Not all accounting professionals take a single “traditional” route into the field. While some people know exactly what they want to do and enter their undergraduate career with a focus on earning their bachelor’s degree in Accountancy, others take a less common route and explore another career before realizing their interest and potential in the accounting industry.
One such example is Dexter K., a student in our online Master of Accountancy – Fundamentals program who will graduate after completing the Spring 2021 semester. The Fundamentals track was designed for students like Dexter who have no accounting experience nor a related bachelor’s, but unlike other similar programs, we don’t require any pre-requisite or bridge courses. That means you don’t have to take an additional 3 to 15 credits before getting to the core of the program and can complete the 30-credit program in less than 2 years. Keep reading to learn more about what the online experience with the University of North Dakota has been like for Dexter, who also completed an internship at PwC during the program.
Describe your educational and professional background.
I am a Navy veteran, and I worked as an electrical engineer for 7 years after getting out of the military. I decided that being an engineer wasn’t really what I wanted to do, so I decided to pursue a different career.
How did you become interested in accounting?
I became interested in accounting because it has become very data driven. I love working with and manipulating data, and I’ve also always been interested in finance. I figured that the modern accountant would have to have a combination of data analytics skills, as well as the traditional accounting skills. So that’s what really interested me.
What attracted you to UND’s online Master of Accountancy program?
I was attracted to UND’s online Master of Accountancy program mainly due to its flexibility (online format), its cost relative to other schools, and the fact that it is AACSB accredited. Those three things were what I really focused on when looking for schools.
You are a student in the Fundamentals track, which was designed for students without an accounting background, and unlike other school’s programs for non-accounting majors, UND’s program doesn’t require any bridge courses or pre-requisite courses. How important was that for you?
This was also a very important consideration of mine. The fact that I could complete my program in 18 months was quicker than many other schools I considered.
Why did you choose an online program vs. an in-person program?
In addition to the flexibility that an online asynchronous program provides, I chose an online program because there are not any AACSB-accredited schools nearby that I could attend in-person, and I am not in a position to move right now.
What has your experience been like in our online program, so far?
I have found the format to be very user-friendly, the courses are challenging, and the faculty have been very supportive. There are also many resources for students to take advantage of, like career fairs.
What is a day in the life like for you?
Currently, I am doing my first internship with PwC, so for me, a normal day is for me is:
- Wake up
- Go to work (~8 hours)
- Come home and take a long walk
- Eat dinner
- Watch lectures and do homework.
It’s a full day! However, the program makes maintaining a work-life balance attainable. The fact that it is only one class at a time makes work-life balance ideal for me.
Would you recommend this program to other students? Why?
Yes, I would. The program is affordable, accredited, flexible, and has many great resources to take advantage of.
What resources and support are offered to UND’s online MAcc students?
We have access to things like career and networking opportunities and support, ongoing personal student support, and tutoring.
Have you taken advantage of any of the networking and career events?
I have taken advantage of the career events. Last fall, I attended the Fall Accounting Career Fair and ended up getting an internship at PwC (a Big 4 firm) for Spring of ’21.
How can someone stand out in these events, especially now that so many are virtual?
You can stand out by just being relaxed, being yourself, asking a lot of questions, and showing a genuine interest in whatever firm you’re interviewing with. Also, it is important to follow up with whomever you talked to (i.e. via email) thanking them for their time and consideration.
Tell us about your internship — how did you secure it and what was the process like?
I secured two internships using UND resources. I got my Spring 2021 internship with PwC through the Fall Accounting Career Fair. I attended as many information sessions as I could in order to narrow down the list of companies I was interested in. Then, I went through multiple rounds of interviews, came out with a couple offers, and made my decision on which offer to accept. It’s important to choose the company where you think you’ll fit in best!
I also secured an internship for Summer 2021 with Andersen Tax (a large tax firm) in Seattle, WA. A recruiter from that firm reached out to me via Handshake, and the process started from there. I had two rounds of interviews and ended up getting the offer. I’ll be working in tax planning for high-wealth individuals.
I am looking forward to performing real accounting work!
Do you feel prepared for your internships based on your experience in the program?
I do feel prepared, although there will be a lot of on-the-job training that will also help me in my program, as well.
Is there a specific course, resource or event that makes you feel most confident and ready to succeed in your internship?
So far, I’d say the Financial and Managerial Accounting courses will be the most beneficial in my internships.
What advice do you have for other students who are interested in switching careers into accounting?
I believe that when most people think of an accountant, they think of a personal CPA. But in reality, being an accountant is much more! Every business in the world needs an accountant, and there are many different specializations that you can explore. And now, being an accountant also means that you’ll have opportunities to work with large amounts of data, so you can also learn things like data analytics, data visualization, and maybe even coding.
Any tips or tricks to share with potential students for succeeding in an online format?
Be disciplined. Don’t procrastinate. Watch all of the lecture videos and take advantage of the knowledge and experiences of your professors!
Now that you’ve completed your internship, can you share what the experience was like for you?
I was an intern in the assurance (audit) practice with PwC. Specifically, I was assigned to the Private Company Services (PCS) division, which strictly deals with private companies. I was on two engagements, and after my two week training, I was immediately thrown into client work. I say “thrown” literally, because I was responsible for the same work as other associates, which was a really cool thing, in my opinion. It allowed me (and other interns) to really learn the ins and outs of being an auditor. Within the engagements, I worked in three specific areas: Cash, Investments, and PP&E. I would do things such as: perform bank account reconciliations, test depreciation of assets, test fair value of investments, among other things.
But I think one of the more valuable aspects of the internship was making connections with the PwC employees and the other interns. Although my internship was remote, I was still able to make plenty of connections that I will value going forward in my career. I would advise anyone doing an internship to reach out to as many people as you can and make connections, because you never know what doors those connections may open in the future!