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Before they’ve even graduated, a majority of University of Redlands accounting majors already have secured jobs.

In the weeks prior to Commencement 2014, 82 percent of the seniors who wanted to enter the accounting field had accepted offers, and 60 percent of juniors had internships lined up with firms.

The accounting department does its students a great service, with intensive classes and job fairs that get them ready for the working world. Students have found employment at the four national firms Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers, in addition to mid-level and smaller organizations.

“We teach a course in May that all prospective accounting majors take, and it’s a busy 12 hours a day,” Prof. Laurie Mitchell, director of the accounting program, said. “In addition to learning a lot about accounting, they go through multiple rounds of resume writing, cover letters, and mock interviews with other students and me. We also have a young alumni panel that comes in and talks about what their jobs are like, and they meet with recruiters.”

This course helps the students decide if they are well-suited for accounting.

“You don’t want people figuring it out halfway through their junior year that it isn’t for them,” Mitchell said. “We want them to know by the end of their sophomore year.”

During their junior and senior years, students host at least 30 events each year, under Mitchell’s guidance. They bring to campus alumni, recruiters, or people of interest in the accounting world. It’s a way for students to enhance their communication skills, while using the knowledge they receive in the classroom.

“A study came out some years ago on the future of the accounting profession, and it say that while CPAs do need a technical education, they found that they were lacking an ability to communicate effectively orally and on paper,” Mitchell said. “There was too much memorization of the material and not enough understanding. We believe a liberal arts foundation and our approach, with lots of writing and presentations, produces students that are really ready to meet those challenges.”

The program has grown over the past several years; in 2014, more than 25 accounting majors graduated, a huge increase from the two that received their diplomas about 10 years ago.

“We have 41 sophomores taking the May class this year,” Mitchell said. “They won’t all end up majors, but I suspect out of 41 we might have 30 something. I think even one that may not want to stay in public accounting for their entire career will understand that it’s a wonderful start to business. You gain a deep understanding of finance and business in general, and you can utilize that in whatever you do next.”

Frank Press ’14 is one of the newest accounting major graduates. He plans on finishing the CPA exams in July and August, and then starting his position at Deloitte in investment management audit.

“I originally became an accounting major to sharpen up on my accounting so that I could go into investment banking,” he said. “Investment bankers need to be very strong with their accounting as you build financial models and create valuation models for companies relentlessly, so you must know your way around the financial statements extremely well.”

Press decided it would make sense to go into the CPA field now, and will consider finance later.

“The accounting major I picked up later by far prepared me the best for what I will be doing following Redlands,” he said. “There is such a demand for strong accountants and the CPA structure understands how important it is to make sure accountants are fully prepared to handle the job, hence the very low pass rate on the four CPA exams the first time through. I think because accounting above all demanded so much reading and then applying the reading in practice, which all takes extensive time and note taking if you really want to be good, taught me a lot as well about time management and really helped me to stay organized. I also noticed my mental math, or ‘quick math,’ improved.”

Marie Kenna ’13 was not an accounting major, but rather a double major in business administration and economics. An accounting course with Mitchell made a lasting impact on her, and she ended up as an analyst in the mortgage banking department at JPMorgan Chase.

“Her course Principles of Financial Accounting, in addition to my experience with the Redlands Student Investment Fund, which I and others joined at her suggestion, are the reasons I took an interest in the field I am now in,” she said. “These experiences provided me with a firm foundation on the nature of banking, accounting, and finance, and as a result, I’ve ended up in a position I’ve thoroughly enjoyed since day one. My first year with the firm has been one of much successful learning and professional development, which, in addition to working with such great people in a dynamic environment, has been nothing short of rewarding.”

Posted: May 2, 2014
Written by: Catherine Garcia


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