Webinar: Online Master of Accountancy Information Session

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Dr. Matthew Notbohm, CPA (IL), PhD, program director for the University of North Dakota’s online Master of Accountancy, joins an enrollment advisor to provide an overview of the program.


Diego Villasenor: Good afternoon everyone. And thank you for joining us today for our Master of Accountancy Information Session here with the University of North Dakota. My name is Diego Villasenor and I will be hosting today’s information session. And I’m also joined today by Dr. Matthew Notbohm. To give you a brief idea of what we’re going to do today, before we jump right into it is we’re going to take the next 15 or 20 minutes or so to give you an idea about who we are here at the university, a little bit more about us as a school. And then provide with you some basic structural information about our program, what it entails and what we generally look for.

Throughout the time that we have today, we encourage you to ask questions by submitting them in your chat bar. We will be taking your questions as they come in. And at the end, we are going to do a Q&A with Dr. Notbohm and he will respond to your questions. And then of course, we’ll take any more questions that arise during that time period. So again, I want to thank you all for joining us today, and we will go ahead and get started.

So a little bit about me. As I mentioned, my name is Diego Villasenor and I am part of a small group of advisors here with the University of North Dakota, who are dedicated to helping you find out if this program is a good fit for you with your research, answering your questions, and also helping you through the application process and help you prepare for the start of classes. So myself and the team that I work with provide a vital support role in your early research. And you are welcome to reach out to us at any point to continue the conversation today and address any questions that might come up after the fact.

I, myself, I’m coming from over a half a decade of experience in higher education. And really for me, it’s a deeply personal matter where I get a great deal of enjoyment out of assisting people and furthering their education and pursuing their dreams. And I’m very happy to have everyone here doing their research and joining us to learn a little bit more about our school and our program. But our guest of honor today is Dr. Matthew Notbohm CPA, PhD, and current program director of our Master of Accountancy program.

Dr. Notbohm is currently an Associate Professor here at the university with us, the UND Accountancy Legacy Professor. And as mentioned, he is also the Director of our Master of Accountancy program. He’s coming from almost two decades experience teaching accounting in higher education, a year of experience practicing in public accounting and has done a great deal of research currently published 11 accounting research articles.

Dr. Notbohm earned his PhD in accounting from Florida State University back in 2010. He earned his master’s of accounting science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2001 and a bachelor’s of science in business administration with an accounting from Southeast Missouri State University back in 2000.

In addition to his work here at the university with us, he also serves as the program chair on the leadership team of the Midwest Region Meeting of the American Accounting Association. Dr. Notbohm, thank you very much for joining us for today’s information session. Is there anything you would like to say before we get started?

Dr. Matthew Notbohm: Yeah. Thank you, Diego. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy that the interested prospective students would come and participate in this presentation. Certainly feel free to text your questions as they come up and we’ll have an opportunity at the end of the presentation for me to respond to all of those. So I look forward to hearing what your questions are. Thanks for coming.

Diego Villasenor: Thank you so much, Dr. Notbohm. So let’s go ahead and get started then. So probably the best way for us to start is to give you a little bit more of an idea about who we are as a school. So we here at the University of North Dakota have been around for a very long time. Founded back in 1883, which actually puts us older than the actual state of North Dakota by almost a decade. We’re celebrating a 135 years then of helping make the leaders and pioneers of tomorrow.

In our 135 years of being around as a public state school, we’re happy to share that we have earned our AACSB accreditation. We have been ranked in the top 30 in best online schools, 128 overall for public schools and 78 of the top four-year colleges of adult learners. These are all for us, different ways of saying that really when it comes to the quality of the education that we provide our students and our commitment to you and your success as a student, you can be confident in us.

We’ve been around for some time. We have lots of practice with us. So why would people look at pursuing a master’s in accountancy program? Well, there’s a couple of reasons for it. The first one is for a lot of people who pursue this program normally want to pursue their CPA license. And there is some amount of prestige associated with that. In fact, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy quotes that, “A CPA license is the accounting professions highest standard of competence, a symbol of achievement and assurance of quality.”

So there’s a wonderful personal goal to have achieved as a mark of your own success and opens up many potential doors. Putting aside the prestige associated with it, there is a growing need for public accountants, for people with this kind of degree. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6% growth for employment of accountants and auditors. Now we work with numbers so what’s the context of that 6%? Well, we have good news. The 6% quoted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is well above most of the industry averages in other professions out there. And so we are seeing a real need for people with this kind of education, especially when it allows you to potentially set yourself out from the crowd.

So the career outlook is bright for those pursuing a master’s in accountancy. What’s in it for you? Well, there’s a couple of things we can talk about there as well. When a student goes to school with us here, we do partner them with a student success coach. This is someone who is dedicated to their success and growth as a student from day one of class, all the way through graduation. They are there to serve as a point of contact for you, help you with your schedule and help ensure that you’re on track with graduation.

In addition to just being a helpful ear, if you’re struggling, or if you are elated, they’re there to form that relationship with you to make sure that you have that support as if you were physically attending classes on campus with us. You also gain access to our incredibly experienced faculty. We gave you some idea of Dr. Notbohm’s research and his credentials as well. And he’s one of several professors here in the program, which you would have access to as well.

In addition, you would be participating in our network of successful accounting professionals, enjoying the benefits of our cutting edge curriculum and helping to prepare you for a CPA examination. A CPA examination always varies on a state by state basis. Generally speaking, we meet the needs for it, but you always want to double-check with your state to see if they have any special requirements needed to sit for that examination.

So a brief overview of what our program looks like then. So this is fully a distance learning program. We are not going to require you to come up here to Grand Forks, North Dakota for any particular reason in order to graduate from the program. But of course upon graduation, you’ll be invited to come and walk in the ceremony with us. But all of your coursework, all of your readings, all of your assignments, you’ll be able to do from the comfort of your home or your place of study.

We have 10 courses done across 30 semester credit hours, which is broken up into five semesters. Time wise that is about 20 months to complete the program. So about two years, if you want it to round up and you were sitting at dinner with the family and 20 months just wasn’t quite sitting with them after a couple of glasses of wine.

In addition, we do provide the accounting courses required to sit for the CPA exam. The disclaimer, again, being, this is true for many of, not most states, but you always want to double-check your particular state requirements to see if they require anything further beyond our curriculum. And if you wanted to give myself or any of the other advisors a ring, we’d be happy to look at those state requirements with you and help you see if this will be a good fit.

Our program offers two tracks. The first track is our fundamentals track. This track was really designed for those who are coming from an educational background in an area other than accounting. One of the things that we are very proud of here is that we are able to offer this fundamentals track within the context of our master’s degree, without requiring specific prerequisites from your undergraduate degree or a series of bridge courses to be completed before you are able to enter the program here with us.

So this is a wonderful thing to look at for those who are looking at a career change, as we will be able to provide you with the foundations needed in our curriculum to then build upon your later graduate level work. If you are coming from an educational background in accounting, we do need to make sure that you’ve taken a couple of the coursework, including full series of the intermediate accounting courses, auditing, taxation and cost and managerial accounting.

And as you’ll see in just a minute, our practitioners track is going to expand upon the educational you’ve already received, further deepen it, and potentially expose you to a couple other areas of accounting that you may not have covered in your undergraduate degree already. So if we turn to the curriculum, you’re going to see that the core courses, which is going to be shared between those doing either the fundamentals and the practitioners track will be those core 15 credits, including taxation, business law, accounting information for decision and control, et cetera.

You’ll see in our fundamentals track, the core courses of financial accounting one, two, and three. And of course your accounting systems and audit and assurance services. And for those doing the practitioners track, you’re going to see a course in business intelligence, accounting for governments and nonprofits, accounting ethics and leadership, IT governance and audit, et cetera. So we have really a full fleshed out curriculum here that as mentioned, we keep on the cutting edge to really help you grow as a student, as a professional and as a practitioner as well.

So what do we look for from our applicants? Well, it’s actually fairly straightforward. We’re going to require, of course, a completed online application. As part of that application, we will need to see your bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution. We will need copies of transcripts from every single school that you have attended to make sure we were able to see the full picture of your educational history. This will include the one community class in underwater basket weaving that you may have potentially taken before you started any other courses.

We will also need references or letters of recommendation, a statement of goals, a $35 non-refundable application fee, as well as completion of the GMAT or the GRE and we do have potential waivers available for those meeting a set series of criteria. Probably the most important thing for those looking at a master’s of accountancy program is what are the numbers? So currently we are at $836 per credit hour for both in state and out of state students. This is going to include the $71 per credit hour fee. This is going to be dispersed across the 30 semester credit hours our program entails. And so at the end of the day, you’re looking at an investment of $25,080 exclusive of books.

Books will depend on where you buy them from. Some places are more expensive than others. The type of finance options that we normally see our graduate students use is a FAFSA is always a very popular one. In addition to potential McNair Scholars, employer tuition reimbursement, GI bill, post-9/11, and military tuition assistance, private student loans, as well as self-financing as well for those who have the means and the availability. A lot of times we see a mix of as many of those apply as possible from our graduate students as well.

And I hope that gives everyone at least the basic overview of what our program entails, what the structure and the length looks like as well as what the curriculum involves. As mentioned, we’re going to go ahead and turn to Dr. Notbohm now for questions that have come in and for him to speak a little bit more. So Dr. Notbohm, why don’t we go ahead and take it away?

Dr. Matthew Notbohm: Yeah, thanks Diego. I did get some questions earlier in my email inbox. One of those questions was, “Some people view online education as being lesser than ground campus study. As director of our accountancy program, can you speak to what you think makes our online courses just as good, if not better, in some instances than ground study?” Let me, first of all, say, I totally disagree with the idea that our online classes would be any bit less rigorous, less quality in any way than our ground campus courses.

University of North Dakota has a long history of graduating very successful graduates, both from our bachelor’s and our master’s of accountancy programs. Our graduates have gone on to become at the highest levels of the profession. We hold both our on campus as well as our online students to very high standards, similar standards between whether it’s on campus or online courses. Either way, it’s the same standard.

The big strength that online courses provide is flexibility. And I’m going to say flexibility in two different ways. One, flexibility for the students. Obviously online students don’t want to have to come to the campus, that’s why they’re taking these online courses. And so it’s a strength for the students to be able to learn in a more flexible way. They can learn like Diego mentioned earlier from their home, their place of study, wherever that might be. If it’s their local library, they can learn in the way that they want to learn rather than in a way that campus courses dictate that they learn.

The other side of flexibility that I believe gives online courses and specifically our online math courses a real advantage is the ability to have a flexible delivery mechanism. Campus courses are limited in how we deliver the content. Professors have to come to class. We can basically use PowerPoint and we have to solve the problems on the board and kind of explain things. But the campus setting really dictates how the content is going to be delivered.

It’s very different in an online environment. We can still record ourselves solving a problem on a board. We could still record with PowerPoint, but we also have this flexibility where we can create interactive learning tools. And we do that quite a bit, actually in every online master of accountancy course here at University of North Dakota, we have these interactive media type learning tools that we use to deliver content in a unique way. Ways that students can experience the information ways that students can experience the knowledge, instead of just simply listening to the professor deliberate or seeing the professor doing a problem on the board.

So I would actually argue that our online master of accountancy courses have a real strength, both the flexibility of the ways that the students can learn, but also flexibility in the ways that the faculty member can deliver the content. Another question that I received earlier was, “For those who are looking to do the fundamentals track and don’t come from a background in accounting, what would you like them to know about how the program will prepare them to be successful?”

And I’d say our program does a very good job preparing fundamentals track students, people who do not have a background in accounting to be successful both on the CPA exam, as well as to be successful in practice. Our coursework gives these students the core knowledge that they need to be able to perform well on the CPA exam, as well as that core knowledge that they’re going to need as an entry-level professional.

Additionally beyond just having it that knowledge, which is incredibly important. Our program also has an excellent way of getting students into jobs. So not just preparing students with the knowledge, but also getting them set up with jobs, with internships, full-time jobs. We have an excellent recruiter network. These recruiters come to campus, they hold events on campus, they come to campus to recruit our students, to interview our students. We hold career fairs here on campus. And we regularly invite our online students, both fundamentals, as well as practitioner track students to come to campus to engage with these professionals, these experienced professionals who are generally UND grads.

But this is a great way for our students, both online and physical students to get to know these professionals, to network with them, which is ultimately the way that we get students into the job pipeline. And so our online students come to campus, they interact with these professionals. They also go with us on other networking type activities. As a matter of fact, in a few weeks, we’re going to have our annual spring accounting field trip to Minneapolis. We have a couple of our online students will be coming to participate with that event.

Basically, it’s a very short, condensed window where the students will get the opportunity to tour the facilities of, I think it’s eight or maybe 10 different public accounting firms networking with these professionals in a very rapid sequence. So very quickly getting to know these different firms and the professionals that work at these firms, but we’ll have online students coming to that as well as many, many face-to-face students as well, but it’s open to all of our students and we really, really strongly encourage our online students to participate with us.

So anyway, I would say our program does a very good job of preparing our fundamentals track students for both that knowledge as well as access to the jobs so that they can really do well on CPA exam, getting the job and do well on that first job. I should also mention though and we make this very clear in the orientation materials when new fundamentals track students come into the program. You are expected to have a basic understanding of introductory financial accounting, which you do not have to take in a formal class. It’s not like a bridge class that we require. We do have an online bootcamp course that will get you that basic core knowledge.

And there’s material about that through the orientation process, the online orientation process you go through before you start into the courses. So you can do all of that in a very short window of time, get that core knowledge so that you’re prepared for the very first fundamentals track courses. Additionally, a basic knowledge of Excel is also expected, and there’s also an online bootcamp course that can rapidly get you that basic knowledge of Excel.

So you don’t have to have very sophisticated knowledge of Excel, but a basic familiarity with how to use Excel, how to set up spreadsheets in Excel, that sort of information. But like I said, both those two areas you can address both of those two through some online bootcamp courses that are completed easily and in a very short period of time.

The third question that I have is, “What classes or class singular do you find those doing the practitioners track enjoy the most and why is that?” I’ve heard very good things about three different courses, but I think all of our courses are great. But I’ve heard very good things about three different courses, accounting 501, which is a seminar in accounting. In this course, students are learning about doing standards research, research in the financial reporting standards.

They’re learning how to find answers in the codification to these questions, these accounting questions that are just not cut and dry. Not every accounting question is cut and dry. Many of them have kind of shades of gray where you could see the response going one way or another way. Well, we need to get some kind of direction and be able to document why we chose that direction. Why did we choose option A versus option B? Well, we need to be able to get some support for it and have that support lead us in a certain direction.

So we know, “Yeah, we’re going to choose option A, but not because we flipped a coin, but because there was some professional literature that guided us in that direction, and we can cite that professional literature, it’s authoritative, and it supports why we chose that particular option.” This is particularly important for the CPA exam and for practice. So anyway, students had very good things to say about accounting 501.

Accounting 509, I’m a little bit biased. Maybe I hear only the positive things and not the negative things. This is my course. I teach accounting 509, but students repeatedly tell me about how this is an exciting course. It presents a different side of accounting than what they’ve experienced in other accounting courses. People that come in from the practitioners track have had other cost managerial accounting courses at other universities or in some cases, our own university.

And they don’t hear a lot of the material, the side of managerial accounting that is delivered in this course. And so they find it exciting. I find it exciting. It’s a really fun class to be able to teach. And a lot of the students that I’ve taught the past have commented that this is very applicable in their professional lives. Another course that I think students have really benefited from and they’ve commented very favorably about it is ISBC 510, the business intelligence class.

This class is a data analytics course. It’s getting students thinking about how to solve business problems using big data and how to use visualization tools in particular. So students are exposed to using Tableau. Tableau is kind of the industry standard with visualization right now. And students learn how to, how to do some basic visualizations in Tableau and very, very helpful for them in their professional lives. So students have commented very positively about ISBC 510.

Those are three different courses that I think are very useful to practitioner track students. But again, all the classes, all 10 of them are very useful. Those three I’ve heard very good things about. So are there any other questions that I can answer for any of our participants? Any other questions?

Diego Villasenor: It looks like of that is the amount of questions that we received right now. So thank you, Dr. Notbohm. For our attendees, if you have any questions after the fact, you are welcome to reach on out to myself directly to or to any of the other advisors here. And I want to thank you all for attending today.

I’m also partial to the business intelligence course, Dr. Notbohm since that is currently the subject of my second master’s degree. So very interesting field, very interesting. We are currently taking applications for the upcoming summer term. You can see listed here, the upcoming deadline of March 15th for priority. A final deadline of May 1st with our summer classes starting May 18th.

Again, you are welcome to reach out to myself or any of the other advisors in the future. We’ll be very happy to chat with you and thank you for joining us today, Dr. Notbohm and thank you everyone for joining us. Do you have any parting words, Dr. Notbohm?

Dr. Matthew Notbohm: Just thank you everybody for coming and great job, Diego. And I look forward to meeting each of you as you’re going through my course and the other courses in the master of accountancy program. Let me know if you have any questions.

Diego Villasenor: All right. Thank you so much. I hope everyone has a wonderful afternoon and thank you again for attending.