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Bay Path’s New Accounting Degree Makes Sense on Many Levels

Kara Stevens

Kara Stevens says the unique scheduling — no classes during tax season — is one of many attractive features that come with Bay Path’s new graduate degree in accounting.

Kara Stevens says that, when she went about designing the new master’s degree in Accounting program at Bay Path College, she had some of her own experiences in this profession — and with attaining this degree — in mind.

“I was in public accounting and working toward my master’s, and can remember having to run out at 5 o’clock to go to class during the prime time, when I needed to be there longer hours,” she said, referring to her time at Wolf & Co. soon after graduating from UMass Amherst and, more specifically, her recollections of having to balance school with her various responsibilities during the height of tax season, between the start of the new year and April 15.

The new program at Bay Path, scheduled to start at the end of this month, was blueprinted with that awkward conflict in mind, and the desire to essentially eliminate it.

Indeed, this totally online program effectively shifts the traditional summer break to what everyone in the industry refers to simply as ‘the busy season.’ Classes run from May to the holidays in December, break for tax season, and then resume for five weeks, ending in late May.

“With no classes held between January and April, you can adjust your life, work, and professional goals,” said Stevens, director of Bay Path’s Accounting program and assistant accounting professor. “Once April has passed, the program picks up again, and you can continue in sequence.”

This is a fairly unique twist to the traditional MS in Accounting, a degree program designed to give bachelor’s-degree holders the fifth year, or 150 credits, they now need for licensure as a certified public accountant in more than 40 states, including Massachusetts.

Stevens said she is not aware of another program with such scheduling, so it should help the college create an effective niche. And while there are already a number of MS in accounting programs in this region, she believes there was need for another, especially an offering with some unique qualities beyond that schedule.

Among these is the all-women, or almost-all-women, nature of the program, she told BusinessWest, noting that, while men can enroll, and she expects some will, they will be in the minority, which she sees as a positive for the female enrollees.

“Our master’s-degree programs are still seeing a large percentage of women in their ranks; we of course allow men, but at this point it’s roughly 86% women on average, and more in some programs,” she said. “I like the idea that this is helping to create a culture of women in accounting.”

Elaborating, she said that, while most undergraduate accounting programs are roughly 50% women, there is still a glass ceiling in this industry when it comes to women progressing into the partnership ranks at firms and then senior management. An MS program featuring all or mostly women can create an environment where such issues can be more effectively discussed — and confronted.

Another benefit is the small size of the classes, she said, adding that most sessions will have a dozen or fewer students, while the online nature of the program — with “on-ground support,” as she called it, is another popular feature.

The master’s offering is Bay Path’s first graduate program in Accounting, said Stevens, adding that the school introduced an undergraduate offering eight years ago, and now has several variations on that program, including a one-day offering and an online curriculum. Eventually, she would like to introduce what’s known as a 3+1 program, which will enable students to enter an accelerated program, whereby they can get their undergraduate degree in three years then move on to their master’s, thus saving roughly a full year’s tuition in the process.

The MS is built on a common core of classes — everything from Advanced Financial Reporting to Fraud Examination to Government and Nonprofit Accounting — and students can focus on one of three concentrations: public accounting, private accounting, and forensic accounting.

There are five sessions, two that run for six weeks and three that run for eight.

Early interest in the program is fairly strong, said Stevens, adding there have been a number of inquiries, and several women have already signed on. She anticipates an initial enrollment of 12 and expects that number to rise as awareness of the program and its unique features become known.

Overall, Stevens sees the MS program as a step forward for Bay Path, an initiative that will enhance the undergraduate Accounting program, because it will provide a smooth transition to the fifth year for Bay Path students, and one that should benefit the college on the whole as the accounting industry goes about the task of filling vacancies that will be created when those in the Baby Boom generation retire.

“Based on where my students are being placed for internships and then jobs after graduating, there is definitely a need for accountants in this area,” she said. “And that need will only grow in the years to come.”

— George O’Brien

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