By Dr. Lorraine Lee, CPA, MSA Director and DHG Faculty Fellow for Cameron School of Business (this post originally appeared on WilmingtonBiz.com on March 1, 2019)
The UNCW Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) degree is one of the most popular graduate programs in the Cameron School of Business.
The MSA program not only prepares students for the CPA exam, but also instills students with a broad accounting knowledge base and solid technical abilities. The program boasts a 95-percent placement rate and cultivates a strong linkage between academic theory and the practical applications of accounting.
The MSA program attracts students from all walks of life. Below, we introduce you to three of our students with unique backgrounds.
Michelle Heupel, Marine spouse and mother
Although the majority of MSA students are looking for opportunities in public accounting, we also have students who are interested in working in industry or government.
Michelle Heupel is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota. As the spouse of a U.S. Marine, Michelle has traveled throughout the world with her husband. Most recently, the Heupels were stationed in Okinawa, Japan for three years.
When the Heupels found out Nick’s next duty station would be Camp Lejeune, Michelle knew she wanted to continue her education in accounting.
“Even though I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and relevant work experience, the lack of a master’s degree has hindered my ability to compete for higher-level positions,” Michelle said. “I was excited to find UNCW’s program and have been pleased with the quality of instruction and the friendliness of the students in the program.”
The variety of job opportunities and the work flexibility in accounting are especially important to Michelle, as she is also the mother of two young children, ages 4 and 2.
“It is sometimes hard to balance school and family but the support at UNCW has been great. I would highly recommend the program to others. I am confident that the MSA degree will help me find employment wherever we find ourselves stationed,” she said.
Mackenzie Brown & Brad Rudiger, engineers-turned-accountants
The MSA program is not just for those with an undergraduate accounting degree. Students without an accounting background take prerequisite courses in the summer in preparation for the official start of the program in August.
Mackenzie Brown and Brad Rudiger both completed their undergraduate education at N.C. State in chemical engineering. Mackenzie realized towards the end of her junior year that chemical engineering wasn’t quite the right fit for her.
“As I learned more about the career paths in chemical engineering from alumni, I was drawn to those that pursued finance careers and MBAs,” she said. “It was during my senior design project, where we were exposed to basic accounting principles, that I became hooked on accounting. I loved learning about accounting and applying it to real world problems. I realized that I wanted to be a CPA.”
Brad Rudiger worked for several years as an engineer before he decided to transition to an accounting career.
“I always found myself working in the financial roles in my engineering and business positions, so it seemed like a natural progression to go into accounting. I had a tough time deciding between an MBA and an MSA, but ultimately I decided the MSA would help me achieve my goals more quickly,” he said.
Both Mackenzie and Brad have accepted full-time positions with public accounting firms that will begin after their graduation this summer.
Michelle, Brad and Mackenzie are all pleased with their decision to attend UNCW.
“I appreciate the cooperative atmosphere that exists among the students,” Mackenzie said. “Compared to other programs and schools, the students here really try to help each other and ensure that we all succeed in our classes and job-recruiting. There's not much competition among students, which leads to more collaboration and better learning.”
The MSA program admits a new class every year with a class size of about 55-65 students. The priority application deadline is May 1.