on your books," says Debbie Nelson, business accounting instructor at Everest Institute in Kalamazoo, Mich.
The old days of accountants running around in brown suits, pocket protectors and gnawed-off pencils are long gone. Today's accounting professionals are completely digitized, allowing them to concentrate their job more on financially strengthening a business, rather than only handling paychecks and invoices.
"The role of an accountant is being transformed from simply helping a business run to helping a business envision its future," Nelson says.
* Estimating and evaluating risk management
"Businesses need accountants to identify and manage risk. They are increasingly part of the team that helps a CEO decide which investments are worth the risk," says Nelson. "In fact, a degree in accounting has always been a great way to get into the business world."
Globalization is another factor changing the accounting field. "Due to the growth of international trade and business, companies are increasingly looking for accountants who have a good understanding of international business, who speak a foreign language or who are available to work overseas," says Nelson.
* Fair value accounting
Fair value accounting recognizes the current worth of assets, instead of the cost of acquiring them. It seems like a simple premise, but it is actually challenging the very foundations of traditional accounting. Fair value accounting is helping CEOs re-evaluate the current worth of their companies and better assess where they can afford to invest.
* Forensic accounting
Recent media attention from corporate accounting scandals has also increased the demand for accountants with experience in fraud detection, making forensic accounting degrees in high demand. "In the past, businesses waited until an ethics breach was suspected before investigating, but today, many companies are realizing they can't afford to wait," says Nelson. "They are bringing in forensic accounting specialists to tighten procedures and prevent fraud before it happens."
Nelson explains the need for accounting schools to adapt to these changes. "In our accounting courses at Everest Institute, we realize that if we really want to prepare our graduates to be the next wave of accountants, then we have to stay abreast of recent developments in the accounting field."
Nelson says that even if students aren't interested in a specific kind of accounting, they are interested in the job security. "At the very least, our students know they will be in high demand upon graduating. For some students, that's all they need to know."
To learn more about degrees in accounting, visit www.everest.edu.