As we approach the end of our nine-month program, it feels like a good time to reflect on the value of the M.S. in Accounting (MSA). I moved to Charlottesville last August after graduating as an accounting major from the College of Charleston. Overall I’ve felt that the MSA has been a tremendous experience, and I think that comes down to three main reasons:
- I’ve been getting my master’s in a small class environment at McIntire with students from over 40 undergrad institutions.
Many of the academic experiences throughout the year were tailored to the interests and skill sets of the people in the class. This is accomplished through the small class size. The teachers quickly pick up on where the class may need some extra review and in what areas the class comprehends the material and is able to move forward. With students coming from a large variety of different undergraduate institutions, skill sets will inevitably vary from person to person. Another benefit of the small class size is that we have gotten to get to know each other, both in team projects and outside of the classroom. I think this is important because a lot of us are working in similar cities next year and you never know when your paths will cross. We have the advantage of knowing what types of personalities we work well with, and more importantly, how to compensate working with those which we have different working styles.
The MSA program improves your ability to work in teams. In undergrad I had done a couple team projects, but in this program very little work is actually done by yourself, which is great because the small group atmosphere is similar to the type of environments many of us will work in after graduating. Working well with others might seem like a skill that is not hard to develop, but over the course of the program we’ve realized how far we’ve come with our efficiency and ability to arrive at the correct answers as a team. We are now expected by our professors to successfully work on the hardest problems in a team setting where everyone adds value.
- I’ve made large steps toward becoming a CPA.
Many students in the program have also been focused on getting the CPA done these past nine months before starting work next summer/fall. Some started the exam during the fall semester and others this spring. Because we’ve had so long to dedicate to studying, some of us have been able to pass multiple parts of the exam. Some students are staying in Charlottesville this summer to continue studying for the CPA in McIntire.
The professors understand that many the students are studying for the CPA exam, and while it’s important to know that this program is not a CPA prep course, the concepts we’ve learned in class complement our CPA studying. I now feel well equipped to pass the CPA and add value to my future company as an accounting professional.
In the words of our director Roger Martin, students are successful when they leave McIntire because we attract bright students and they have an appreciation for the big picture, and why the technical things they’re doing for clients really matter.
- I’ve successfully tackled a challenging yet stimulating academic course load that will add short and long-term value to my career.
I feel that I’m getting quite a bit of value out of the coursework we’ve done, primarily because it is the type of analytical work we’ll be doing once we begin our jobs. We rarely use textbooks (unless the class has a fair amount of legal concepts), which is what I would expect from master’s level accounting classes.
The courses also bring in real-world applications of the lessons we’re learning, and changing many of our perceptions about the business world and the role of accounting within it. In the Tax Consulting track, many of us came into the program with only one tax class at the undergraduate level. By now we’ve taken a variety of tax classes that focus on tax compliance and theory, as well as classes from the Financial Assurance & Reporting track, which has exposed us to other relevant topics. I remember being a sophomore at the College of Charleston sitting in Intermediate Accounting, amazed that the TA was able to recall, seemingly off the top of his head, the material to solve what seemed at the time a complex accounting problem. After a bit of time at McIntire I think we all feel like we’ve conquered that skill.
The MSA program also places a focus on teaching us many of the soft skills applicable to our future careers. Written communication is one of the skills which we have practiced the most and everything that we write is in business professional format. This includes writing internal and external memorandums. At the start of the program this was a skill I lacked, having never had the experience to practice and receive feedback before. Now after writing in this format numerous times I’ve improved my written communication skills, which I think will improve my interaction with future clients and co-workers.
Overall, I’ve loved my experience in the MSA program. My time here has allowed me to build new skill sets and given me the confidence and preparation to solve the problems that I’ll be faced with in the future.
-Written by Greg Boland, M.S. in Accounting 2017, Tax Consulting Track