AIP Helps Non-accounting Majors Succeed in the MSA program
Published: January 23, 2023 / Author: Angela Sienko
Graduates of Notre Dame’s top-ranked M.S. in Accountancy (MSA) program are perennially recruited by the top accounting and financial services firms around the globe. The program, known for its quality, rigor, and focus on ethics, attracts some of the most talented and skilled accounting minds out there. But that doesn’t mean the program is solely intended for students with heavy accounting backgrounds. In fact, just the opposite.
With the help of the MSA’s Accounting Immersion Program (AIP), non-accounting students who have strong quantitative skills are realizing their dream of launching their careers with the Big Four and beyond. The eight-week, 10-credit-hour immersion takes place in the summer and introduces students to intermediate accounting I and II, strategic cost management (cost accounting), audit & assurance services, and federal taxation. By the fall, AIP students are ready to join the rest of their cohort for the remainder of the 10-month MSA program.
Vicente Tlahuextl (MSA ’22) was one of those students. A graduate of Purdue University, Tlahuextl earned his B.S. in Hospitality and Tourism Management and had already launched his career in that industry.
“Before coming to Notre Dame, all of my work experience was in the hospitality field,” Tlahuextl says. “I was working as a front-of-house manager in a restaurant.”
And while he enjoyed the gritty details of business, Tlahuextl was equally interested in how the numbers worked.
“I learned pretty quickly that it’s important to understand the basis for all aspects of business,” Tlahuextl says. “And while I had taken some accounting courses for my degree, most of my classes were general business courses. I wanted to learn more about the accounting side of things.”
Another factor that played a role in Tlahuextl’s decision to explore accounting was the pandemic. “Particularly with job security, the hospitality industry was very unpredictable and became almost non-existent,” he says. “I knew it was important for me to get a better understanding of the language of business and decided it was time to look for a more stable, direct career path.”
As he explored masters-level accounting programs, Tlahuextl knew he was at a slight disadvantage due to his relative lack of accounting education and experience. “I was nervous at first,” he says. “I felt like this was a large obstacle to overcome.”
Enter the MSA’s AIP program.
“The AIP program is a large reason why I chose to pursue my master’s at Notre Dame,” Tlahuextl says. “Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to earn my MSA. I was able to catch up with so many of the core accounting courses that my peers took as undergrads. As soon as I heard about this program, I was 100 percent committed to it.”
Still, Tlahuextl says he was nervous about embarking on such a rigorous program at first: “I was told to prepare for a large workload, which was an understatement,” he says. “And the first week was intense. We went through about 20 chapters of the tax textbook in four days with a final exam on day five.”
By the end of the immersion, Tlahuextl felt prepared as he joined the rest of his cohort. “I gained and ‘mastered’ the basic fundamentals in accounting before we moved onto more complex areas in the MSA program,” he says. “And the relationships that I’d been able to establish with the program’s faculty also helped my confidence.”
While in the MSA, Tlahuextl took advantage of the program’s career development opportunity to better prepare for what lay ahead once he completed his degree. “Since I had zero experience in accounting, I knew I would be at a ‘visual’ disadvantage to my peers in the eyes of recruiters,” he says. “The career coaches were amazing. They helped with my resume and provided me with useful tips and tricks when interviewing.”
And it worked. Today, Tlahuextl is an external audit associate for PwC.
“I was so happy to receive the offer,” Tlahuextl says. “But I also know that if I hadn’t, my career coach would not have let me leave without getting what I wanted!
The MSA program – and AIP in particular – developed me into an accounting professional,” Tlahuextl says. “It did not give me the answers, but it showed me how to get there. It pushed me to provide my best effort and exposed me to many concepts that I work with in my career.”