Student Spotlight: Gina C., Online Master of Accountancy

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Headshot photograph of accounting student Gina C.

Just because you earn your Master of Accountancy doesn’t mean your goal is to become a CPA and work for a major accounting firm. Instead, you may be an entrepreneur with dreams of being able to run your business from top to bottom without the need to contract other professionals to do your accounting work.

Gina C., a student in our online Master of Accountancy – Fundamentals program, is just one example of a student who entered our program to change careers and support her dreams of owning a bakery. The Fundamentals track was designed for students like Gina who earned a master’s degree in something other than accounting and don’t have any experience in the field. However, unlike other accountancy master’s programs for non-accounting majors, we don’t require any pre-requisite or bridge courses. That means you’ll jump right into core accounting fundamentals coursework 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 Gina, who was hesitant about doing a program online vs. in-person.

Describe your educational and professional background.

I went to high school in New Mexico and earned my bachelor’s degree in finance from New Mexico State University, along with three minors in insurance, marketing and advertising. Currently, I work remotely as a commercial account manager for an insurance agency (located in NM) in Georgia, where my husband is stationed for the military.

Photo of a vibrant-colored cake.

How did you become interested in accounting?

My end goal is to open a bakery. It’s something I grew up doing, I do well now, and I’m passionate about. I come from a big Italian family, and I was very close with my grandfather. We’ve always been close — we even lived with him at one point — but we really bonded over baking. He loved to entertain and was always throwing parties and dinners, so we often baked and spent time together preparing for those. Right out of high school, I realized my passion for baking and desire to open a bakery one day, so since I already had the baking part down, I felt it would be beneficial to go to business school. I started my undergraduate career in marketing and advertising, and while I enjoyed it a lot, I ended up switching to finance as my major to help me better understand business and kept marketing and advertising (and added insurance) as minors to support my bachelor’s degree — and ideally, my future bakery.

My husband is active duty military and will be for at least 14 more years, so we aren’t in a position to open a bakery right now, so I decided to continue my education and focus on another side of business that would support my future endeavors, which is why I was interested in accounting. My goal is to be self-sufficient in not only the baking side of things, but also as the business side, so I don’t end up as an eager entrepreneur struggling to outsource elements of the business to others.

What attracted you to UND’s online Master of Accountancy program?

I looked into a couple different schools, like SNHU and Maryville, but I was attracted to UND’s program for the prestige (as a public research university), enrollment experience, and GMAT waiver.

I took a few years off of school after I graduated from undergrad in 2017 because my then fiancé (now husband) was deployed and I was trying to transition into finding a house and planning a wedding, so I never took the GMAT. When I was ready to go back to school, I didn’t feel confident that I remembered everything I would need to know for the GMAT, so the waiver was really appealing.

I also felt confident in the quality of the degree I would earn since the University of North Dakota is public research school with an established campus. I feel like companies look more highly on degrees earned from national public universities like UND.

Additionally, the enrollment advisor I worked with really helped sway my decision. From the first call through enrollment, he helped me understand not only why I would be a good fit for UND, but also why UND would be a good fit for me. I was a little hesitant about pursuing a graduate degree in an online setting since my entire undergraduate career was on-campus, but he was so charismatic and friendly and took the time to talk through everything with me — we probably had five or six different conversations that went on for hours. He made me feel very comfortable with my decision, answered all my questions and even helped me with my entrance essay. The experience working with him was much more comfortable and personalized than with some other universities that made it seem like they were only in it for the numbers and getting students to get their tuition.

Accounting student and her husbandWhy did you choose an online program vs. an in-person program?

To be honest, when I first became interested in earning my master’s, I thought I would have been more comfortable doing so on campus. However, one of the biggest factors in choosing an online program was my husband being in the military. I generally prefer face-to-face courses, but I didn’t want to start somewhere and have to move if he got re-stationed and risk credits not being transferred or something. And despite my concerns going in, I’ve enjoyed and found success in the online asynchronous format with UND.

What has your experience been like in our online program, so far?

Personally, it was difficult to adjust to online learning at first, but I’ve put in the effort and my grades are good, so I’m feeling better about things now. We are our own worst critics, and at several points during the program I’ve doubted myself, especially since exams have never been my strong suit, but the professors and Student Support Specialist have always taken the time to talk through things and ease my fears.

I’ve found success by setting and following a routine. I’ve also enjoyed having weekly due dates for assignments vs. having everything due at the end of the term. I can still work at my own pace to fit my schedule, but I’m not procrastinating and overwhelmed with to-dos at the end of each 7-week course.

The professors have been great with helping me transition to online. I email them frequently because having that open communication is nice even though it’s online. I also enjoy collaborating with other students during group projects and use it as a time to talk to them to see how they’re doing and what they’re understanding as a way to see where I measure up. If someone else is having difficulty on a certain topic and I am, too, it can be helpful to have that connection and support.

What is a day in the life like for you? 

This might not work for everyone, but it does for me. During the week, I usually start my day around 4:30am so I can go to the gym. I work and do school from home, so if I don’t get out of the house and go to the gym, I never will. I start my insurance job at 8am and wrap up around 2:30pm. I’ll usually take a break for about 30 minutes or so before starting school, and then work on coursework until about 6pm, when my husband gets home. At that point, I’ll cook dinner and eat with him, then after a bit get back to schoolwork and wrap up around 9:30 or 10pm. I also run a cake baking business on the side, mostly for friends and family right now, but it keeps me busy and is something I really enjoy.

What resources and support are offered to UND’s online MAcc students? Which have you found the most valuable?

There are a lot of resources available to online students — like career fairs and workshops — but unfortunately, I haven’t taken advantage of too many. However, I’ve found the access I have to my professors and Student Success Coach very valuable. We talk frequently via phone or email, and I’m able to get support and all my questions answered. I’ve even stayed in touch with one of my professors, who I’ve had for three courses now, after class wrapped up. We talk well, and she’s a great resource.

Do you feel prepared for your next steps based on your experience in the program?

I do. My husband is active duty military, so I would really like to be able to get a position on one of the military posts for accounting or finance, and a lot of them require a master’s. I’m ready for something that aligns with my accountancy degree to put it in practice.

Is there a specific course, resource or event that makes you feel most confident and ready to succeed in the field?

The courses are structured so some are a continuation from a previous course, while others are completely different than anything you’ve learned already. I’m down to my final few courses, but one of the more recent courses I completed — Accounting Information for Decision and Control — really helped bring everything together that we’ve learned, so far. If I decide to pursue a career specifically in accounting, I think that would be the most helpful course because it teaches you different ways managers or top leadership, like CEOs and investors, make decisions based on accounting information provided. That course was probably one of the most useful and relevant to putting into practice.

Another course I enjoyed was Accounting Systems because it was so practical — and fun! It’s a seven-week course that was split into 3- to 4-week sections. In the first half of the course, the professor gave us a project booklet with blank invoices, checks, inventory sheets, etc., and we worked through the project ourselves as if we were running different positions in the company with hard copy accounting. During the second half of the course, we worked the same project and company, but instead, using all the Microsoft programs via computer. It was interesting to see how business could work if you only had paper trails vs. a computer system.

3 dogs laying next to each otherWhat advice do you have for students who are new to the accounting field?

Don’t be nervous. You truly don’t need any accounting knowledge or background to come into UND’s Fundamentals track. You learn a LOT of the basics in the first two courses, so it’s very important that you really grasp and understand what you learn in those two. Those prepare you with the fundamentals like balance sheets, income statements, and things like that, which are the base for everything else you’ll learn in the program.

Additionally, you don’t have to be a math whiz to be good at accounting. I’m decent at math, but I was nervous at first because it had been so long since I’d taken a math class, and I associated accounting with heavy math, but most of this is basic math, not calculus or something like that.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share with potential students for succeeding in an online format?

Switching from face-to-face to online learning can be daunting and challenging, but the tool that’s helped me the most is getting some kind of planner. I wasn’t a planner person previously, but in online asynchronous courses you’re not constantly being reminded by a professor what’s due, so it’s so helpful to plan out your due dates. For me, being able to see written out timelines helped the transition.

Time management is key. Because courses are so fast-paced and short, do NOT fall behind! Stay on top of the work as much as you can because it gets overwhelming if you’re not putting in a couple hours per day of school. I know some students can only do schoolwork on weekends or only certain days because they have work and other life commitments, and if that works for them, great, but for me, being able to do a little every day cuts down on being overwhelmed with these shorter courses.

Also, utilize your professors and student support — that’s what they’re there for. If you have questions, reach out ASAP. They’ve all been great! Even if you’re stuck on a problem, a lot of the professors will do their best to support and guide you so you can figure it out yourself.

Would you recommend this program to other students? Why?

Yes! I think even if it’s not you are hesitant about doing an online program vs. face-to-face on campus, this program is worth exploring. It has been manageable and easy enough to build my life around it. Even if you’re working part- or full-time, I think you can do it The structure of the courses is easy to plan around, and there hasn’t been one course that’s been overloaded with assignments and materials to where you wouldn’t be able to get it all done.

Also, even though it’s fast-paced and the 7-week courses are shorter than most semesters would be, it’s nice knowing you can complete your degree so quickly if you stick with it. I feel good knowing I have only three more classes until I’m done —  and it’s only taken 1.5 years to get my master’s.

I also think the professors really make the program top-notch. I’ve enjoyed the connections I’ve made with some of the professors and how helpful they’ve been. They’ve been there to help me and make sure I succeed. In some of my face-to-face courses in the past, I had some professors who just threw the material out there and if you got it cool, if not, sorry. But it’s different at UND, they’re such helpful, great quality professors.