The Accounting major helps students acquire the skills to measure and communicate an organization’s economic activities. Accounting is the formal system of collecting, organizing, and reporting the financial data used to make economic decisions. The data shed light on current financial status and liquidity, as well as past profitability and funds-generating capability. Its users include corporate shareholders, lenders, management, employees, research organizations, and taxing and regulatory agencies.
Many different types of economic decisions require accounting data. One major use of accounting data is to inform outsiders (interested people who do not have direct access to corporate records) of the firm’s economic status and progress. By contrast, the firm’s management requires data that will aid in controlling operations and evaluating performance. Outside agencies often collect accounting data for tax collection and other social and economic policy purposes.
The accounting major at the Wharton School focuses on the user of accounting data. Most courses in the department stress concepts, procedures and applications with a view to the student understanding how accounting information is generated and its reliability in analysis. Most accounting majors are preparing for careers in which accounting data are used extensively. The department’s flexible curriculum also allows interested students to take the required courses toward certification as a CPA (certified public accountant) or CMA (chartered management accountant). As the specific course requirements for these certificates vary from state to state and usually exceed the minimum requirements for a Wharton MBA major, students who seek professional certification should seek the advice of the Accounting Department adviser as early as possible to plan their programs.