By Eric Weinstein, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Excel for Accounting and Payroll Accounting
Nationwide, more and more two-year colleges are adopting the Excel for Accounting course. Often instructors ask how to create a full course devoted to this topic when most students have already taken a general Microsoft Excel or Microsoft Office course and have core skills. Here we look at a course that focuses on the Excel features that are specifically beneficial to accountants.
What Topics to Cover
Our preferred approach is to focus on topics and features, particularly functions, not traditionally included in general Excel or Office courses but that can provide significant benefit to accountants. These topics and features can be organized into three main groups.
- Some Excel functions are clearly accounting-related. The SLN (straight-line depreciation), SYD (sum-of-the-years-digits depreciation), and DDB (double-declining balance depreciation) functions are rarely included in a general Excel course, but they can greatly simplify the determination of depreciation on a monthly or annual basis. In many ways, the Excel for Accounting course was initially created to teach use of these functions!
- Other Excel functions are not as clearly accounting related but knowing how to effectively use them can be critical for accountants. For example, when completing the Payroll Register, the Nested IF function can be used to determine Social Security tax. The three circumstances accounted for in this Nested IF function are A) an employee with earnings below the Social Security tax wage base, B) an employee with earnings above the wage base prior to the period, and C) an employee whose earnings exceed the wage base during the current period.
- Lastly, some functions are neither clearly accounting related nor new to students, but they warrant examination in an accounting context. In an Excel for Accounting course, examining the PMT, PV, and FV functions—typically at least touched upon in an Excel or Office survey course—allows students to see how simple it is to complete a large Bond Amortization table. Students may be using functions they’ve used in the past, but now they’re using and combining them in a new way, to simplify accounting-related tasks.
Creating a Course for YOUR Students
Ultimately, the mix of topics presented in an Excel for Accounting course must be based on the student population. Some colleges opt to focus almost exclusively on new material, while others offer a combination of review and introduction of new concepts. The key is to ensure that your students have sufficient skill using Excel to complete the work assigned, while simultaneously structuring the course such that accounting students are gaining new insight into the Excel elements that will be most beneficial in their future endeavors.