Accountancy School Readies Master’s Programs Featuring Data Analytics

Both new degrees are the only ones of their kind in Mississippi

The Patterson School of Accountancy has teamed with the audit and tax firm KPMG LLP to offer two new graduate degrees. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Patterson School of Accountancy will be offering two new graduate degrees incorporating data analytics beginning this fall.

The board of trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning has approved the curricula for the Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics and the Master of Taxation and Data Analytics. Both degree programs require 30 credit hours to complete and are the only ones of their kind in the state.

KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm, collaborated with the Ohio State University Max M. Fisher College of Business and the Villanova School of Business to develop the award-winning Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics program in 2016 and disrupt the audit profession’s education experience. A year later, KPMG expanded the program to nine schools, including the Patterson School of Accountancy.

The 135 participants in the program’s second class each will receive funding equivalent to the full cost of attendance, an internship on a KPMG audit or tax team, and a fulltime position with the firm through an advanced entry program upon graduation. The Ole Miss program will include 30 of those students.

“The University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy and KPMG have enjoyed a tremendous partnership for many years,” said Mark Wilder, the school’s dean and KPMG Chair of Accountancy at UM. “We are proud to be offering master’s degrees in taxation and data analytics, as well as in accounting and data analytics.

“It is a high privilege to work with KPMG to provide innovative graduate programs to help develop future professionals for the data age.”

“I’m very proud that KPMG is joining with Ole Miss in offering this dual degree in accountancy and tax with data and analytics,” said Ole Miss alumnus and KPMG partner Chuck Walker (BA 79), who serves as a KPMG campus executive for the university.

“This innovative program will equip students coming into the accounting profession with the tools to understand today’s cutting edge technologies, give them hands-on experience with D&A and will incorporate intelligent automation technologies to increase efficiency, reduce risk and add value. We believe these skills represent core competencies for business professionals as we look into the future.”

The other universities in the KPMG initiative are: Arizona State, Baylor, Ohio State and Villanova University; Virginia Tech; and the universities of Georgia, Missouri and Southern California. Ole Miss is the only university KPMG is working with in the area of taxation and data analytics.

At least three new courses are being created for the new degrees. Several existing courses that will be part of the new degree programs are getting a significant makeover to boost their focus on data analytics.

“We are in the process of hiring several new faculty members” Wilder said. “I anticipate that all of the new faculty will be involved in the data analytics graduate degree programs.

“Also, several of our existing faculty members will play a significant role in the course offerings for the new degree programs.”

The Public Accounting Report has ranked the Patterson School of Accountancy among the country’s top 10 accounting programs for each of the last seven years. The school is poised to help fill a critical need for professionals in data analytics training, Wilder said.

The market for professional master’s degrees is expected to grow faster over the next decade than will bachelor’s or doctoral degrees, according to the Educational Advisory Board. The board also predicts that specialized business-related degrees will be among the fastest-growing areas of professional graduate education.

Accounting and taxation degrees with special emphasis in data analytics would be included in this type of degree with tremendous growth opportunity.

UM accountancy faculty and alumni are thrilled about the new programs.

“KPMG is sending us 30 students each year for the next three years for the programs, and they are paying the tuition and reasonable living expenses of these 30 students, plus promising them an internship and a job at graduation,” said Dale Flesher, professor of accountancy, associate dean and holder of the Roland and Sheryl Burns Chair.

“That says a lot about the firm’s confidence in the Ole Miss School of Accountancy. In addition, we can admit other students to the degree programs.”

The school has received a four-year grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation to provide funding for five Mississippi students per year to attend one of the new degree programs. The support will include tuition costs and a stipend.

The Hearin grant also provides funding for two new faculty members for three years.

“We are very grateful to the Hearin Support Foundation for making such a significant investment in our new degree programs,” Wilder said. “Our goal is to deliver an educational experience to our students that will make the Hearin trustees proud.”

The inaugural class of students in the KPMG Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics program started classes at both Ohio State and Villanova in fall 2017.

“We are getting in on the ground floor of this movement,” Flesher said. “Where we are really ahead of the game is with respect to the Master of Taxation in Data Analytics. I think we are the only school in the country with such a program.

“These degree programs will be great for the national visibility of Ole Miss. This will certainly raise our national reputation even more.”

According to a recent study conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants and Robert Half International, the most “missing” skills among accountants all deal with data analytics, data analysis and decision analysis. The Journal of Accountancy recently referred to data analytics as the “next frontier” for accountants.

Moreover, recently reported, “There will be 4 million big-data related positions by 2018, along with a 1.5 million shortage of people to fill them.”

“It was our desire to create a new Master of Accountancy and Data Analytics degree as well as a new Master of Taxation and Data Analytics degree because we believed this would make the new degree programs more visible, and also more valuable for the students receiving the degrees,” Wilder said.

For more information about the Patterson School of Accountancy, visit

For more information about the KPMG Master of Accounting with Data and Analytics Program, visit