A new minor in the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will provide accounting majors and other UNL students a competitive edge in the business market. The business analytics minor helps students build a solid technical foundation in data analysis and model-driven management decision making skills.
The School of Accountancy wanted to promote the new minor specifically to accounting students after hosting a data analytics conference luncheon earlier in the spring semester. During the conference, accounting faculty met with employee representatives from Crete Carrier Corporation, Kiewit Corporation and Union Pacific to discuss the role of data analytics in business and how to prepare accounting students for a career in data analytics.
“I enjoyed the conference. It gave insight into other career paths for accounting students. If a student likes accounting but doesn’t want to do audit or tax, then data analytics is an option they may want to consider,” said Jill Trucke, lecturer for the School of Accountancy. “As a potential employee who can analyze financial and statistical information, they would be highly sought after.”
Justin Feerhusen, senior analytics manager at Crete Carrier Corp., Jefferson Meyer, manager of data analytics at Kiewit Corp., Eric Olson, director of mergers and acquisitions at Kiewit Corp. and Todd Rynaski, vice president and controller at Union Pacific, participated in the conference.
Keith Czerney, assistant professor of accounting, explained what data analytics is and how students can benefit from the minor.
“Data analytics is a relatively new specialty within business. For decades businesses have been collecting and storing data. Finally our technology has caught up and we are able to analyze massive amounts of data through computer programs,” Czerney said. “Businesses can look at anything from employee retention to customer behavior.
“Accountants are able to piece together the data, where information technology (IT) professionals aren’t trained to. For example, they can take crime statistics and government information and put it together to decide where the best place is to build a new division of the office,” he added.
Data analysts usually have a background in computer information, which is why students who choose the business analytics minor will be required to take supply chain management courses with a focus on computer systems that create decision-making models, predictive analytics, database managing systems and more. Additionally, students will take accounting and marketing courses.
“Having a background in both accounting and data analytics will give our students the competitive advantage they need when entering the work force,” Czerney said. Employees who can analyze large quantities of data and use it to answer specific financial questions can help managers make important business decisions.”