One of the first questions I considered when applying to McIntire’s M.S. in Accounting Program was which track to apply to. For those interested in the program, there are two tracks: Financial Reporting & Assurance (FRA) and Tax Consulting. While both tracks share a number of classes during the course of the program, the tracks offer students the opportunity to take courses that are specific to the skills required for their career goals and interests. Both tracks offer interesting courses and contribute to a successful career in the accounting field.
Personally, I ended up choosing FRA for a few reasons: In addition to my pure interest in the course subjects, I felt that the courses offered in this track aligned most closely with my future goals. Before I entered graduate school, I completed two tax courses and one tax internship, which helped me decide that I personally enjoyed the content of my audit courses and internal audit internships over my experiences in tax. While not every student has the same opportunity to experiment in both areas, it is common for students to have taken courses in both subjects, so that may help prospective students decide which track would fit them best.
After thinking back to my experiences with each class and internship, I also felt that looking at the offered courses would be a helpful basis to determine which track I would prefer. It is important to remember that the entire cohort shares several general courses over the fall and spring semesters, but by looking at the elective courses that are offered, I knew that my interests were more aligned with the course offerings from the FRA.
I also found that after three internships and many accounting courses, my career alignment leans closer to FRA-related areas. For students asking themselves which track might align most closely to your own career goals, it is important to consider the pros and cons of working in each line of service within public accounting. For Tax, I like the prospects of really adding value to a company or firm by finding intricate details and rules in the tax code that will ultimately save the company loads of money. A con for me was the more specialized and individualized work, as well as the extended busy season from January to May.
For FRA-related roles, I liked the aspects of increased group work, travel for client work, more direct client exposure, and the shorter-term assignments and work you complete in an FRA role. Although I personally found many pros in FRA-related roles, there are also negatives that come with shorter-term assignments, like stressful deadlines, long working hours, and the potential for client delays that may be out of your control while working to complete an audit before the deadline. Overall, creating a pro and con list can help students decide which track feels best to them after considering their own professional and personal interests.
No matter which track students choose, M.S. in Accounting students here at McIntire will walk away with a ton of useful information, more refined skills, and a knowledge base required for a successful career in whichever field they choose. As another option, students also have a chance to reconsider their track during the fall semester and change if they want to. These options allow students to customize their graduate school experience to get the most out of each class and learn material most closely related to their career goals.