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Now online, Bryan MSA offers big school credibility with small school feel

In early 2020, the Bryan School of Business and Economics launched its online Master of Science in Accounting. Coincidentally, it was around that time the coronavirus forced UNC Greensboro to pivot to online learning in the middle of the spring semester.

That may sound like an overwhelming change for members of the Department of Accounting and Finance, but Dr. Bill Harden doesn’t see it that way.

“We had actually been thinking about moving the Master of Science in Accounting program online for a couple of years — this was something we were going to do even before COVID-19 happened,” said Harden, an associate professor. “Since the Master of Business Administration program had already gone online, I think we were actually pretty well prepared for it. I don’t think there’s been anything that we had not expected.”

The MSA, earned online or on campus, is designed to qualify graduates for Certified Public Accountant licensure. While the master’s degree is not required for CPA certification, most states require 150 credit hours to be licensed. With intensive studies in accounting and related fields, the Bryan MSA helps students stand out and prepare for professional certifications.

Ajuenne’ Washington expects to complete the program in 2021. She says that structure is part of the reason she chose to pursue the MSA online.

“Since I’ve been here everything has been so smooth,” she said. “Everything was easy with the professors, they’re very organized. They’re on top of what they need to do and explain everything well if I have questions.”

Associate professor Dr. David Upton
Associate professor Dr. David Upton using a lightboard during the recording of an online lecture.

The online format meets the demand for students who want to continue to work while studying part-time on their schedule where it’s convenient for them, with the same quality as the face-to-face program.

Several options allow students to customize the MSA program to meet professional goals. Students interested in specializing in taxation accounting may add the taxation concentration. Students may also use electives along with one extra course to earn a graduate certificate in one of the following: business analytics, cybersecurity, supply chain management, or information technology. Stacking a certificate with the degree provides specialized skills, increasing your marketability. 

Harden says the experience, ultimately, is about more than crunching numbers.

“I think that’s kind of a misconception, people going into accounting because they think it’s a numbers business,” he said. “It’s not. It’s a communications business. The trick is communicating and having sort of a logical way of organizing your thoughts and communications. That’s what accounting accomplishes.”

The MSA program has a solid reputation with employers, with program graduates working in positions such as assurance associate, tax associate, staff accountant, financial analyst, corporate tax analyst, and financial reporting associate. The Bryan School is among 1 percent of business schools worldwide to hold dual accreditation in business and accounting from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. 

Even amid a global pandemic, students receive career support through Bryan Briefcase, a new online collection of professional development resources. Amanda Cromartie, the program’s academic advisor, meets with MSA students virtually or via phone each semester and provides guidance for courses. 

“Most of the students I know, the reason they come to UNCG is they want a big school with a small school feeling,” said Harden. “They want that personal touch and relationship with their faculty they don’t want to be treated like one in 500 people in a class. And we accomplish that, even online.”

For Washington, it was the personal touch during a virtual Bryan School Open House that sealed the deal.

“That’s really when it clicked,” she said. “Just because of how genuine everyone on the call was.”