By Jong Eun Jung
Recent graduates who are interested in pursuing a career in accounting may turn to a Master of Accountancy (MAcc) to develop their business skills and knowledge. Because obtaining a MAcc requires time, effort, and money, many young professionals understandably ask themselves whether the degree is worth the investment. We sat down with Emily O’Dell, the Director of Vanderbilt Business MAcc Programs, to talk about the benefits of getting a MAcc and help prospective students decide whether a Master of Accountancy is worth it.
During and after a MAcc program, students can connect with the business school’s alumni who currently work in the accounting industry. Speaking to people in the industry can give students a good idea about what the day-to-day life of an accountant looks like and the potential career paths they can take. The continued networking also expands their career opportunities post-graduation. “If you know you’re interested in business, it’s a great place to start to talk to people to (ask), ‘How did they get into public accounting? Why did they choose that? What clients are they working on?’ And see if that interests you,” O’Dell said.
2. Learning Both Soft and Hard Skills
The classes that students take in the MAcc program provide them with foundational knowledge, such as audit and financial reporting, so that they will have the tools to succeed in an accounting career. In addition, the program helps students hone their soft skills, including leadership and people skills. “We want (students) to be influential leaders and critical thinkers. The academic piece is focused on your career in public accounting, but then we also incorporate those soft skills to help you with your professional development as you move into your career,” O’Dell said.
3. Preparing for the CPA
The MAcc provides students with a solid education so that graduates are well-prepared to take the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. Earning the CPA helps MAcc graduates be recognized in the business world for their skills and qualifications. “The CPA is an important business credential to have if you want to be in business,” O’Dell said. “You’re constantly learning — you have to have certain training every year to keep that license. And so if people see CPA next to your name, they know that you are an expert in the business field.”
4. Gaining More Exit Opportunities
In the case of the Vanderbilt Business MAcc program, graduates are hired as public accountants at the Big Four. After 5-6 years at the Big Four, the MAcc graduates can reach a managerial position, which opens up various exit opportunities, such as becoming a project manager or getting on the CFO track. “Reaching manager level at the Big Four is an important milestone, because you have been trained, you have seen a lot within public accounting, and so you can pretty much move on and do what you want,” O’Dell said. “But the experience that you get from Big Four opens exit opportunities because of what you have learned and worked on and the experience that you’ve had.”