It’s Tax Season: Training Accountants through Real-World Experience

Tax Day is just weeks away and according to the IRS’ website, all taxes need to be submitted by April 18. 

In order to prepare tomorrow’s accountants for future Tax Days, University of Maryland Global Campus offers both bachelor and master’s degrees in accounting. 

UMGC alums are working with top accounting firms, including EY, PwC, KPMG, Deloitte, Clifton Larson Allen, Crowe, Grant Thornton, and BDO.

“Our accounting program is very focused on using the professional resources that accountants utilize. We use irs.gov and focus on what you would do if you were working at a firm and your responsibility relates to tax,” said Kathleen Sobieralski, program director of the accounting department and a certified public accountant (CPA).

“Now what do we do at UMGC that’s so important for tax careers? Research. Our students research tax scenarios and go looking for documentation,” Sobieralski added.

Sobieralski said accounting expertise opens valuable employment pathways. During UMGC’s 2020-2021 academic year, 241 students graduated with bachelor’s degrees in accounting, and an additional 165 graduates received master’s degrees in accounting.  

“Applying for positions in the tax area and promoting your interest in tax opportunities can be a door opener for employment at many organizations. Seasonal work allows a firm to learn more about you as a professional and consider how you could be of value throughout the year,” Sobieralski said.

UMGC’s accounting program is recognized as an Internal Auditing Education Partnership Program (IAEP), which is endorsed by The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA). UMGC works closely with The IIA to develop a meaningful internal audit curriculum.

Both bachelor’s and master’s accounting students are required to take Federal Income Tax I, which is focused on tax obligations of individuals and other entities. The coursework enables students to conduct tax research, evaluate tax implications and complete an individual tax return. It also introduces them to tax policy and its evolution.

A second course strongly recommended for students seeking to become CPAs is Federal Income Tax II. This focuses on the taxation of business entities, including corporations. It also addresses capital stock, estates, and trusts. A CPA must meet specific state and education licensing requirements and pass the CPA exam.

“The real-world experience that UMGC professors bring to the classroom significantly enhanced my experience and enabled me immediately to apply lessons about how accounting works in the professional arena,” said Zachery Rager, who received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 2012 and a separate Certificate in Fraud Investigation. “It allowed me to appreciate the nuances that simply cannot be conveyed via a textbook.”

Rager said his professors provided insight into certification as a CPA, Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). In addition, he said, faculty “offered guidance to enhance my career.”

Since graduating from UMGC, Rager has served as a senior tax analyst, an accountant for the Department of Defense and IBS Government Services, and an acquisition professional and process engineer for the Technical Management and Assistance Corporation. Most recently, he was hired as a program manager for the Department of Defense. 

“My education with UMGC was so robust, that I also have recently been hired as an adjunct professor, allowing me to bring my professional experiences back to help the next generation of UMGC students,” added Rager, who earned a Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) designation from the professional association known as AGA (the acronym for Advance. Grow. Accelerate.) and is preparing for his CPA exam.

Rager received an MBA from West Virginia University in 2021 and is now pursuing an M.S. in forensic accounting and fraud investigation, with plans to graduate later this year. He also is working toward a Doctor of Business Administration degree—with a focus on accounting—that he expects to complete in 2025.

UMGC students interested in taking the CPA exam are given study materials to aide in test preparation. Accounting professors provide advice on signing up for the test and researching information at the National Association of State Board of Accountancy

“At UMGC, we state in our college catalog and on our website professional licensure that you need to be aware of the requirements for the jurisdiction where you want to sit for the CPA exam and apply to be a certified public accountant,” Sobieralski said.

During the month of March, the accounting department collaborated with accounting organizations to inform students and alumni about career and certification opportunities. UMGC-sponsored events include:

Register for any of the remaining webinars at umgc.edu, which start at 7 p.m. EST. 

Protecting Financial Assets: Cybersecurity and Accounting Are Coming Together to Create a Hot New Field

Want to know where the next great opportunities in accounting will be? Check the headlines about cyberattacks that are costing business untold millions while exposing their customers to fraud. 

Cybersecurity and IT experts are doing their best to stop these hacks. And working alongside them is a new breed of accountant with the technological and financial training to assess costs and risks. 

“Public accountants have a huge volume of financial data that belongs to their clients,” said Dr. Sharon L. Levin, professor of accounting at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). “If you are a management accountant, working for an individual company such as Apple, IBM or Target, you are responsible for implementing internal controls to protect corporate assets.”  

“Cyber criminals aren’t hacking systems for self-satisfaction,” said Levin. “It’s all about the money. They are looking for assets they can convert to cash, sell on the dark web or sell to foreign countries.” 

The skill set that accountants possess is a natural fit for cyber audits. “Accountants are good at auditing security policies and privacy controls, and they can integrate cyber risks into the audit plan,” said Bruce deGrazia, professor of Cybersecurity Management and Policy at UMGC.  

Often, accountants are the first to become aware of system vulnerabilities and data breaches. “If it’s corporate assets cyber criminals are after, it’s accountants who are responsible for protecting those assets with internal controls,” said Levin.  

Cyber accountants work closely with cybersecurity professionals to mitigate the risks of cyberattacks. Working jointly, they identify system vulnerabilities, develop and implement strategic plans to protect assets and continuously evaluate the need to implement new internal controls to close data security gaps. 

“CyberAccounting is a new field opening up for accountants,” said Levin. “This is really where the industry is going, so we need to prepare accounting students for mitigating these types of risks.” 

In response, UMGC has infused cybersecurity courses into its master’s program in Accounting, offering coursework in CyberAccounting management and compliance, CyberAccounting risk management, and CyberForensics in accounting. To reflect these adjustments, UMGC will change the name of its Master of Science in Accounting and Information Systems to Master of Science in CyberAccounting

“These courses are just one way UMGC, known as an innovative leader in higher education, is adapting its accounting programs to prepare our students to meet the needs of today’s employers,” said Levin.  

“Accounting is a career with endless possibilities to follow your passion,” Levin continued. “Every organization in every industry hires accountants, so if you like sports, every sports team needs accountants, if you like to travel, every hotel chain needs them, every cruise line, every airline, every convention center, every arena,” she added.  

Traditionally, accounting has been regarded as one of the most conservative industries, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, many firms are now adapting to change, allowing auditors to work remotely in a freelance contractual relationship, and so on. 

“Like UMGC, the accounting industry has proven itself to be innovative, adapting to change at a much faster rate than the stereotypical accountant with pocket protectors from the 20th century,” said Levin.