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The University of Illinois’ MS In Accountancy

The in-person accountancy program at UIUC is among the best in the world. Now the school plans to transfer that prestige to the online space. Courtesy photo

What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? According to Coursera: “Admission to the iMSA degree program requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. In general, we expect applicants to have completed at least one course in business, along with a one- or two-course sequence in principles of accounting. For these requirements, college course credit or a certificate of completion from a known online course provider is accepted. The recommended undergraduate GPA for iMSA degree applicants is 3.0/4.0 or higher.

“GMAT or GRE scores are required, but may be waived if the applicant demonstrates sufficient relevant work experience. Additional application requirements include a personal statement and letters of recommendation. Applicants whose native language is not English may be required to submit their TOEFL or IELTS test score.”

Adds Brown: “The admissions standards are going be a lot like they are for our in-person programs — which is to say, they’re pretty high, given our reputation.” He declines to say what the cutoff will be, suggesting that it will be around 100, adding that “we love the adage of ‘Dream big, start small, and scale.'”

What are the application deadlines? Applications are now open. The first classes will begin in August.

What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? The program will feature five core and three elective courses. According to Coursera: “Core topics include collection, processing, and communication of accounting information, accounting valuation processes and income measurement, managerial accounting practices, auditing, and federal taxation. Additionally, students will choose elective courses that include topics such as advanced financial reporting, advanced taxation, and data analytics. All core and elective topics will be covered in both Coursera online courses and in for-credit online courses, and they will be reinforced with hands-on projects and case studies.”

Courses include Accounting Analysis, Managerial Accounting, Federal Taxation, and Data Analytics Foundations for Accounting. There also will courses on Principles of Business Law, Strategic Management, Global Strategy, and Fostering Creative Thinking.

The iMSA will “build expertise in the fundamentals of accounting: financial reporting, audit and control,” according to an Illinois news release, “and U.S. federal taxation. But beyond that it will develop students’ skills in communication and data visualization, as the ability to explain what the numbers mean to non-experts becomes increasingly important in a world of increasingly complex — and valuable — data.”

What do you expect student outcomes to be? The flexible program format — the iMSA is structured as a stackable degree to allow students to try out the curriculum on Coursera, then decide whether a few courses are all they need or they wish to go on to apply to the iMSA — allows students to balance academic life with other obligations, said Nikhil Sinha, chief business officer at Coursera, in a news release. The courses can be completed in as few as four semesters or as many as eight semesters; the program is designed both for accounting professionals looking to refresh their skills and those who want to make a career change into the accounting field.

“For people who are deciding whether accounting is right for them, the iMSA allows an unprecedented ability to explore this field while learning from the best faculty in the industry,” Sinha said.

Adds Brown: “If you look at any of the big firms — the Deloittes, the EYs, the KPMGs, the PwCs, as well as the Grant Thorntons, etc., of the world — we have many hundreds of University of Illinois grads all throughout every one of those firms, from the highest levels of leadership all the way down to the newly hired employees. And we’d just love to see that grow. And it’s not just the auditing profession — a lot of our accounting grads go into corporate roles, work their way up, become controllers, become CFOs, that sort of thing.”