The M.S. in Accounting at the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce offers two tracks: Financial Reporting & Assurance and Tax Consulting. On average, about 25-30% of students choose Tax Consulting, which is sometimes misunderstood as not as much fun and more technical. I’m here to set the record straight. The Tax Consulting track is not only extremely interesting, but also opens a lot of career opportunities down the road.
Here are just three reasons the Tax Consulting track could be a good fit for you:
- Plentiful and diverse career opportunities
- Work-life balance
- Community at McIntire
Plentiful and Diverse Career Opportunities
You can pursue many paths as a tax professional, and the Tax Consulting track does a great job providing exposure to just about everything. The track offers classes like Taxation of Partnerships and Flow-Through Entities, specializing in taxes for specific types of entities like partnerships and corporations, to Taxes & Business Strategy, which looks at how and why tax laws are enacted. Students learn the foundational laws, information, and software necessary to be a successful tax professional, whether you are a consultant at a professional services firm or a tax law court adviser.
Many young accounting professionals aspire to work at a “Big Four” accounting firm. The Big Four offer diversified programs to new hires so that you can find the industry or field of service that suits you best, rather than just jumping into a specialized group right away. Once you find a niche in tax that you’re passionate about, you can choose to focus in a particular area like mergers and acquisitions, tax software, investment banking, real estate, or compensation. Moreover, with the new tax laws associated with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, you will be learning and mastering the code alongside veteran tax professionals, gaining exposure to senior managers and partners.
The long-term opportunities in tax are endless. Many CFOs in the United States are former tax and accounting professionals because of the company insight and expertise they gain from certain industries throughout their career. In a recent study from Spencer Stuart, a leading global executive search and leadership consulting firm, identified that 36% of Fortune 500 CFOs are CPAs.
I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t tax professionals have to work long hours and have little time off?” The answer is yes, partially. During busy season, usually from January to April, tax professionals work hard and have longer hours than most. However, when busy season comes to an end, the schedule frees up tremendously. There is still plenty of work to do year-round, but the freedom of a tax professional outside of busy season is unmatched in the accounting profession. You will have freedom to take time off for vacations and personal time.
With a career in auditing, your schedule could be up to four days of travel per week depending on client location. As a tax professional, you can expect a consistent schedule and established routine. This factor is one of the main reasons, aside from being interested in the intricacies of the tax code, that I personally chose the Tax Consulting track.
Community at McIntire
A third reason to consider the Tax Consulting track is because of its tight-knit community. Although all classes in the M.S. in Accounting Program are small, tax classes are even smaller, so you get personalized attention from faculty and get to know your classmates really well. The classes themselves are intellectually challenging and stimulating, and our tax faculty are well-connected with industry and firms. They are invested in student success and truly care about your education. I even had one professor who personally offered to reach out to one of her connections because she knew I wanted to work in a particular city. They also bring many guest speakers into the classroom, many of whom are partners at Big Four accounting firms.
For the first time in my academic career, I actually enjoy getting together with my classmates to work through challenging concepts and problem sets. Contributing to and finishing assignments with our group create a phenomenal sense of accomplishment and togetherness that can’t be replicated. From conversations with alumni of the M.S. in Accounting Program, this is a common theme for those who studied tax. It is a truly exciting and fruitful experience to be a part of such a special collection of people who want to see one another succeed. These are just a few reasons why the Tax Consulting track is amazing.