Online Accounting Master’s Gains Ground
The University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School launched its Master of Accounting program 30 years ago, and has had a steady enrollment of about 130 students each year — until this year, when enrollment jumped by nearly 100.
The change began in 2015, when Kenan-Flagler began offering the MAC online. Amy Wittmayer, managing director of the program, says the school hoped the move would bring the program a more diverse set of students, from recent grads to working professionals to current and former members of the military. In its inaugural year, 12 online students enrolled in Kenan-Flagler’s MAC program.
The next year there were 95, and Wittmayer says they intend to keep growing.
“This is expansion mode for us,” she says. “We are about opening new doors to talent that we were never able to tap into. This is about us serving people who didn’t have options in quality graduate accounting education.”
MANY MAC STUDENTS ALSO GET MBAs
The MAC program is a graduate business degree that focuses on accounting, taking a deeper dive into the subject than an undergraduate program would. “Many undergraduate accounting students still progress to a graduate accounting degree, largely to satisfy many states’ requirements to be licensed as a CPA,” Wittmayer says.
Though the MAC does include general business training in leadership and communication, Wittmayer stresses that it’s not an MBA. In fact, she says, many of Kenan-Flagler’s online students are actually doubling up and getting both the MAC and an MBA.
The most common story, Wittmayer says, is that students know they want to pursue a business career and feel like the MBA is the most broad and versatile degree. But as they complete their MBA, they discover that they love accounting, and consider getting a MAC as well.
“The benefit of the MBA is its versatility, but an MBA does not promise subject matter depth or a direct path into a profession,” she says. “The MAC program goes deeper into the accounting field, teaches deep technical knowledge, a recognized skill, and a path to a formal designation.”
MORE VARIETY ONLINE
On-campus, Wittmayer says, students are fairly uniform — around 24 years old and mostly early-career. Since the on-campus program is specifically geared toward non-accounting undergraduates, many have decided to become accountants after working for a year or two in a different field.
Online is a whole different game, Wittmayer says, with a great deal more variety. Some students came straight through from undergrad with very little experience; some are mid- to late-career professionals. “Some are career switchers and some are looking to develop deeper in their roles. Some are ex-military, former teachers, and investment professionals,” she says. “Some are going online ‘full-time,’ while some are very much juggling full-time work obligations. Each student really has their own journey, and it’s exciting to help them achieve their career goals.”
She cites one online student who is a military spouse with an incredible academic record, but who found it difficult to attend graduate school because of her spouse’s military deployments. Another is a single father who is rooted in Florida and couldn’t find an accounting program nearby that he wanted to attend.
Most commonly, Wittmayer says, students are working professionals across the country who don’t want to stop their careers to attend a graduate program. For them, the online format and flexibility allows them to stay in their present locations while progressing toward a MAC degree.
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