Accounting Program Lays Groundwork for Students' Success
There’s a lot more to accounting than preparing tax returns and calculating business expenses. At Bellevue University, accounting is an evolving program led and taught by professionals with experiences spanning the career spectrum. The program, which includes a Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSA) and a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA), takes traditional accounting principles to the next level by aligning them with developing real-world applications as technology continues to change the business world.
“Our professors work very hard to keep our course content relevant,” said Accounting Program Director Heidi Deden.
Leading by Example
The accounting program faculty are experts in the subject theoretically, but they also bring with them the mastery that can only be achieved by actively working in the field for years. Their experiences show how many opportunities an accounting degree opens up.
Take Deden, for example, who took the reins of the program in 2019 after eight years at the University. She started out as a classically trained musician who later looked for a more reliable way to provide for her family. She decided to pursue accounting as a second career.
“It seemed to me that if I had accounting skills, I could always have a good job,” she said. “I have never regretted my choice. I have worked in a variety of interesting accounting positions: internal auditor for Los Angeles County, external auditor for two different CPA firms, controller for a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, business and personal income tax preparer in a local Omaha CPA firm, and finally teaching in the accounting department at Bellevue University.”
Associate Professor Monica McElhaney is another example of the variety of positions accounting graduates can pursue. She’s worked as an auditor, a financial analyst in South Korea and as a financial director. She’s been teaching at Bellevue University since 1996, when Bellevue University was launching its groundbreaking online degree offerings.
Accounting in the Digital World
Technology plays a pivotal role in how every industry moves forward, and accounting is no exception. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants have joined forces to set the standard for the future of accounting through the CPA Evolution initiative. They are deploying a new CPA exam model in January, 2024. This new model is based on a core of accounting, audit and tax infused with technology plus a choice of discipline (business analytics and reporting; information systems and controls; or tax compliance and planning).
“The new exam model is in response to the skills required in an ever-evolving marketplace,” Deden said. “The tools of the trade are no longer limited to traditional accounting topics: accountants are now expected to have analytical skills and a certain comfort level with technology.”
However, Bellevue University is not waiting; the College of Business has already started integrating technology further into its accounting offerings.
Our program is always changing to include the most current principles and tech used in the accounting field. We make sure our students are grounded in theory, but can apply what they have learned to real-world situations.
“For the last year, accounting professors at Bellevue University have been infusing their courses with technology and data analytics,” Deden said. “We are also in the process of adding two new courses to the graduate program, in order to expose students to the type of technology and analytical skills demanded by the industry.”
This evolution is a natural undertaking, as the program is designed to keep pace with industry needs. “Our program is always changing to include the most current principles and tech used in the accounting field,” McElhaney said. “We make sure our students are grounded in theory, but can apply what they have learned to real-world situations. Our courses are very project oriented, so when our students graduate, they can hit the road running. Theory is necessary, but application is mandatory.”
Options for Specialized Degrees
To help students build skills and have an added advantage in pursuing job opportunities, Bellevue University offers a number of specialization options. Undergraduate students can add a business finance emphasis, while graduate students can add tax or finance concentrations.
Additionally, students can pursue a number of certificates of completion as they progress toward their degrees. These include the Advanced Accounting Certificate of Completion (BSA or MSA), Accounting Technology Certificate of Completion (BSA), Cost Accounting Certificate of Completion (BSA), and Tax Certificates of Completion (BSA or MSA). In fact, McElhaney, who already has numerous professional accounting certifications, recently added a CFE, or Certified Fraud Examiner, credential to her resume.
Finally, the College of Business is developing additional concentrations for both the BSA and the MSA that align with the disciplines included in the new CPA exam model.
Despite all that’s changed, one thing remains the same – accounting is a promising field for anyone who is looking to build a career with ample opportunity for years to come. “Students who are analytical, tenacious and enjoy a good challenge generally do well in accounting,” Deden said.