By Arial Starks
A quick search of accounting careers often reveals assurance as a principal field in the world of accounting. Many firms also offer work in the field of valuation, which has different but complementary responsibilities to assurance.
A Master’s of Accounting, sometimes known as a Master of Accountancy (MAcc), offers students a launching pad for promising careers in accounting, with regular opportunities for advancement and global experiences. Many MAcc programs offer an assurance track to meet a common demand of the accounting profession; a handful, including the Vanderbilt MAcc program, offer a track in valuation as well.
So what are the differences between MAcc assurance and valuation, and how can you determine which track is right for your career?
Assurance Roles and Responsibilities
After graduation, Vanderbilt MAcc Assurance students earn positions as audit and assurance associates with top global accounting firms.
Audits are, broadly speaking, examinations of financial information. Accounting firms provide external audits of records like balance sheets, cash flows, and profit and loss statements for their clients, so that investors, regulators, and other important stakeholders are assured that clients are accurately reporting on their financial health.
Assurance associates help perform audits for a variety of clients, ensuring that financial statements are accurate by verifying records and accounting entries. They operate in close-knit teams and collaborate frequently with clients to deliver accurate work in a timely fashion. The work varies from day-to-day and client-to-client, but the team environment doesn’t change.
“I may meet with the client, work with the client’s internal audit team, or converse with Tax or Valuation Specialists in the United States, Europe, Asia, or other continents,” said Alexi Beavers (MAcc’17). “What remains consistent is that I’m working directly with different members of my team each day.”
Valuation Roles and Responsibilities
Vanderbilt MAcc Valuation graduates typically begin their accounting careers as valuation associates. Their work involves helping clients determine the current or projected worth of assets, investments, or companies. Through analysis and modeling, valuation analysts help clients with a variety of strategic decisions, including mergers and acquisitions, asset management, and restructuring.
“When you think about valuation, we’re not just valuing the company’s assets necessarily, we’re also thinking about their intangibles – other value they have that isn’t necessarily something you can hold,” said Becca Stone (MAcc’13), who began her career as a Forensic & Valuation Services Experienced Associate at Grant Thornton.
Valuation associates also assist with audits, providing valuations of items accounted for on financial statements, which means they frequently work alongside assurance and audit associates.
“In assurance, we deal with the financial statement as a whole, while the Valuation Associates are specialists that look at certain aspects of the statement,” added Carter Chandler (MAcc’18), an Assurance Senior at EY in Atlanta.
Differences in Coursework and Test Prep
Assurance and valuation tracks both require strong foundations of financial knowledge. Accounting professionals looking to climb the ranks within top firms will also need to develop the leadership skills required to lead projects, communicate across teams, and manage client relationships.
MAcc programs traditionally offer a curriculum that equips students with the hard and soft skills required to thrive at a top accounting firm. Assurance and valuation programs offer similar courses in the areas of financial reporting, cost accounting, and taxation. Assurance curriculum typically includes more coursework in audit, while valuation will include more coursework around valuation and financial statement analysis. You can click here to see a full list of valuation courses offered at Vanderbilt or click here to see a full list of assurance courses.
Experiential learning can be a core component of either track. At Vanderbilt, MAcc Assurance and MAcc Valuation students spend nearly a quarter of their academic year interning for a Big 4 Accounting Firm during the “busy season” of the accounting world’s year.
Test preparation is a significant consideration for any MAcc student entering the workforce. Vanderbilt provides MAcc Assurance students with test preparation for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exam and MAcc Valuation students with test preparation for the CPA and the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) exam, a test required for valuation associates.
Both tracks offer significant opportunity
As Challenor Robertson (MAcc’17) put it, “knowing accounting is a great launchpad to get into any business career,” and that applies to both the accounting and valuation tracks. Earning a MAcc is the entry point onto that launchpad, giving you an incredible opportunity to start and develop the business career you want. “The credibility of a Master of Accountancy is going to help you, no matter what you want to do in business,” said Laura McLaughlin (MAcc’18).