October 16, 2018

Education

3 Controllers Reveal Tactics, and, Yes, How They Make Time, to Keep Learning

In about four months, the accounting and finance conference circuit will start to heat up, as professionals from companies of all shapes and sizes will descend upon hotels and convention centers in cities across the United States to peruse vendor exhibits, hobnob with their friends and peers at networking events, and attend workshops and seminars. […]

5 Unique Master’s Programs That Might Not Be on Your Radar

Please enjoy this sponsored content brought to you by our graduate university partners. Googling online graduate programs can be a nightmare. First off, it will take a while to trudge through 25 million search results. Ugh… ain’t nobody got time for that. Why is it so hard to find a worthwhile program to make all […]

How Can People Tell If You’re Sincere?

You’ve heard the old joke: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying? It’s easy. Their lips are moving. Social prospecting within the HNW community is all about making the right connections. But there’s bad news: Because so many people have tried cultivating wealthy and successful people as business prospects and done it badly, […]

How to Advance Your Accounting Career With These Overlooked Soft Skills

This sponsored content is brought to you by the University of Scranton. We've heard about the importance of soft skills for years — to the point of nausea. But, hey, they matter. In the end, no one wants to work with someone who is rude, needy, or can’t think for themselves — even if he […]

Sponsored: Should You Get a MAcc on Your Way to the CPA?

CPA at the end of your name? Powerful and sexy. MAcc? The verdict is still out. It can be expensive and honestly, accounting firms don’t require a graduate degree to make partner. You might think, “What’s the point?” If you already scored a high paying first job out of undergraduate without a MAcc, is it […]

Good News, Future Accounting Firm Interns: You Have Options

Vault, the ratings and rankings website, released a slew of internship rankings yesterday including one for accounting firms. The most notable thing about the accounting-only list of 15 firms is that no Big 4 firms appear in the top 5. The best showing is PwC at #8, followed by KPMG at 9. Vault's rankings has […]

Sponsored: Questions to Ask an Interviewer

Please enjoy this sponsored content brought to you by our graduate university partners. Interviews are one of those things that you either walk into with a little moxy or you walk in terrified. Ideally, you've done your research and know almost everything and anything about the firm and the person you're interviewing with, your resume […]

Sponsored: The Evolving Accounting Education: A Conversation with University of Scranton Professor Doug Boyle

This is sponsored content brought to you by The University of Scranton. Today we welcome Dr. Douglas Boyle, Chairperson and Associate Professor of the University of Scranton Accounting Department. He has over 25 years experience in leadership, finance, operations, corporate governance and business turnarounds while serving in executive positions for a variety of startup, mid-market […]

A Few Law Schools Come to Their Senses, Start Offering Accounting Boot Camps

“Lawyers, because they work for and with business people, think that they’re good at business. Lawyers are NOT good business people.”

Master’s in Accounting Grads Becoming More Popular With Employers

According to the latest AICPA Trends in the Supply of Accounting Graduates and the Demand for Public Accounting Recruits report (2013), demand for accounting grads is up. But we knew that. Also according to the report, demand for accounting grads with master's degrees is up. We knew that as well but did we know just […]

Is College That Guy on eBay Who Never Paid For the Crap You Sent Him?

Recently, I spoke to a group of accounting students in a Cost II class. One woman asked me a great question: “Do you regret anything?” The question came up after I told the students that I left my last employer (PwC) to start my own company after working only a few years. While I don’t […]

DeVry Responds To the Keller Guy With “Useless Degree”

I have to give them credit here for monitoring the conversation about their “product” and reacting accordingly by emailing me. DeVry representatives did not demand I remove (especially “Big 4 Veteran”‘s) negative comments about Keller degrees, instead they told me about a program they’ve launched with CareerBuilder to help their graduates find jobs. As far as marketing tactics go, I have to say that’s the adult way to do it.

We’d like to see Hopelessly Frustrated get in touch with them, see what they can offer and then turn around to give us a detailed report of his experience and, more importantly, tell us if he actually gets a job.

Here’s what they had to say:

In March 2011, DeVry University and its Keller Graduate School of Management took competitive job searching to the next level and launched a first-of-its-kind, personalized career services program for its students in conjunction with CareerBuilder, the global leader in human capital solutions. Through the Keller Career Services program, eligible Keller students have access to a dedicated team of career experts – strategists, writers and coaches – for a high-level, personalized approach to career development. This underscores our mission of helping students unlock their full potential and reach their career and life goals.

Eligible Keller students are individually assigned a Career Strategist to mentor them through an intense 90-day career search that encompasses assisting with establishing goals and expectations to customizing a personalized job search strategy. Participating Keller students have access to a Certified Career Coach for live mentorship on various topics such as interviewing techniques, career path planning, networking and workplace etiquette. Additionally, a CareerBuilder professional writer assists these students in the creation of career-related materials, such as keyword-rich resumes and cover letters to help them stand out among job applicants. The new Keller Career Services program also offers eligible Keller students access to a comprehensive online portal with relevant articles, resources and webinars.

I hope we are able to get “Hopelessly Frustrated” signed up for the personalized CareerBuilder coaching. It’s a unique program that we believe will help put our students on the path of career success.

Read more about their career services here.

Tax Lawyer Pursuing CPA Needs to Know: Take More Classes or Cram with a Review Course?

Whenever the news is slow and you kids are quiet (I won’t expect to hear from many of you until after April but just in case, here’s my email), there’s always CPAnet to troll and here’s a good one: tax and estate lawyer pursuing the CPA wants to know if he should take a bunch of classes to prepare for the CPA exam before jumping in.

I promise to let him down gently.


Here’s the question:

I am a tax and estate planning lawyer and have been taking accounting and tax classes at UCLA extension in preparation for the CPA exam.

Since tax season is hell, I would only have the second half of the year to take a revthe exam. That means June – November (& January) 2011, 2012, or beyond. I am unsure whether I should continue taking classes such as (auditing, internal auditing, nonprofit accounting, etc.) for the next year and a half until June 2012… or whether I should just sign up for a review session this June after I take Intermediate Accting 3 & (maybe) Managerial accounting this spring quarter AND study my butt off in the review course.

Without sounding too much like an ass, I’m a fairly smart guy (top 20% in top 20 law school, passed bar exam) and a very hard worker. I have a lot of information under my belt but it may not all be relevant.

So, do I absolutely need to take the 2 auditing classes offered at UCLAX or the nonprofit accounting class or can I cram the review course material? I have heard that advanced accounting is unnecessary and I learned consolidations in Business Enterprise Taxation. I don’t know econ, but I looked at some practice questions and I got most of them. Supply and demand doesn’t seem too complex.

Am I crazy to skip these classes and rely on the review course? My experience with the bar exam was that the courses in law school were more likely to confuse than to help.

First off, my professional experience has been that whenever someone says “I’m a fairly smart guy” or “I’m no idiot” or “at least I am not like the senior who probably ate paint chips as a kid,” that candidate almost always has difficulty getting through the CPA exam. Why? Because brains have nothing to do with it, stupid.

I often explain it to candidates like this: the CPA exam simply tests your left brain’s ability to process and spit out information exactly as it was put in. We don’t need creative right-brained accountants (especially now that Lehman is kaput) so the more right brain spin your brain tries to put on CPA exam information, the worse you’ll do on the exam. “Smarts” don’t factor in, it is merely a test of entry-level knowledge and we all know you don’t have to be smart to be an entry level accountant. Hell, you don’t have to be smart to be a partner either but we’ll let that one go.

That being said, it’s important to recognize that there are two distinct universes: the CPA exam universe and the real universe. In CPA exam world, all cash flows use the direct method, accountants are always ethical bordering on neurotic and there is always a very clear answer for any query. In the real world, we use indirect to save time, have trouble passing the open-book ethics exam after four tries and sometimes have to choose the “best answer” without knowing for sure that it’s right.

While more education is almost always a good idea (unless you’re already over-burdened with student loan debt to begin with), it may be easier for our future candidate above to simply jump into a good CPA exam review and call it a day. Some of the cheaper review programs will only build on the candidate’s knowledge base or help familiarize with the exam’s format and content but the pricier, higher-quality reviews also provide the information the candidate needs to pass, regardless of their experience level.

Remember: because the CPA exam tests entry-level knowledge, you aren’t expected to be a expert in anything. Not everyone takes advanced accounting and while some of those topics are tested, any decent review course can give you just enough to scrape by if you aren’t familiar with those areas. Don’t waste your time taking extra classes unless that is a personal goal of yours and, if so, either do it before or after but not during your CPA exam attempt.

The Scam That Accounting Education Isn’t

I complain about a lot of things in the industry that I probably should be grateful for instead: Sarbanes-Oxley, the PCAOB, the IASB and the AICPA Board of Examiners… the list goes on. I’ve done my fair share of complaining about accounting education as well (even offending some by implying professors were cheap and lazy though I certainly did not mean all or even most accounting professors) but I think it’s safe for us to say that we have it a lot better than some other professions. Like law.


Check out Critical Mass on the law school scam (the entire thing is recommended reading):

Over the years, I wrote countless law school recommendations and very, very few grad school recommendations. I never worried too much about the ones who were law school-bound–the students I worried about were the ones who decided to go for PhD’s in English. Grad school in the humanities is a scam. There are simply no jobs, tenure is disappearing, the culture of the academic humanities is pathological, and the sort of academic life grad students hope to acquire is ceasing to exist. But law school, I felt, was a safe bet–and would also offer its own variety of intellectual thrill. Who wouldn’t want to learn to think with the precision, capaciousness, originality, and historical-mindedness that the law requires? It’s beautiful and powerful and very, very useful. When done well, it’s applied scholarship, scholarship with decisiveness and impact.

But bubbles are bursting everywhere we look these days. Last month I posted about how Loyola’s law school is cooking transcripts to give its grads a leg up on the job market. Now comes word of widespread cynical profiteering at the expense of students’ futures.

Accounting education doesn’t appear to be so neatly packaged as the debt factory that law is, nor does it seem to produce too many rats to fit in our particular race. Sure, there are plenty of unequipped idiots who get through (shouldn’t professors exist to weed these out if education is, in fact, meant for the greater good of our economy and not just to create more perpetual debt?) but that happens in any profession, no more in accounting than elsewhere as far as I can tell.

Do a Google search on the law school scam and you’ll get pages upon pages of results. Do one on the accounting education scam and you’ll get one question about DeVry’s accounting program (I won’t say a word). Does that mean accounting is any better off?

Somewhere between this depressing March 2010 report from CPA Trendlines on how actual firms held up through the recession in 2009, and the rosy reports from hijacked media like CNN about how great the industry is handling this mess, lies the truth. Some areas are better than others and some accounting grads just don’t deserve a job. With the firms lining up the lawyers instead of the staff, you can bet the days of skating your way through 2 years of easy work experience are pretty much over.

Hopefully this means fewer unqualified future accountants being pushed through accounting programs that will soon be starving for qualified educators and better prospects for the bright, talented future CPAs who actually deserve a job in this industry.

Career Options: Masters in Taxation, MBA or CPA Exam?

We’re often asked which way to go when it comes to pursuing additional education or tackling the CPA exam before moving on to grad school (if you’re in one of those awesome 120 states or somehow loaded up on units after graduation) so let’s see if we can offer some insight on the matter.

Reader question is as follows:

Hello, I am looking at a public accounting career in tax and will graduate with a bachelors and 150 credit hours after 4 years. I am wondering if there are benefits to a Masters in Tax or MBA versus entering the workforce.


Funny you ask, have you checked with Going Concern contributor Joe Kristan? He can tell you all about taking the Masters route AND tax work so hit him up (you’re welcome, Joe) for more insight. “I think if you have good grades otherwise, a M.Acc can give you an edge in getting hired, especially with big firms. For me it gave me a huge edge – my M.Acc beats my B.A. in history with CPA firms everywhere,” he told us awhile back. Somehow we’re not surprised to hear his history degree wasn’t useful once it came time to find a sweet number-crunching gig.

Back to School
I think your payoff depends on what exactly you’re trying to get out of your career and which direction you plan to go. An MBA offers you flexibility (which comes in handy when the economy is in the can and jobs are scarce) while a Masters would keep you tethered to whatever path you take but either would make you more desirable to employers – depending on who you are applying with.

Keep in mind that for some employers, an over-qualified, well-educated candidate also means someone who will need to be paid more and could (in a normal job environment completely unlike the one we’ve got going now) easily find a better, more well-paid position with any number of employers. People may be desperate nowadays but the economy will recover eventually and employers have to consider that when deciding to offer you a position.

The Real World – CPA
The advantage to heading straight into the workforce out of school is that you can get the CPA exam out of the way and then, should you want to, choose to head back after you have been licensed and pursue a Masters. The advantage to this is that you are less of a threat to employers once you actually have your CPA since they don’t have to worry about you leaving after 2 years to the day once you have your experience requirement met so you can leverage your additional education to land a better job. Then again, the advantage to staying in school – for the moment, at least, job market being what it is – is that you can buy yourself some time, make yourself more of an asset and hope that things look better from a hiring standpoint once you have completed your Masters program. Many are taking this route simply because they’re afraid of the job market (for good reason).

Under the getting your CPA now route, you have the advantage of getting to know your profession before committing to a specialty – that means being able to change your mind before you’ve given up another year of your life and the costs associated with a Masters (or MBA) program. I don’t want to talk you out of what you’ve decided to be when you grow up but there’s something to be said for real-world experience (and I’m sure more than one old timer can tell you they wish they knew what they were getting into before they did).

Keep in mind also that if you’re looking at an MBA, work experience may be a requirement for admission so you might not have a choice in the matter. Take the CPA/work route and come back later when you have a little experience under your belt and more insight to allow you to make an informed decision on where you want to go with your life.

Have You Considered Becoming an Accounting Professor?

We already did a series on credentials for accountants if you’re looking for add letters to the end of your name but if you’re not looking to take that route or looking to get out of it after you’ve gotten some experience under your belt, you may want to look into a PhD in accounting. We’re serious.

The Accounting Doctoral Scholars program, a joint project by 70+ accounting firms, several state societies of CPAs and the AICPA, wants to help you. $15 million has gone into their efforts to fill a much-needed gap in accounting education and if you don’t quite fit in to the cube, you may be one of the chosen ones.


That means they have money to help you through school so get in touch with them if this sounds like you:

If you are someone who loves learning, generating new ideas, and setting your own agenda you may want to seriously consider pursuing a doctoral degree in accounting. While all academicians can make their mark in a field, those with a Ph.D. in accounting have the opportunity to influence both accounting education and public accounting practice.

The ADS Program will provide funding for selected individuals, with recent meaningful experience in public accounting in auditing and tax, to help them make a permanent transition to teaching and research at the university level. The funding will support application to doctoral programs in accounting and also provide a stipend of $30,000 per year for up to four years of enrollment to individuals committed to teaching and research in auditing and tax—the areas of greatest need—upon completion of their doctorates. The Program will support its third class of Accounting Doctoral Scholars for Fall 2011.

No one can tell you how far to take your education. We know CPAs with PhDs who love teaching and we know teachers who have their CPA and don’t realize they practice education. It is difficult enough to decide between a Masters in Accounting and an MBA (or so we hear), how many of you are really thinking of a PhD?

If just one of you are, hopefully this helps. We’d be curious to hear what career paths you plan to take if you are and always defer you to friend of Going Concern Professor David Albrecht if you want to talk to someone who does it for a living.

This does mean you’ll actually have to teach.

Last year, AccountingWEB identified 5 reasons why we’re so desperate for PhDs in Accounting including the lifestyle change required to pursue one and the economic cost of funding it.

The New York Society of CPAs’ CPA Journal gets into what is required and what to expect if you take this route here and you can check out earlier posts that GC did on the pros and cons of the career move into academia. Good luck!

For-profit Higher Ed. Moving on Non-profits Could Reap Taxpayer Funds

Prostitution in the industry is nothing new, you have to take what you can get even if that means devouring struggling non-profits or whoring yourself out for otherwise wholly un-big-business-like busywork (I’m staring directly at you, Big 4).

Daniel Golden of Bloomberg reported yesterday that “ITT Educational Services Inc. paid $20.8 million for debt-ridden Daniel Webster College in June. In return, the company obtained an academic credential that may generate a taxpayer-funded bonanza worth as much as $1 billion.”


With education little more than a vague directive to “teach” at this point (except for the chosen few professors who put their hearts into it, of course), schools are being encouraged to “convert a school to a charter school or a similar education management organization, a for-profit or nonprofit organization that provides ‘whole school operation’ services” (via firedoglake) in California districts where schools have fallen way short of federal education “guidelines”. Hint: that’s when you know it is bad. Firedoglake implies that recent protests and riots by California state university students facing severe class cuts and hikes in tuition are directly related to the push to privatize education.

In the case of small but favored not-for-profit educational institutions, they don’t have much of a choice but to end up recycled into the ITTs and the DeVrys if they can’t make it. For-profit education is the way to go, ask DeVry. They didn’t make $369 million last year for nothing.

Said Karen Pletz in the Kansas City Star, “the not-for-profit mission, whether it be in education, health care, or other human services, is really about values and is intrinsically focused in bettering lives and community.” Not to carelessly go name-calling but what can a for-profit, publicly-traded institution possibly know about that mandate or education for that matter? Its first loyalty is to the shareholders, not the students.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in December of 2009 WSJ pointed to a Department of Education report revealing a 21% default rate in the first three years for those coming from for-profit institutions like ITT over there gobbling up broke Daniel Webster College. For-profit education institutions are accused of aggressive loan procedures to get students through their programs; meanwhile non-profit private education remains picky about who they’ll take and for good reason. It’s a sweeping generalization to say default rates somehow correlate with the quality of instruction but one can assume loans are easier to pay off when the debtor is not just gainfully employed but paid well.

Company’s purchase of N.H. college could earn it $1 billion [Bloomberg via Boston Globe]