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February 9, 2022

Accounting Students Able to Earn Certificates in Excel and Data Analytics 

By Lois Elfman

St. Francis College’s Accounting department is offering a new Data Analytics and Excel certificate to provide students with an extra edge in the job market. The college has partnered with Becker, a professional and management development training company that offers educational resources that accountants use to prepare for their licensing exam to become certified public accountants (CPAs). Becker provides the certificate upon completion of the SFC course Advanced Accounting Information Systems.

“Data analytics is at the core of the accounting field,” said Dr. Carmine Nogara, department chairman, who developed the course with lecturer Danielle DiMeglio.

Data analytics involves analyzing raw data to make conclusions about the information contained within the data. It has become an increasingly utilized tool in helping to optimize business performance. Excel is a frequently used spreadsheet that is often used by businesses and is vital in accounting.

“A primary function of accountants in the public and private sectors is to transform raw data into useful information,” DiMeglio said. “By earning certificates in data analytics and Excel that represent a level of proficiency in these areas, students can enter the workforce with an edge over their peers.”

Students are completing courses that are required for St. Francis’ five-year BS/MS program, which is a bachelor’s/master’s combined degree program. DiMeglio is moderating, facilitating and executing Advanced Accounting Information Systems, a three-credit course.

The certificate program came about because the Accounting and Business Law department has received feedback that data analytics and Excel are two items that the job market is requiring of today’s accounting students. The certificate enables SFC graduates to stand out.

DiMeglio worked with Becker on various resources that the company offers to incorporate data analytics and Excel into the Advanced Accounting Information Systems course, which DiMeglio has taught at SFC for several years.

“Students are getting exposure to CPA questions as they pertain to accounting information systems,” said DiMeglio. “We’re preparing them for the CPA exam.

“We’re always looking to redevelop the AIS courses because they are technology-driven,” she added. “I was part of an accounting advisory board that St. Francis compiled with people in our department and alumni.”

Discussions included what recruiters and managers at accounting firms would be seeking from St. Francis College graduates.

“I believe that earning this certification is a big advantage for pursuing internships and employment, which is one of the reasons I decided to take the course as soon as I possibly could in order to be able to place it on my resume,” said accounting student Joseph Genova. “Excel has become a massive advantage in numerous fields, and it is very well known that Excel makes a huge difference in being efficient in the workplace. Employers have also made applicants well aware that Excel has become a skill that is required, making this certificate that much more valuable.”

Fellow student Nerma Kolenovic agreed and noted the material was challenging but well worth the effort. “Once I got the hang of it, the process of completing assignments was doable,” she said. “Becker CPE is a great addition to this course because each unit in a sense builds on one another, which in turn helps students build a strong foundation in Excel. I have picked up new Excel skills and already began incorporating them at my internship.”

For the first semester, it was an online asynchronous course. This means there is neither an in-person nor a live virtual classroom. The students enrolled accessed the course content at their convenience. DiMeglio provides the instructional material and there are video lectures from Becker.

“It’s a challenging course, but they’re motivated because they’re getting a certificate,” said DiMeglio, who monitors the students’ progress through weekly assessments and quizzes as they complete each unit. She is in regular communication with the students and they can contact her with questions and concerns.

The hope is that eventually the course can also be offered to CPAs, who need to take continuing education credits to maintain their licenses. Becker qualifies this certificate as continuing education.

“We’re hoping that down the road we can offer this to alumni of SFC to come back and seek continuing education credits through us,” said DiMeglio.

Students provided evaluations at the end of the fall ‘21 semester that DiMeglio and Nogara are reviewing in order to make any necessary modifications before the course is offered again in the fall 2022 semester.

“We’re really excited to be able to partner with Becker and offer this,” DiMeglio said. “It has a dual purpose of continuing with their education and achieving the certificate. This we thought was a good balance because they are getting both the CPA exam preparation that they need and require from a curriculum standpoint, but also getting this bonus of data analytics.

“I hope that we can expand and build upon it to be able to extend it as a continuing education course. I hope this is just the start of what else we can do for our students.”

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