Program Name: Master of Accounting with Data Analytics
School: Villanova University School of Business
Length of Program: 12 months
Cost: $40,000 ($1,333 per credit), plus a $100 fee each semester
Villanova is no late-comer to the data analytics game. Other universities have, in the last couple of years, been scrambling to introduce degree programs focused on the topic du jour, but Villanova pioneered “big data” in the curriculum by being the first B-school to offer a minor in it — a minor that 20% of all VSB students now have. Joyce Russell, dean of the Philadelphia-based B-school, points out that Villanova, a regular in top-10 lists of accounting schools, is home to the Center for Business Analytics and has been growing its analytics curriculum and research infrastructure for more than a decade, including a much-ballyhooed partnership with audit, tax, and advisory services giant KPMG that gets underway this fall.
The KPMG Master of Accounting program, a joint program with Villanova and The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, funnels undergraduates into the program with a focus on data analytics, with the audit firm paying tuition, room, and board for selected students who then go on to work for the company. (Villanova has 26 students in the program, while Ohio State has 24.) But over the last year, Russell says, while Villanova faculty and staff were collaborating with KPMG in preparation for the degree’s first cohort, it became clear that Villanova’s entire accounting department could use a review. Out of that “re-evaluation” process rose the new, “revised,” “enriched” Master of Accounting with Data Analytics degree, which will launch in the fall of 2018.
“When we were working on (the KPMG partnership) for the whole past year, we said, ‘This gives us a good opportunity to re-evaluate our entire master’s of accounting program,'” Russell tells Poets&Quants. “I’ve been very impressed with Villanova School of Business faculty, they are so open to talking with employers: ‘What can we do to make our students even stronger for you?’ The students don’t have any problems with placement and they get great jobs. But I like that, because that’s not always the case with faculty.”
ANALYTICS ‘WOVEN INTO EVERY COURSE’
Led by Mike Peters, accounting department chair, Villanova met with alumni, students, and employers, especially the Big Four of accounting — PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. “We said, ‘OK, we’re going to revise, now give us your best insights as to what we can do,'” Russell says. “We have really close relationships with employers and in particular the Big Four firms, and we always take their input.”
The Master of Accounting with Data Analytics (MACDA) program will shift from a summer-focused program to an academic-year program that begins each fall and finishes in the spring, a format change designed to give students more time to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant exam — as well as increased opportunities to network with potential employers. Combined with an undergraduate degree (current rising seniors, the undergrad Class 2018, will be the first to be eligible for the new program), the 30-credit program will provide students with the 150 credit hours necessary to earn a CPA license. The MACDA curriculum will integrate new and redesigned courses in data analytics and leadership and negotiation skills, as well as more specialized elective course offerings than before. Analytics now is “woven into every course,” Russell says, “so they’ve revamped not only the start-to-finish but the courses themselves.”
It’s a good time for a new degree: undergraduate applications to Villanova’s B-school were up 38% this year, Russell says.
How is this program different from what else is on the market? “The difference is, in accounting courses, they’re actually talking about data analytics and how it pertains to issues of tax or auditing or fraud or things like that,” Russell says. “Other business schools will take the operations faculty and slightly tweak it and it becomes analytics, because that’s such a popular word. That’s not the case here because people at Villanova have really been in this space for a long time.
“I’m not worried about our program setting itself apart from the other offerings out there because there are no other programs that really have a master’s in accounting with a data analytics focus, where all the courses have been altered to bring in business intelligence analytics within the actual accounting courses. And accounting is not going anywhere — it’s a staple of business schools — and one of the things that helps us is, we probably have one of the strongest relationships with the Big Four among business schools that I’ve ever seen.
“Yes, there are a lot of master’s of accounting programs, and yes, there are a lot of data analytics programs that have been cropping up — but having an accounting program with data analytics, I don’t see that.”
Who is the ideal applicant and student? “Our undergrad applications are way up, so it’s a bad time to be applying but a great time from my perspective,” Russell says. “When I looked at a lot of those prospective students and met with those parents, I saw that these are really smart students who came inland said, ‘I’m really interested not only in an undergrad degree but a graduate degree.’ It’s rather interesting, I think it’s because our selectivity went up so high.”
Villanova is looking for students with strong quant skills who understand that analytics is the “wave of the future,” Russell says. “And they have to understand Big Data.” The average age of Master of Accounting students at Villanova has been 23 years, according to school statistics, with an average undergraduate GPA of 3.5 and just one year, on average, of work experience.
What’s the application process? Are GMATs or GREs required? An essay? Applicants are not required to provide a GMAT or GRE score, though a score may be requested by the admissions committee to strengthen an application. Significant emphasis, however, is placed on prospective students’ undergraduate accounting grades. Applicants are required to submit official transcripts of academic credentials, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and two essays.
Also required are four prerequisite courses: Intermediate Accounting I, Intermediate Accounting II, Federal Income Tax, and Audit.
What is the application deadline? The inaugural cohort for the newly format MACDA degree will begin in August 2018 and graduate in May 2019. Application deadlines for this cohort:
- Round 1: November 15, 2017
- Round 2: January 15, 2018
- Round 3: March 15, 2018
- Round 4: June 30, 2018
What will students learn in the program? What’s the program format? See course progression below. Courses include: Leadership, Negotiations, Professional Development; advanced topics in Financial Disclosure & Fraud, ERP Systems & Data Analytics, Advanced Auditing Topics, Taxes & Business Strategy, Data Modeling & Business Intelligence, Risk Management & Performance Measurement, Valuation Issues in Accounting; and various electives in areas such as analytics, finance, and taxation.
The MACDA program is characterized by a curriculum informed by global accounting firms and matched to future market demands in the field, combining core business practices, modern analytics technology and data sets, and a grounding in responsible leadership, according to the program website. It also features “(f)aculty members who are highly regarded as teachers, researchers, and scholars, with a wide range of professional experience” and who “teach in an adaptive learning environment where the focus is on helping students learn how to better themselves, their organizations, and their communities.”
What do you expect student outcomes to be? Not only will the 30 credit hours earned in the program (combined with an appropriate undergraduate degree) meet the 150 hours required by many states to earn a CPA license, but MACDA graduates may later apply for admission into the MBA Flex Track program and transfer 12 of their MACDA credits toward their MBA degree.
Villanova also offers professional development services in MACDA program that include:
- Software workshops
- Internship information sessions
- Resume critiques
- Lunch and Learns with the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Meet the Firm Receptions
As Joyce Russell says, Villanova grads “don’t have any problems with placement and they get great jobs” — most of those jobs at the Big Four accounting firms. “All of our students get placed, and they’re all working for Big Four firms — so much so that it’s hard for other firms to come in and hire our students.
“So they’re going get that job — but what this degree will do is fast-track them. The Villanova MACDA provides our students with a new, cutting-edge curriculum that will keep them at the forefront of current and future accounting profession, as well as top-tier preparation for the CPA exam. With the revamped MAC, our master’s program will align its curriculum with the skill sets needed in the professional world, while also providing employers with well-rounded, innovative and technologically advanced students ready to perform in a competitive marketplace.”