Wanna be a boring accountant? It's not the mind-numbing, number-crunching career that many assume, as many recent college graduates can attest.
Just ask 27-year-old Grayson Moyse, who started last summer at one of the country's top-rated accounting firms, Macias Gini & O'Connell in Sacramento.
Boring? Wearing red sneakers and a black Giants baseball hat at his firm's recent "employee appreciation" outing to a River Cats game, Moyse says accounting isn't the least bit dull.
"When I was in college, I didn't think it would be as people-oriented as it is. It's not being on a computer in a cubicle all day," said the Sacramento State accounting major, who graduated in May 2011 after switching from biology and a brewery science path.
"What's great about accounting is there are a bunch of ways you can tailor it to accommodate what you want to do," said the Stockton native, ticking off such possible careers as auditor, bank examiner, analyst, chief financial officer.
At a time when many of his post-college peers are struggling to find work or temporarily living back at home with mom and dad, Moyse and his numbers-friendly colleagues are getting snapped up for decent-paying jobs.
Considered one of the country's hottest hiring sectors, accounting jobs are projected to increase 15.7 percent through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median salary for accountants in 2012: $61,690, according to the bureau.
And now there's a new path to nab some of those jobs.
This fall, UC Davis is launching one of only two UC master's degrees in accountancy, following in the footsteps of state universities that have been offering advanced accounting degrees for years. In doing so, UC Davis falls in step with a new state law that requires starting in January 2014 an extra year of post-college course work before getting a CPA license.
Professor Robert Yetman, a CPA and founder of UC Davis' new masters in professional accountancy program, says California CPAs were at a severe disadvantage because the state was one of only two that didn't require the extra 30 semester units to obtain a license.
"It meant our CPAs weren't transferrable to another state," Yetman said. "If you had a client in Texas, you didn't meet their requirements so it made it difficult to work on multistate (assignments)."
Part of UC Davis' mission is to jettison the old notions about the profession.
"Accounting is way beyond the Dark Ages of the green eyeshade," said Will Snyder, executive director of UC Davis' new program. "You have to be a dynamic person, a global thinker. Accounting can be very creative and a good way to make a difference."
That's how Moyse, a first-year financial auditor, views his job: daily problem-solving amid a diverse mix of business types and client personalities.
And, he says, it's a career that matters.
"We're looking at a city or county's financial statements, and if something's missing it affects taxpayers who are paying into it. If it's a pension statement, it affects state workers and (retirees). What we're doing affects people's everyday lives."
For its inaugural master's class, UC Davis has already accepted 23 students primarily Californians but also students from China, India and other states. With September applications still open, UC Davis expects to enroll 25 to 30 students; UC Riverside says it will take 40.
"We can take someone who's not an accountant and turn them into an accountant in one really hard year," said Yetman, noting that UC Davis' program is open to students of any major, not just business or accounting students.
Snyder said UC Davis' first class includes students with majors from archaeology to philosophy. Some want to work for Big Four accounting firms or local CPA offices. Others want to specialize in agricultural accounting, government auditing or even museum work.
The UC Davis program is aimed at helping fill accounting jobs in the underserved Central Valley, bringing more Latino and minority students into financial fields, said Yetman.
Ken Macias, founder of MGO accounting firm and a former board chairman of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, says accounting has moved from being a white male-dominated field, but there's still "a need to have more minority CPAs to help emerging entrepreneurs," many of them Latino small-business owners.
As of 2009, the California Society of CPAs said only 4 percent of its members were Latino and only 2 percent were black.
Macias, a CSUS graduate who holds both bachelor's and master's degrees in business and accountancy, doesn't see the UC Davis program as a harmful competitor to state universities.
"Sac State already has an accountancy program that's longtime established," he noted. "Davis brings the cachet of a UC, but there's room for both in Northern California."
At about $38,500 a year, the one-year UC master's degree isn't cheap. "That's a pile of money," agreed Yetman. "It's expensive because it's a highly technical degree, our (MBA) faculty is teaching and it costs a lot to deliver live curriculum." (By contrast, the CSUS accountancy master's degree is taught online only and costs about $17,100.)
Yetman said the UC Davis program is completely self-funded, taking no state money. About 5 percent to 10 percent of its tuition revenues are being set aside for need- and merit-based scholarships.
(The national and California CPA associations also offer scholarships for students pursuing undergraduate or master's degrees in accountancy.)
With the country still stymied by stubborn unemployment, young accountants like David Hollyman, 27, who started at Macias Gini & O'Connell four years ago, are counting on some job security.
"As the economy goes down, regulations typically go up, which means more work for us," said Hollyman, a CSUS grad who has his CPA license. "It's a pretty recession-proof job."
NEW UC DAVIS MASTER'S DEGREE IN ACCOUNTING
What it is: The first master's degree in "professional accountancy" offered by University of California, starting this fall at UC Davis and UC Riverside. Known as an MPAc (master of professional accountancy).
What it covers: A one-year program of advanced classes in auditing, tax and financial reporting, international accounting, ethics and communications.
Tuition: About $38,500.
Where else offered: Private colleges and public state universities, including CSU Sacramento and CSU Chico, which offer master's of science degrees in accountancy. Some MSA programs, including the one at CSUS, are taught only online.
Why it's important: Starting in January 2014, all CPA candidates in California must have an additional 30 semester units beyond their bachelor's degree the equivalent of a one-year master's. It's part of a 2009 law that brings California in line with CPA requirements in most other states.
Source: Bee research
BEST BUSINESS JOBS
When it comes to getting a job, accounting is considered one of the nation's hottest hiring sectors. Here's where accountants fit in among the Top 10 "Best Business Jobs" of 2012, based on job growth, unemployment rates, median salary and job satisfaction:
1. Meeting/event planner, $45,260
2. Sales representative, $52,440
3. Accountant, $61,690
4. Receptionist, $25,240
5. Financial adviser, $64,750
6. Customer service, $30,460
7. HR specialist, $54,160
8. Insurance agent, $46,770
9. Financial analyst, $74,350
10. Executive assistant, $43,520
Source: U.S. News & World Report
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