His sights set on CPA certification, Mark Jones earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Pitt's College of Business Administration and went straight into the Master of Science in Accounting program at the Katz Graduate School of Business.
The 30-credit graduate program served multiple purposes. It gave Jones enough credits to meet Pennsylvania's licensure requirement of 150 post-secondary education credits, while also deepening his accounting knowledge and exposing him to Katz MBA courses.
"I picked the master's in accounting program because I could earn a master's degree in two short semesters," says Jones (CBA '10, MS-ACC '11). "Plus, with the new (state) regulation that all candidates need 150 credit hours, the program makes perfect sense. And if you have a master's degree, you only need one year of work experience to earn your CPA license instead of two years for undergrads."
Jones passed his CPA exam on the first try. He was quickly hired by PNC Financial Services Group to work as an internal auditor at the company's Pittsburgh headquarters. In this role, he is responsible for monitoring the bank's compliance to Sarbanes-Oxley Act regulations.
Jones says it was a smooth transition from CBA into the Katz School. In fact, he already knew many of his professors. He credits the master program's courses in forensic accounting and international accounting for expanding his accounting knowledge.
"I think the master's in accounting - the content of the courses - really helped prepare me for the exam. Everything is all business - there's no fluff," Jones says.
Another aspect of the program that Jones enjoyed was the opportunity to take MBA courses. He focused in finance and was impressed by the diversity of the student body, both in terms of nationalities and work histories.
"Many accounting majors plan on eventually getting their MBA," Jones says. "With this program, not only do you get an accounting master's degree, you get exposure to an MBA. That puts you ahead of the learning curve," he says.
Jones, a past president of the University of Pittsburgh Accounting Association, says he was drawn to accounting at a young age. His mother joked that he'd make a good accountant, because even as a boy he was good with numbers and money.
"Accounting is indeed the language of business. You can use that to leverage yourself into so many different areas. It's a great launching pad to so many different careers and is the path of CEOs and CFOs," Jones says.
PNC Financial Services Group, Pittsburgh