Academics

Inside the Track: Financial Reporting & Assurance by Dean Brooks (M.S. in Accounting ’21)

Current M.S. in Accounting student Dean Brooks walks through how the Financial Reporting & Assurance track prepares students with highly valued technical accounting skills and opens doors to a wide variety of industries.

Last semester, I wrote about why I chose to pursue the Financial Reporting & Assurance (FRA) track in the M.S. in Accounting Program. This time, I want to dive a little deeper and clue you into the technical accounting skills you’ll gain and the potential career opportunities that could result from being a student in this track.

First, track-specific courses taken during the spring semester allow students to home into particular skills required for work in their respective area of interest. The FRA track offers a wide variety of these courses, from Accounting Analytics and Fraud to Banking and Accounting for Derivatives. Outside of these courses, students also have their choice of electives in topics like Cybersecurity, Environmentally Sustainable Development, Real Estate Investments, Financial Trading, and so much more. The MSA program offers a plethora of course topics that allow students to get an individualized experience catered to their academic and professional interests.

Technical Accounting Knowledge & Skill Development

Much like any other field, accounting jobs require applicants and current employees to have and maintain a certain set of skills that are important to succeeding in the industry. In our program here at McIntire, we have many classes that focus on these particular skills, but with an added emphasis on data and analytics, as the future of accounting will rely heavily on IT systems as technology advances. A 2021 study from the American Institute of CPAs and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy reported that over 50% of U.S. Accounting programs fail to incorporate enough data and analytics, technology, and IT systems training for accounting graduates. Our program at McIntire aims to focus on this downfall and help prepare us for our future careers in accounting.

One FRA track course that has helped me gain valuable, real-world skills is Professor Eric Negangard’s Accounting Analytics and Fraud course, which is actually my favorite class. This course explores the powerful use of analytics within accounting to uncover fraudulent activities and serves to increase students’ digital acumen, data literacy, and data analysis skills. We solve complex accounting problems by identifying, extracting, cleaning, importing, and analyzing relevant data. Perhaps most importantly, students also leave the course with the ability to organize, package, and communicate their findings to others.

Another opportunity FRA students have to train their technical accounting skills is in the Corporate Financial Reporting course, which focuses on financial reporting specifically from a financial statement user’s perspective. The class explores how external analysts use financial information to value firms, how to alter the perception of firm value through financial reporting, and how different interpretations of accounting rules can impact one’s perception of value. For a prospective accountant, this class really helps develop critical skills like an understanding of the financial reporting process and how different parties use financial information in various ways.

While all of the courses offered in the MSA program contribute to developing the ability to deal with real-world accounting problems, these two courses provide specific examples about how the program trains us to have to a technical and relevant skillset that will allow us to find success in our accounting careers.

FRA Track Career Opportunities

Due to the skills and knowledge we gain in our courses, the FRA track provides pathways for students to enter a number of accounting-related careers outside of the traditional public accounting audit or tax roles commonly associated with the field. While it is common for students to begin in public accounting, once students have gained experience in these roles, they are able to transition to public or private industry roles in areas like internal audit, financial planning and analysis, revenue accounting, and more. The FRA track has many alumni who have moved into a number of business areas like risk advisory, consulting, transaction advisory, banking, corporate finance, cybersecurity, IT audit, and even government accounting positions as a result of the skills developed during their time at McIntire.

To understand what other types of roles a master’s degree in accounting can lead to, I asked Professor Negangard about his thoughts on the topic and how he’s seen students move in and out of different industries.

“The best thing about a master’s degree in accounting is the number of doors it opens for our students,” Negangard said. “Opportunities are limitless for professionals who understand accounting, have good communication skills, and can use technology to solve complex problems.”

Professor Negangard’s personal experience as a former public accountant who transitioned into academia has helped him relay this to his students.

“During my seven years in KPMG’s Forensic Services group, nothing was more valuable than being able to understand accounting and solve these complex issues, and everything we do here at McIntire focuses on building our students’ skills in these core areas,” Negangard said.

Overall, a master’s in Accounting and specialization in Financial Reporting & Assurance allows students to pursue their passions within the field in a number of industries and roles. The demand is higher than ever for competent accountants and business leaders with an eye on the future of the field, and the FRA track certainly provides an unmatched base to begin building the skills that will help shape the trajectory of your career down the road.

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