To shed some light on the Financial Reporting and Assurance (FA&R) track in the M.S. in Accounting program at UVA, we’ve included a closer look at the core classes for both the fall and spring semesters, as well as a few tips for those considering joining this track.
Based on overall statistics from the industry, the FR&A track is made up of a larger number of students as compared to tax. Although people may think they’re just one in the crowd when it comes to specializing in FR&A, I can assure you the unique functionality of the courses and professors in the MSA program set our students apart from others when entering the work force. The core curriculum is made up of courses that are offered specifically in the fall and spring semesters as an effort to keep students within this track together so they can learn more about working as a team and continue to excel in group assignments.
One of the best things about coming into the MSA program is that your schedule is done for you for fall semester. As the first day of class approaches, a survey is sent out for you to choose your electives outside of the core courses offered. An average schedule is 15 hours of course work per semester (either 5 3-credit courses or 4 3-credit courses and 2 1.5-credit courses).
Of the courses listed in this blog, Accounting Policy and Data Management are required for the fall and Special Topics and Forensic Accounting for the spring. Our classes are scheduled for us for the beginning of the year due in large part to our designated “grad groups” that we use throughout the semester. When spring semester comes around, you’re in charge of making your schedule. One catch to the whole process is that FA&R track students are required to take a tax course during their year in the program which will serve as one of their electives either in the fall or spring.
Financial Statement Analysis and Valuation
As clearly defined by its title, this course is structured around learning to identify key components of financial statements and takes a deeper dive into the valuation models used in the market. You will get hands-on experience working with well-known companies’ financial statements and learn about various analysis techniques required to convey specified information to a superior on your team.
Although defined as one of the tougher courses in the fall semester, the majority of students in the MSA ’17 class will agree that this was one of their favorite courses. This is due largely in part to Professor Craig Lefanowicz, who always makes an effort to ensure his students are understanding the “why” behind what they’re analyzing. This course dives into new standards that are being put into regulation as well as widely known accounting practices (i.e. pensions, leases, impairments, etc.) that students are expected to encounter on a regular basis in their new careers. This course prepares students to have a holistic understanding of what career field they’re in, rather than just the mechanics of crunching numbers.
Data Management and Analytics
This course serves as the prerequisite to the Forensic Accounting course offered in the spring semester. Data Management covers software unfamiliar to students such as Tableau, SQL, and Microsoft Access so that they’re able to become confident in utilizing these tools when entering the workforce. This class is technologically heavy and provides students the opportunity to learn about the phenomenon of data analytics before they begin further studies in the Forensic Accounting course.
Special Topics in Financial Reporting
This is a requirement for all students in the program, not just FR&A track. In this course we dive deeper into an analyst’s perspective of various accounting issues and their effects on a company’s financial statements. Students studying for the FAR CPA exam, will agree that this course follows suit to what is covered in their study materials. By touching on each financial reporting topic that we’ve covered since our early accounting days, this course truly helps students bring what they’ve learned over the years full circle to see how it all connects in the business world.
Auditing, Assurance and Ethics
This course was personally one of my favorites due to Professor Roger Martin’s structure of learning. We mainly discussed current issues in the auditing world, as well as the various regulatory bodies that we could potentially encounter during our careers. We stayed away from the nitty-gritty of auditing (i.e. assertions and objectives) and focused more on hot button issues and debating various view points on how different types of audits should be conducted.
Banking and Derivatives
This course specializes in helping students understand an overview of the banking system and introduces them to how the economics of derivatives function and how we account for them. Also known as very challenging, students who took this course this semester were happy with their choice to enroll because by the end they felt more confident about these two extremely complex topics for when they begin their jobs in the upcoming months.
As discussed in my previous blog on data analytics, our Forensic Accounting course really gets into the motivations and explanations for understanding popular fraud schemes and current events. This course allows students to work with software such as IDEA and Concordance Desktop, both unfamiliar to the majority of students, for specializing their skills in substantive testing and electronic discovery within an audit.
As you can see, the FR&A students are offered a multitude of course options based on their preferences and interests. Certain courses are structured for students who specifically plan on entering a specialized field and others are great at casting a wide net and touching on topics that all of us should be well rehearsed in. Overall, regardless of the track you choose in the MSA program at UVA, you will be well prepared for whatever you may encounter in your future workplace.