UAB Accounting Success Stories & Job Outcomes Webinar

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Maggie Zmija:

Hello everyone and welcome to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Online Bachelor of Science in Accounting live webcast. My name is Maggie and I will be the moderator for today’s webinar. I just want to speak to a couple of logistic items real quick. As you can see on the screen, this webcast is in broadcast-only mode, in order to minimize background noise, so please ensure that your speakers are not muted. If you have any questions throughout the presentation, please do not hesitate to communicate with us through the Q&A box at the left side of your screen. We will be answering questions at the end of the presentation and we will also be sending out a link of the recording after the webinar, so please look out for that in the next few days.

As you can see by today’s agenda, we’ll be discussing many topics ranging from job outcomes and success stories to UAB online accounting program details and admission requirements. Most importantly, we have a few guest speakers here with us today who I’ll introduce shortly. And as previously mentioned, we’ll be answering your questions at the end of the presentation, so please use the Q&A box on the left side of your screen throughout the webinar to submit your questions.

Now at this time, I’d like to introduce our panelists. The first panelist we were going to have was Dr. Arline Savage but she was unable to join us today, so next we have Dr. Rick Johnston who is on the line with us who is the undergrad accounting program director. And we also have Cindy Wyatt who is a special guest who is actually a UAB accounting alum. And then finally, we have Joanne Wallace who is our enrollment advisor for the online accounting program.

To kick off the presentation, I will hand it over to Rick to go ahead and begin discussing a brief overview of our online program. Rick, go ahead.

Rick Johnston:

Sure. Obviously one of the benefits of an online program is its flexibility. So really, the length of the program is a function of how many courses you take over time and when you choose to do them. We generally have courses available in all three semesters and so you can take courses every semester until you get it … we’ll talk about the credit requirements here briefly in the next slide. I think that one of the big differentiating attributes of our program relative to others and as you can imagine, accounting programs are highly similar because of the nature of the topic, but recently we’ve instituted two paths, which is relatively unique. And what it does is it allows people who are interested in becoming a certified public accountant versus those that are not to pursue their individual interests. I think that’s one of the big differentiating attributes of our particular program that you will not see at other schools.

As I said, the program is 100% online and we’ve been certified by lots of different organizations. You can see some of the pictures down at the bottom of the slide there. We’ve been listed in some of the rankings of US News as well as various accreditation bodies have certified our program, so those are good quality attributes.

As I alluded to earlier, here’s the program. You can see that probably like most undergraduate programs, the requirement for our degree is 120 hours. It’s pretty specified. There’s not a lot of opportunity in our program for electives and in particular, that’s common at a lot of universities nowadays because of general education requirements. So, you can see in the lower level core courses there you have requirements to take a wide breadth of courses to complete your degree. You’ll see that we have a lot of accounting major courses and because of all those courses in auditing, tax, accounting, financial, and managerial, that takes up a lot of your credit hours as well. So this is pretty standard. My guess would be that if you were to compare our program to other accounting programs, you would see that they’re pretty similar basically.

All right. I think the big appeal of accounting is really the opportunities that are afforded to you upon graduation and as the slide notes here, kind of jokingly, 360 degrees of possibility, the opportunities for an accounting graduate, I think, are very diverse depending on your interests and your success in the program, if you will. So basically, as an example, as we’ve said, the one track that we have here is for CPAs and so many of those graduates go to work for public accounting firms. So these are the Price Waterhouse Coopers of the world, the KPMGs, the Deloittes, and many regional and local firms as well. And one of the primary things that they do is provide audit opinions to companies either public or otherwise and so that’s a starting point for many of our graduates. You work there for a few years, often. You get lots of experience. You get the opportunity to see various different organizations and it’s really an opportunity to invest in yourself and also to experience different industries and decide where you want to go from there.

Many people go directly into corporations, so for example Regions Bank is headquartered here in Birmingham. Lots of our students go to work directly for them after graduation and obviously, lots of other business entities hire accounting graduates as well. The government is also a big employer of accounting graduates. Some of our students have placed in the FBI for example, but obviously there’s lots of accounting requirements in government levels, both state and federal.

If you’re interested in charities, not for profit organizations, whatever you want to call them, obviously they, like corporations, have needs for accounting employees and lots of students go into those types of organizations as well. Many people also become entrepreneurs. Accounting is a good background for starting your own business because of the training that you get in understanding the importance of performance and profitability and financing and those kind of things.

So you can see here other types of jobs. We talked about the CPA firm. Many accountants go on to become chief financial officers in companies. So they oversee the finance and accounting functions. Many people go into operations, become the COO, the chief operating officer or the chief executive officer. There’s lots of other in between opportunities. There’s a big demand nowadays for IT specialists in the auditing functions, both internally and externally. So the public accounting firms are looking for people that have an interest in both accounting auditing and IT. Internal auditing is a big focus for many of our students. It’s a great opportunity, again, instead of working for a public accounting firm, you work in a corporation and you get to see all the different facets of the business from an auditing perspective.

Management accounting is different than financial accounting in the sense that the focus tends to be on helping to manage the business, to track the cost internally as opposed to reporting externally. And then there’s the emphasis of tax, so people that are interested in tax often have a background in accounting and then specialize in tax and so you can operate at various levels of being an expert in tax.

So, a big field for growth now and Cindy may talk about this as well as forensic accounting, so there’s lots of … and our students that went to the FBI are involved in a lot of this … is that it’s a combination of auditing and accounting and investigation, so it’s often organizations hire experts to investigate fraud, for example. You often are involved in litigation, so you bring your expertise in accounting to those in auditing to those specific tasks.

As I said at the beginning, I think that a lot of people are interested in careers in accounting, I think, for two reasons. Starting pay tends to be good. I think that most jobs for our best graduates are in the high 50s, low 60s these days. So to make $60,000 fresh out of college is very attractive. It does come with a cost, though. Those students are our high-performing students. They’re very hard-working and they have a great deal of promise. The other thing that I think the accounting is attractive as we tried to allude to with the careers, is that you have a lot of flexibility. You have a lot of opportunity to continue to evolve throughout your career, so you may start in a public accounting firm fresh out of college, but 10 years out, 15 years out, you can very easily shift gears and take the training you’ve had in accounting to do lots of different things and a lot of people find that very attractive.

All right. So, here’s a little fun slide. You may not know this but Mick Jagger apparently studied accounting. Some of you may not be old enough to know who Mick Jagger is, but there’s lots of people listed on here that have a history of accounting studies in their background. All right, let me turn it over to Cindy. As was said at the beginning of this presentation, Cindy is one of our great success stories here. She was a student here and has done very well for herself and she’ll tell you what her story is.

Rick Johnston:

Thank you, Rick. I’m going to break this into a couple … As I tell my story, I’m going to break it into two parts. One is how I got my degree. And secondarily it’s what I’ve done with my degree. And so, just to give you a little bit of background, I’m the youngest of nine children. There’s was no college fund. I was born with more disadvantages than advantages and when I originally got out of high school, I tried college and I dropped out. So, I did go back in my early 20s, but since I was already married by then, I had to find a college where they offered flexibility because I needed to work so I could eat. So, many of you may be nontraditional students and in all respects, I was as well.

When I picked UAB, I needed a university that I wanted to get a quality education but I had the flexibility of the class schedules and they had classes at night. They offered classes on the weekend. They offered classes in the a.m. I’ve taken them all. I’ve taken Saturday, Sunday, early bird, late, once a week, the short mini-mester, and I took it and I just started and I did it one class at a time, one assignment at a time, one day at a time, and got through. I’m excited now that you guys also have the option … see, we barely had computers when I graduated, just to date myself … but you have the option now to do it online where you’re not having to drive and you can use that time to go at your own pace but still get the same university experience education. So it’s very exciting.

When I went into accounting, I was somewhat ignorant on what I was going to do with it. When you’re hungry, all you know is you want to eat and so I knew I needed a job. I knew I needed to make money. But I never had a clue of the potential of an accounting degree when I graduated one from UAB. Initially, I got an offer with … Back then it was a big six firm, Coopers and Lybrand, now that’s PWC, one of the big four. If you think about it, they hire from every Ivy League school and they also hire from UAB. So, we’ve placed a lot of students in all the big four. So, lots of opportunity, just as much as you went anywhere else, you can get a job in any area of accounting. So, I did. I got that offer. Great experience and after about three busy seasons and you work hard, I went into … One of my clients recommended me for a controller position with about a billion and a half dollar bank and I was the youngest officer. This is with an accounting degree at UAB, never realizing where you’re going to go, so I went from being an external auditor consulting internal controls at Coopers and Lybrand to actually being over closing the books with a large public entity. So, got experience sitting behind a desk, closing monthly close down and SEC reporting. Totally different experiences.

Somewhere around there I decided to have children and I actually went back into public accounting which most people don’t do, especially females. But I just thought it offered me the flexibility to work part-time. I was basically … I kept trying to step down. What I didn’t know is the firm I went to, within five years, they made me partner which was unheard of at the time, because I was still working a flex time schedule and it was five years earlier than the average. So my UAB accounting degree has taken me far by this time.

I worked with that entity for 15 and a half years and I moved up to become the regional partner over the risk and internal control group. So when we built it from scratch and built up a very impressive group that competed really well, even on a national level. About three years ago, for my work/life balance, I decided just to … didn’t want to do that anymore and thought, well what can I do? I thought about being a CFO somewhere. I said, I’m going to work the same. And after thinking about it, I decided to go and open up my own firm. Since then we’ve had double digit growth every single year and can’t be happier. So, if you’re keeping up with my story, all this is from my accounting degree at UAB. I’ve now worked at one of the largest, well the largest firm … PWC is the largest firm in the world. I’ve worked with a regional firm. I’ve closed financials. And now I’m an entrepreneur. And I’m going to throw in one little nuance is as soon as I left my last job, Arline Savage, who unfortunately can’t be here today, she reached out and I actually teach internal audit at UAB. So I’ve also been a professor. And I love doing that.

You can do just about anything you want to with an accounting degree. Almost every organization has a need for some level of accountant and you can scale it up, you can scale it down. One of the things I do want to point out, as Rick went through all the options earlier, if you go on the Department of Labor statistics, every one of those areas are anticipated having double digit growth and job opportunities from now until, they project for the next five years, so 2022 is the projection. They’re all anticipated to go up and some areas it’s going up as much as 22% is what I saw. So, especially on the auditing side, there’s lots of needs. So, I consider it one of the most portable degrees that you can get and flexible whether you’re introverted or extroverted or whether you want to have this career where you’re going to move up and make quite a bit of money or if you just want a good, solid job and say, you know, I want to work 40 hours a week. So, I do personally think it’s the most flexible degree you can get anywhere.

She wanted to give … They asked me to give a little bit of career advice, and I think the biggest thing … it’s not necessarily … you can get smarter than me and you can get more talented, but one of the things that’s especially if you’re trying to do online … if you’re doing an online degree, if you’re doing a nontraditional degree or anything like that, that probably means you have another job or you have a job and you may be paying for it, you may not. But if you are, the biggest thing that’s going to be to your advantage is that work ethic it takes to get through it. That commitment. Because I know many of you will probably be working the 12:00 at night in addition to managing the other things, your families, your work, etc., to do an online degree. And that’s what’s going to get you as much of an advantage, is that commitment just to start it, to get through it. It gives you a lot of capacity. I always tell people, I think I could handle anything after working full time and going to school full time.

But the other thing is, I found with UAB that’s wonderful, is I didn’t realize when I went here, that there’s a family. I have come across [inaudible 00:18:01] my entire career where originally I needed maybe a personal reference, etc., and I’ve had professors more than willing to help me out. And then I became an employer where I need students and I have people more than willing to help me out. Now, our firm only hires UAB grads at this point. I had to talk to my labor attorney and say, is there anything that discriminates in that? She said, no. So we only hire UAB accounting students. We’re very involved and get the best students from UAB. We’re very involved and my oldest son now has just declared … I don’t know if I told you … that he’s going to UAB. Not accounting, but he’s going to UAB. Any rate, that’s my story. I hope it inspires you and good luck on your future degree with UAB.

Joanne Wallace:

Thank you, Cindy. My name is Joanne Wallace. I’m one of the enrollment advisors for the accounting programs and I wanted to go over a little bit about our term overview. For our online bachelor’s in accounting program, we have three different entry points throughout the year. We have the spring session which starts in January, the summer session which starts in May, or the fall session which starts sometime around the end of August. You can either take a variety of seven, 10, or 14 week courses throughout the program. You can take up to as many as four courses per semester, but once you get into the upper level accounting courses, those you can only take two per semester. Those are basically seven week courses that you’ll take one at a time with a week off in between.

So, if you’re interested in applying for any of our future terms or already have an app in progress, please schedule an appointment with me or one of your other advisors so we can get you started.

Let’s see. Now as far as admission requirements into the program. There’s three, specifically, requirements that we have. We have the traditional freshman. That’s basically coming right out of high school. So you would need a minimum of a 2.25 GPA, a minimum of a 20 on your ACT or a 950 on your SAT test, and of course, official transcripts from your high school. We also have the nontraditional freshman who has graduated high school, has been out over four years, who has either not taken any college courses at all or who has under 24 transferable credit hours. In that case, you’ll also be required to have a minimum of a 2.25 GPA. And then we also have the transfer student. That’s someone who has had a minimum of 24 transferable courses from a college or university. In that case, we only require a 2.0 GPA to get into the program.

So, if you’re ready to apply, you’ll contact your enrollment advisor and what we do is we’ll talk you through the program, we’ll go over the requirements and details with you. Hopefully answer all your questions, make sure we’re a good fit for what you’re looking for. And then we’ll email you the application checklist, which has the direct link to apply. There is a $30 fee for the undergrad application and you’ll need to contact any college and university that you’ve attended and have them send us your official transcript and pretty much after we get all the documents, we usually have a decision to accept that’s rendered within a week. After that point, we will articulate your transcripts to show everything that you were able to transfer into the program as well as what remains to be taken.

So, if you have any questions, please feel free to answer now during our Q&A or you can contact me or one of your advisors after the session. Thank you.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you, Joanne. At this point, we will now open it up to questions. So, please go ahead and use that Q&A box on your screen and we’ll start by asking the questions that we’ve received so far. As we are going through these, we will answer as many as we can, but if we don’t get to your question, we will definitely have an enrollment advisor follow up with you.

The first question that came in that I’m going to ask here. Joanne, I’ll go ahead and just direct this over to you, is, “In the online environment, are there fixed class times that I would need to dial into, or are there recorded lectures?”

Joanne Wallace:

Yes. One of the biggest features of our program is the flexibility. There are no set log-in times or set schedules. So, you will be given all your course objectives at the beginning of the term. So, you’ll know when all your assignments are due. Other than that, you can pretty much study at your own pace. You can log in whenever you’d like. The main thing is to get your weekly assignments in on time.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you. This next question that came in, Rick and Cindy, I’m going to direct this one over to you. The question was, “What branch of accounting offers the highest percentage of jobs in the market?”

Rick Johnston:

I would guess that financial accounting is the largest. So, like we alluded to, people that start in public accounting, although you’re an auditor initially, most of those people move into corporate positions as controllers, like Cindy did, or CFOs, whatever the case may be. Most companies that require accounting have a large financial reporting function that provides financial statements to outside bodies and so that operation is usually quite large and that includes paying all the bills, paying the payroll, all those types of functions are involved in financial accounting.

Many companies also have internal functions that focus in on cost tracking and we could call those management accounting and those departments tend to be smaller, but it depends on the industry. Of course there’s also a tax role. There’s lots of people that are in tax, but often in a consulting role. So, the public accounting firms, for example, have lots of tax people. Many of the smaller and regional firms have lots of tax consultants. Some corporations have internal tax people, but it’s likely to be much smaller than the financial reporting function. So, I don’t have hard statistics, but I would say that financial accounting is probably the largest of the specialties.

Rick Johnston:

Yeah. Rick, I would agree on the financial accounting. And as a note, you can go either direct, like if you take the route of auditor or tax person, you’re going to end up at a higher level typically if you transfer in, or you can just go straight out of college and work your way up. But you’re definitely going to have the most opportunity … not necessarily the most opportunity, but the most jobs are in corporate accounting, because there’s more companies with corporate accounting departments.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you guys. This next question, Joanne, I’m going to go ahead and direct this over to you. Somebody asked if it was too late to apply for fall.

Joanne Wallace:

Yes, unfortunately the deadline for fall has passed, but we are already accepting applications for our spring session, which starts January 8th. The deadline for that is about mid to end October and it’s always better to apply sooner than later.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you. Cindy, this next question is directed to you. Somebody wants to know, “Did you get your CPA and if so, what time in your career did you receive it?”

Rick Johnston:

Okay. That’s an excellent question. I got my CPA right after I graduated and where it used to, it wasn’t online. You could only take it twice a year. So, I got it out of the way pretty quick, right after I graduated. Now, with UAB, especially if you go into the master’s program, it’s really designed to, on a certain route, it’s designed to help you study during … most of the students that are coming out that are working for us are getting the CPA as a part of their master’s level and having it before they join us or right before they join a firm, if that makes sense. So, it’s changed a little bit since I got it. I definitely recommend doing it right after school and not stopping, because you’re already in study mode. And most of our students that join us take about a year to get all four parts out of the way.

Maggie Zmija:

That’s a good point to mention staying in study mode. I know it’s probably easy for a lot of people to be done with school and have that relief of it being over with, but it is important, I think, like you said, to stay in that mindset and mode because the process and the amount of tests that you have to pass are strenuous, I would say.

Rick Johnston:

And another point is even if you don’t go the CPA route, which can be overwhelming to some people, there are lots of accounting designations. You can get a CMA, which is certified management accountant. You can be a fraud examiner. There’s multiple different fraud certifications you can get. You can be a certified internal auditor, which I work in internal controls. That’s what our firm does is risk and internal controls. You can be certified in risk. There’s probably … I’ve never added them up, I would say there’s 20 to 30 different accounting designations you can get if you don’t go the CPA route. I have actually five different designations because I’ve just … I’ve kept sharp over the years. I’m studying for one now. So, at the end of the day, I continue to get different designations as part of our firm. And I recommend getting more than one. It’s going to make you more appealing … if you have two different certifications, it may make you more appealing to a potential employer.

Maggie Zmija:

Thank you, Cindy. I’m happy that you brought up the other certifications, too. That is important to note. Okay, this next question I’m going to go ahead and direct it back over to you guys over there again. Somebody asked, “How much …” and this may be an opinion question, too, but “How much will technology reduce or add the need for accountants in the future?”

Rick Johnston:

Yeah, that’s a tough question. I think the anticipation is that technology is going to change the nature of a lot of work, in particular, there’s some anticipation that auditing itself is going to evolve greatly through the use of technology. I think that’s a very big question related to a lot of industries what the impact of technology is going to be. I think that you have to understand that accounting operates at many different levels and so, you can imagine technology facilitating or replacing a lot of the lower level tasks, but I think that a lot of the thinking, the management, the oversight of the accounting function, I think is never going to be replaced by technology. So I think that if you invest in the career now, you have to be prepared for probably more change is going to occur in your career than perhaps it did in ours. But you’re going to be well-prepared for it based on your education and your training. And where you ultimately end up may be different than where we ended up but it’s not like it’s going to be eliminated. Because the people at the top of the food chain, basically, are still going to be required and your skills and knowledge are going to be important to those positions that exist in the future.

Rick Johnston:

Rick, almost everybody on our staff has actually either a dual major in some type of accounting and technology, that UAB actually offers as well. I don’t know about through the online program. I know we’ve had students get that and then they have dual IT certifications as a part of being a CPA. So, I don’t think technology’s going to eliminate accountants. I think it’s going to help us evolve, and as Rick alluded to, to the higher level analysis, etc., and less detailed work.

Maggie Zmija:

Yeah, that’s a good point. I agree with that, too. I don’t think it necessarily will replace accountants, but it will probably help further grow the field down the line. This next question here I’m going to direct over to Joanne. Somebody asked, “What is the maximum general education credits you can transfer in?”

Joanne Wallace:

So, we take up to 60 credits from a community college and 90 from a major university. I have to note, though, it is important that you know that we only accept credits from a regionally accredited school. So, if you attended a school that just has national accreditation, those credits will not transfer in.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you. Rick, I’m going to direct this question over to you. It’s more of a professor question. If you could maybe speak to the student-professor relationship a little bit when it comes to the online classes. But, this person asks, “Will there be online help by the professors or someone on campus to help assist with questions or problems with assignments?”

Rick Johnston:

Sure. Our learning management software has various features that allow students to obtain assistance. One of the primary ones that most online students use is the FAQ board. The frequently asked questions. And so, generally, most online courses, the faculty that are teaching them commit to responding to questions within 24 hours. So if you have a question and you post it on the FAQ board for your course, you should expect that the professor will respond to it within 24 hours. The advantage of the FAQ board really is is that many people have the same question and so by posting it where everyone can see it, then that gives the opportunity to save the professor from answering the same question multiple times and it also saves many students from having to ask the same question. They see that their colleagues have asked the question.

Obviously, we also have email and telephones and so students are welcome to try to contact the professor directly, either by phone or by email. Obviously, depending on their schedules, again there may be a delay in response. You may get a return call or a return email within 24 hours. But those means of communication are also welcome. We also, if you are in the Birmingham area, we do have a tutoring lab and many of the students that work there are accounting majors and many students in the accounting major search out the assistance of those individuals. The library also has a tutoring service and so if you don’t want to come to the business school and the library’s more convenient for you, then you can also get assistance from people through the library as well. There’s lots of avenues for assistance. We also have an online tutorial service, that most of your courses, there will be a button on the front page and you can set up an appointment with that individual, as well, if you need assistance with the various assignments or various topics that you’re covering.

Maggie Zmija:

Thank you. Dr. Johnston, I’m going to add onto that, too, a question for you about grading and what the grading curve is of an average accounting class. What constitutes an A, a B, a C, etc.?

Rick Johnston:

Okay. We have fixed cutoffs for grades here, so we don’t have pluses and minuses. We only have full letter grades. So, we have As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs. And if you get 90% or better, you get an A. If you get 80% or better, you get a B. 70% or better, you get a C. 60% or better, you get a D. And below 60%, you get an F.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you for clarifying that. The next question here, somebody was asking about the program costs, so I’ll go ahead and let Joanne cover that.

Joanne Wallace:

Okay, so we charge tuition by credit hour. The general education tuition, now this is for the 100% online program, so let me clarify that. It’s $433 per credit hour and then all the business courses are $667 per credit hour and then books are separate, of course.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you. Okay, so this next question that came in, Rick and Cindy, I’ll go ahead and pass it over to you, again. But, “Outside of an internship, how do you advise our gaining the experience required for many accounting positions?”

Rick Johnston:

Well, I think from an undergraduate perspective, I think the expectation of most recruiters isn’t that you necessarily have accounting-specific experience. So, I think what most employers are looking for are good students, so having a good GPA is important. I think they’re looking for well-rounded people, so people who are involved in various activities, whether it be extracurricular, leadership positions, athletics, you could be in community groups, church groups. I think that employers are looking for people who are not just about studying but have other skills. I think increasingly today, employers are looking for people who can work well with teams. Lots of employers, especially in the auditing field, you have to be able to interact with the client and so your ability to ask and listen, ask questions and listen to answers, is really important. So, people are looking for recruits that have developed those skills. Often, extracurricular activities are evidence of people trying to improve those skills to be able to apply them later in the work setting.

An internship is nice, but obviously those vary depending on the opportunities that you have and so that’s a great plus as well. But I don’t think most people are expecting that every recruit is going to have great experience coming out of an undergraduate program.

Rick Johnston:

Yeah, there’s something I want to add in. Something that’s evolved since … I never was able to do an internship simply because you had to take off work and do it for a semester. Now, a lot of firms, including ours, we hire either part time or full time admin interns while they’re still in school and they’re helping with administrative tasks. And if they’re good and advanced, we’ll put them on some client work, where I’ve had several of these now. Invariably, if you do a good job, you’re almost always guaranteed a job after that. But at a minimum, you’re getting accounting experience or being around accounting industry just by doing admin work. Great experience.

So, a lot of firms … I don’t know where everyone is … but a lot of firms are now offering that. They don’t offer as many of those as traditional interns, but we had someone who’s two years out from graduating and we’re going to pay part of her CPA exam and they work 24 hours a week with us. So we juggle around the schedule and it just works great. And we’ve already extended a full time job offer to this person once they get through the CPA exam. So you may want to look at that as an option to a traditional internship.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you. This other question came in and Rick, I’m going to hand this over to you again, they were asking, “Would you recommend this program for students with no business or accounting background?”

Rick Johnston:

Yeah, absolutely. I think that most undergraduate business and accounting programs assume no entry level knowledge, so the course requirements start from a rudimentary level and will progress throughout the program so that you’re able to build the skills and knowledge that are necessary to be successful throughout the program. By all means, there’s no necessary knowledge or background necessary to be successful.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you. Questions that just came in. Somebody is asking, “What type of scholarship opportunities are available?” Are there any specific to online students that you know of, Rick, versus on-campus or …

Rick Johnston:

We, I think, have an open system for scholarships, so I don’t think what type of student you are … each scholarship is different. It applies to … some are specific to what your specialization is. Obviously, grades matter. As far as I’m aware of, there is no differentiation based on what type of student you are. The application process is open to everybody. It’s through the UAB website, so I think all students are free to apply to that.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you for clarifying that. Somebody else in here asked about transferring again. It may be more of an answer with the review process when it comes to reviewing applications, but this person asked, “Can a transfer student overcome a low incoming GPA and if so, how?” Example being with the grades in some upper level coursework and how that would affect them being accepted into the program. Does that make sense?

Joanne Wallace:

I’m not quite sure what … are you saying if they have a lower GPA, what would they need to do to raise their GPA to get accepted?

Maggie Zmija:

Or do they look at different aspects of diving into courses that are specific to being transferred over? Let’s say they’re main core, upper level accounting courses they didn’t do too hot in or they did really well in in some other courses that they took don’t apply.

Joanne Wallace:

As far as just requirements to get into the program, they’re going to do a cumulative over all their courses and where they went. They’re not going to differentiate what kind of courses were taken.

Maggie Zmija:

Okay, good. Perfect. Rick, did you have anything else to add to that at all or …

Rick Johnston:

Yeah, life is an accumulation of experience, right? So, often people starting out as undergraduates make some mistakes, right? You don’t prioritize school or life distracts you from school, whatever the case may be. I think as Cindy alluded to, the key to success usually in academics is commitment and so, often you learn the lesson early in your career that maybe you made some bad choices and so I would think that somebody transferring from a different program has probably learned some hard lessons along the way and it doesn’t mean that they’re going to repeat going forward. Is it going to be a little more challenging for them? Probably, because obviously they didn’t necessarily get the best foundation that they’re transferring in, but it doesn’t prohibit you from doing the extra work necessary to be successful. I think you have to recognize that it might be a little more challenging for you, but it’s all about effort and commitment. So as long as you’re willing and able, then that’s half the battle.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Rick, maybe you can speak a little bit to the capstone course. Somebody here was asking a little bit about, “Will there be tests or semester exams for the program? And what’s involved in the capstone?”

Rick Johnston:

Sorry, what was the first part? There was some test or …

Maggie Zmija:

Just asking about the capstone course. What’s involved in that. Yeah.

Rick Johnston:

So the capstone course, the idea is is that as an accounting major, before you graduate, we want to ensure that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to be successful going forward, so basically it’s a catch-all course to allow you to bring everything that you’ve learned together in one course. The focus is often on cases or projects where you go beyond looking at accounting from individual topics or specialties, to looking at it as a professional. So, what kind of issues does someone face in the corporate world? What sort of issues does someone face in the auditing world? How do we deal with those problems? How do we apply our judgment? How do we make decisions? It’s then an opportunity to bring together everything we’ve learned to be able to answer questions that people answer in the real world.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. This question came in and maybe this person came out a little bit late to the presentation. I’ll go ahead and answer this and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but they were wondering what the total number of credits is needed for graduation. And so the program is a total of 120 credit hours. I’ll go ahead and move on.

This other person has a question about options for paying for tuition, so Joanne, as far as financial aid or other payment plans or what is available to them?

Joanne Wallace:

The majority, I would say, of undergrad students apply with FAFSA, so that’s obviously a free application that’s available if you apply and qualify. There’s a handful of students that will pay out of pocket, so in that case, we do offer a payment plan. You will receive that payment plan at the end of the enrollment process from your student advisor. But generally, the options are, if you’re paying out of pocket, you would have to have the first payment in approximately a week before the semester starts, the second payment about two weeks later and then the third payment has to be made before the end of the semester. And then, like I said, and Dr. Johnston brought up earlier, we do have scholarship opportunities available, too, and you can reach out to your advisor for help with those as well.

Maggie Zmija:

Thank you. This other question is kind of two questions, but the second one is what I want to get to. The first one, I think, you had already answered, Joanne, about how much will the program cost per semester. I know you went over the cost per credit hour, so I guess the cost per semester depends on if you have transfer credits or whatever classes that you need to take.

Joanne Wallace:

Absolutely. It depends on how many classes you transferred in. That will determine the cost as well as the length of the program.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. The second part to their question was about assistance with job placement after completing the program. So I know that … and Rick, I don’t know if you want to answer at all … yeah, we do have a virtual career services that is available to online students. They will help you with interview prep, that resume, that sort of thing. There’s no guarantee in getting you a job placement once you graduate, but they’re there to be utilized as a resource for you. I just wanted to make sure to answer that question so everyone on the line knows that that is something that is available as a resource for them.

Joanne, you might be able to answer this one. “Is there a particular region accreditation accepted for transfer credits?”

Joanne Wallace:

Any school that’s regionally accredited, we will take their accreditation for the undergrad program.

Maggie Zmija:

But not nationally accredited.

Joanne Wallace:

Right. Correct.

Maggie Zmija:

Okay. Somebody’s asking about having dual certification, so can you have both a CPA and a CMA upon graduation? I’m not sure how that would fall within the undergrad program or … Rick, if you want to, or Cindy, with experience [crosstalk 00:49:26].

Rick Johnston:

You want to talk to them? Okay. Relative to the CPA, it depends upon which state you’re in that you’re going to be licensed, will tell you the requirements. In many cases, like Alabama, if you’re licensed in Alabama, they require 150 hours, so basically either a master’s level or 150 hour credit to sit for the exam. You can sit for the exam at that point, but then there’s an experiential requirement of, is it two years?

Rick Johnston:

Two years.

Rick Johnston:

Yeah, two years, before you become truly certified. So, you have to work under a CPA for, whether it’s in public or private, you’re going to have to work under a CPA for a couple years to get certified. The CMA and all the other designations, yes you can do them concurrently. You can go ahead and sit while you’re in school and I think it’s just a four year degree required and it’s still going to have experiential requirements to actually become certified and I don’t know what that is for the CMA. Most are about two years, so you can go ahead and take the exam, get the requirements, and then you become truly certified and licensed where you can put it behind your name.

Rick Johnston:

Many of our students are taking parts of the CPA exam while they’re here. We have a few students last year who did all four parts successfully while they were in a master’s program, but that’s pretty rare. But definitely, people are taking … it’s a four part exam for the CPA. But the likelihood of you passing all four parts before you graduate out of the master’s program is not that common, but as Cindy said, you’ve got that following summer. You want to definitely try to get it out of the way before you start work in the fall. But, you can do as much as you can take. It’s really individually driven.

Maggie Zmija:

Perfect. Thank you guys. This next question, and Rick maybe you may be able to speak to some accounting-specific honor societies or clubs that are actually available and open, as well, to online students. They just wanted to know if there were any clubs open to online students.

Rick Johnston:

So we have a relatively large chapter of Beta Alpha Psi and one of our initiatives here is to make all of our clubs open to online students, so that will be a process that’s continuing. Obviously, it’s something that we’re trying to get right, so it’s evolving over time. But all of our clubs … the intent is to make it available to online students. Many of the benefits of these clubs are to interact with industry professionals, and so seeing an industry professional present online is one thing but being not here in person sort of limits the ability to interact with them after the event and that’s one of the downsides of participating online. But as Cindy said, there’s offices of firms everywhere and we would encourage you to network in the area in which you live.

Maggie Zmija:

Great. Thank you. Thank you. We are actually going to ask just one last question. I know we’re approaching time here. This last question that came in was, “Do most accounting jobs require master’s degrees?” So, in your experience if both of you, maybe, can speak to jobs available to those that just have their bachelor’s or the undergrad in accounting versus those that get a master’s in accounting.

Rick Johnston:

I would say the majority do not require a master’s. I think that, as Cindy said, most states require a master’s now to get your CPA certification. So, as I said at the outset, our program, we have two paths and some students want to be CPAs and that takes a certain commitment and our program offers the courses to be successful to do that. Many people don’t want to take that path and so, it’s less important for them to take a master’s degree and so they’ll be able to get lots of other jobs in accounting after just getting their undergraduate degree.

Now the nice thing is that there is no ceilings, there’s no blockades, there’s no barricades. You might work for a couple years and decide that you want to do a CPA and then you might go back and do your master’s afterwards and write the CPA exam. So, there’s lots of opportunity. Generally, obviously, there are advantages to taking the CPA exam. It’s kind of another feather in your cap. It’s a certification that separates you, perhaps, from others. So it is advantageous to have it. There is some evidence that those people are paid a little bit more than others, but it’s certainly not a requirement for everyone and I would say the majority don’t do it. Lots of people go into the corporate world directly and have very successful careers.

Maggie Zmija:

Thank you, Dr. Johnston. We are going to go ahead and wrap up. That concludes our webinar for today. I just want to thank you all, again, for joining us, everyone for your questions. And thank you so much to our panelists for sharing insight into our program and diving into those success stories. We really do appreciate it and thank you for taking the time to answer all those questions that came through. Please contact your online accounting enrollment advisor if you have any additional questions. But for now, that is all. So, thank you guys, again, for joining and have a great day.