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The Next Wave: Accounting Students Weigh in on the Profession

We talked to five Virginia accounting professors about the state of accounting education in the September/October issue of Disclosures. We thought it would be instructive to let the students have their say, too. Here’s what seven Virginia accounting students — representing public and private schools, undergraduates, graduate students and doctoral candidates — had to say about their educational and professional accomplishments, challenges and goals.

Picture of Selmira Avdic

Selmira Avdic
Undergraduate student, University of Richmond, Richmond
2016–2017 VSCPA Undergraduate Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

SA: I chose to pursue a degree in accounting because I wanted an education that would allow me to succeed at about anything in the business world. Accounting encompasses all of the other elements found in a business administration degree, seeing as how it is the basic language of business. I also chose to pursue accounting because of the numerous opportunities available within and the different doors it opens for a successful future.

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

SA: My career goal is to work with the same accounting firm for an extended period of time and to become an industry specialist. I would like to make partner at a larger accounting firm and eventually, open up a local firm of my own.

VSCPA: Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

SA: Yes, my goal is to complete all four parts of the CPA Exam during the summer after graduation.

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

SA: The biggest challenge I have faced in my accounting education was having to learn that accounting is not always black or white, but that it is more often a gray area in regards to accounting rules, policies and procedures. It took me a while to realize that there is not always going to be a textbook answer to every client problem, but that the guidance available alongside my college education, as well as on-the-job experience, will help me to present viable solutions to clients.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

SA: My proudest accomplishment was when I was offered internships with the Big Four Accounting firms and two regional accounting firms.

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

SA: Network with as many accounting professionals as you can in order to learn more about the industry and company culture. This will really confirm whether or not you truly want to join the accounting profession.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

SA: This scholarship is a reiteration to myself that hard work and determination pay off. This scholarship is an outside investment in myself and my future, and that for me is one of the greatest rewards. In this highly competitive academic environment, it goes a long way to know that someone has seen great potential in me and is willing to invest their time and money into me as a student.

Picture of Caitlin Bare

Caitlin Bare
Graduate student, College of William & Mary, Williamsburg
2016–2017 Thomas M. Berry Jr. Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

CB: I feel as if my attraction to the accounting field has arisen inevitably as a result of my own self-discovery. I have always had an interest in the business field, but my character traits, including conscientiousness, attention to detail, integrity and organization, have naturally drawn me to the accounting side.

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

CB: I am attending the College of William & Mary to pursue my master's in accounting. I plan to specialize in auditing and enter the public sector. I believe this next step in my career will expand my knowledge of the profession and provide a greater depth of understanding so I can be prepared to the best of my ability when I begin working.

VSCPA: Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

CB: Yes, I plan on sitting for the CPA Exam upon completion of my master's degree.

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

CB: I think trying to decide what avenue to pursue within accounting has probably been the most challenging part for me. There are so many different paths available, so trying to decide which sector might be the best fit for me as I continue my education has been somewhat difficult.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

CB: Graduating this past spring at the top of my undergraduate accounting department while simultaneously remaining involved in numerous activities on campus and picking up a minor in economics, which requires a much different mindset, is my proudest accomplishment. I worked really hard, and it is exciting to start crossing off some of my goals.

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

CB: I would encourage prospective students to just delve into all of the possibilities that an accounting degree can offer and try to apply for the VSCPA Leaders' Institute. It turned out to be an eye-opening experience for me because I did not realize how vast the industry truly is.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

CB: This scholarship is helping me further my education and expand my career opportunities in the accounting industry. I am grateful for the support of the VSCPA.

Picture of Jason Jones

Jason Jones
Graduate student, University of Virginia, Charlottesville
2016–2017 Yount, Hyde & Barbour Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

JJ: Pursuing accounting was something I feel I fell into. After two semesters of intermediate accounting, I knew I was hooked. Every class I've taken makes me more excited to learn more.

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

JJ: I interned this past summer in tax with Ernst & Young in McLean. I'm hoping to start in a large firm full-time and continue to develop my tax knowledge as I consider where I want accounting to take me.

VSCPA: Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

JJ: I plan to sit for all four sections of the exam during the spring semester of my upcoming master’s program.

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

JJ: My undergraduate curriculum heavily emphasized group assignments. At first, it was difficult to realize where people's strengths were and where people needed more help. Now, though, I can see that the tight deadlines and being forced to rely on others was beneficial as I start my career.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

JJ: I'd say that I'm the most proud of three things: graduating from the University of Virginia, taking the risk and moving to a new (and bigger) city alone, and continuing my accounting education in graduate school.

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

JJ: Realize that the biggest factor in your success as an accounting student and (hopefully) future accounting professional is your ability to work in teams. Make sure you learn how you best work with others, where your weaknesses lie, and always remember to show appreciation for team members who go above and beyond on a project.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

JJ: It means that I can focus more on studying for the CPA without worrying about having to get a second job. It will allow me to dedicate more of myself to being a teaching assistant for my university's introductory accounting courses. Additionally, it validates all of the work I've put into my accounting education thus far and inspires me to continue to work hard both in and out of the classroom.

Picture of Ed Lynch

Ed Lynch, CPA
Doctoral student, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
2016–2017 VSCPA Ph.D. Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

EL: Currently, I’m teaching auditing at VCU and finishing up the final year on my Ph.D. My career goal is to be a professor of accounting (preferably here in Virginia).

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

EL: Undergraduate course work and the CPA Exam were very demanding. However, my biggest challenge is doctoral study. Studying at the doctoral level has been extraordinarily challenging and strenuous.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

EL: In addition to earning the VSCPA scholarship:

  • My CPA license

  • Passing the Comprehensive Exam for my Ph.D.

  • Teaching Auditing at VCU

  • Publishing my first book on Amazon, My Freshman Year in College (Editor’s note: Ed was too modest to include the link, so we added it for him.)

  • Cofounding Richmond Cars & Coffee

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

EL: One of the best decisions I ever made was to spend my first summer after graduation studying and sitting for the CPA Exam. Many of my colleagues put it off and it became a painful long process that often took them several years to finish.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

EL: Doctoral study is a demanding year round effort and provides little opportunity to earn supplemental income. Therefore, I support myself with personal savings and loans. The VSCPA scholarship significantly lightens my financial burden and is deeply appreciated. 

Picture of Miranda Melton

Miranda Melton
Undergraduate student, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg
2017–2017 Verus Financial Partners Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

MM: I fell in love with the challenge that accounting brings to the table. Each day I get to encounter new obstacles that allow me to be creative with numbers and gain further knowledge of the law. This opportunity to constantly grow and learn makes accounting a very attractive field to pursue.

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

MM: I want to, one day, be in a leadership role within a firm. I love helping others grow and seeing success within a group bring people together.

VSCPA: Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

MM: Yes, I actually plan on sitting the last semester of my senior year, as I have a light class load and I want to take the opportunity to get ahead in my career.

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

MM: My biggest challenge is my desire for perfection. I have had to realize that there is a healthy balance between efficiency and effectiveness and that being a couple cents off is not the end of the world most of the time.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

MM: I received a VSCPA scholarship and I was chosen to attend the VSCPA Leaders’ Institute.

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

MM: Don't give up. Don't quit studying. Never lose your passion.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

MM: It has given me the opportunity to focus more on my success and less on how I will be able to finance said success.

Picture of Brooke Miller

Brooke Miller
Undergraduate student, Averett University, Danville
2016–2017 VSCPA Undergraduate Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

BM: I decided to pursue a degree in accounting because of the endless amount of opportunities the field provides and because of the interest I have in the area. After having a few accounting classes in college, I took a liking to the material and looked forward to attending future lectures. As the old saying goes, “accounting is the language of business.” Being able to understand how businesses “communicate” is extremely important and something I have developed a passion for.

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

BM: At this point in life, I don’t have anything set in stone. I know I’d like to be in an upper-level management position, whether that be a partner at a firm, a director or some other senior business role. I’ve had the chance to do a few different kinds of internships, and I’m really getting a feel for what kind of business I like best.

VSCPA: Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

BM: Yes, I do plan to sit for the CPA Exam. I will be eligible to sit for the exam once I graduate with my bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2017.

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

BM: The biggest challenge in my accounting education has been balancing classes and work. However, it has also been highly beneficial to be able to apply what I have learned through my courses to my internships.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

BM: One of my proudest accomplishments is getting a summer internship with KPMG in Washington, D.C. I am also very proud of the fact that I have a 4.0 GPA while double majoring in accounting and management science.

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

BM: I would tell prospective accounting students to 100% go for it! Not only does a degree in accounting provide countless opportunities, but it is also a very rewarding profession. While there will be challenges, with hard work and perseverance it will definitely pay off. I would also recommend the students to apply for internships, whether it be over the summer or during the school year.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

BM: My VSCPA scholarship has allowed me to further my education and personal growth. I am very honored that VSCPA has confidence in my abilities and wishes to help me along the way. I am very appreciative of the VSCPA’s generosity.

Picture of Bradlee Rogers

Bradlee Rogers
Undergraduate student, Radford University, Radford
2016–2017 H. Burton Bates Jr. Scholarship recipient
Expected graduation date: May 2017

VSCPA: Why did you decide to pursue a degree in accounting?

BR: As a curious young child, I asked many questions and persisted in obtaining the answers to them. As a teenager, I always enjoyed watching such television shows as “24,” “CSI” and “American Greed” and playing the investigator, gathering clues and solving the mysteries. As a new college student, I discovered that I really enjoyed the business field, and in particular accounting while taking college courses such as Financial and Managerial Accounting, Economics, Calculus, and Business Law. With my analytical mind, problem-solving ability, attention to detail, love of challenges and working with people, accounting in fraud examination and other fraud-related fields interests me and is a logical fit to combine my natural abilities with my interests.    

VSCPA: What are your career goals?

BR: I aspire to become a top investigative auditor/accountant with CPA, CFE and CFF credentials.  In order to achieve my goal, I am pursuing a B.B.A. in Accounting and networking and have memberships in professional associations such as the VSCPA, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) in order to enhance my knowledge in the career field. I plan to pursue a Master of Accountancy in order to satisfy the additional 30 credit hour requirement toward becoming a CPA and anticipate taking electives in forensic accounting.

I had the honor of interning with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in the Risk Management Division this summer where I gained valuable work experience and learned about risk management with respect to the U.S. banking system and further insight into the banking crisis of a few years ago.

VSCPA: Do you plan to sit for the CPA Exam?

BR: Yes, I plan to sit for the CPA exam shortly after graduation. I anticipate planning, reviewing, and preparing through vigorous study to take and pass the CPA as well as the CFE and CFF exams. I anticipate expanding my knowledge in fraud-related areas through taking courses, attending seminars, conferences and networking with others in the anti-fraud profession.

VSCPA: What has been the biggest challenge in your accounting education?

BR: I believe that taking the Intermediate Accounting course was my biggest challenge due to the difficulty and variety of topics.

VSCPA: What are your proudest accomplishments?

BR: My proudest accomplishments have been being held in the highest regard by my accounting professors due to my dedication in the classroom, and being formally recognized by the VSCPA, the AICPA, the Virginia Government Finance Officers Association, the National Society of Accountants and Radford University for my academic work as well as my community and campus involvement.

VSCPA: What advice would you offer prospective accounting students?

BR: In order to excel, you must be really disciplined and motivated and able to balance competing priorities and love problem-solving and challenges. Never lose your inquisitive nature and attention to detail and desire to network, work in teams and learn more because there is so much to master.

VSCPA: What has your VSCPA scholarship meant for you as you complete your education?

BR: By receiving the VSCPA scholarship, I will be able to focus more on my education. This financial generosity will permit me to progress closer to my goal of completing my degree. I am extremely grateful to VSCPA for supporting the academic ambitions and aspirations of accounting students like myself.

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