MSA Graduate, Spring 2011
Employer:Ernst & Young
Is there a typical path to a master’s degree in accounting?
Not according to Jonathan Katz. After graduating from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa., with a degree in philosophy and a minor in music, Katz held jobs in non-profits and public relations. During the 2008 recession, he decided to explore jobs that aligned more with his career ambitions.
“I took some online accounting classes, and something just clicked for me,” he says. “So I started looking for programs that would help me make the transition into a career in accounting without needing to pursue an additional undergraduate degree.”
Katz researched a number of local accounting programs—including the Santa Clara accounting certificate program—before deciding on the San Jose State Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA).
One of the things that drew him to the MSA was meeting the people affiliated with the program. “The quality of the faculty is very impressive,” he says. “They’re people with amazing credentials that include big names like Stanford and Wharton. You don't get that at most places, even much larger schools.”
And speaking of size, SJSU’s relatively smaller classes appealed to Katz, too. “The thought of a class of 350 people, with no direct interaction with the professor, wasn’t motivating to me,” he says. “SJSU’s MSA program is designed for a small cohort of people. Our class had less than 35 students. Many of us had very diverse backgrounds in areas other than accounting or finance which created a great melting pot of experience.”
His cohort of classmates at SJSU became a central part of Katz’s academic experience. “With the small class size, we took all courses together. We studied together. We progressed together. We felt a commitment and a sense of responsibility to one another,” he explains.
“Even during the recruiting season when we were meeting with the various accounting firms, we didn’t feel competitive toward one another. Rather, we were very supportive of each other’s progress and ambitions. We would introduce our classmates to accounting professionals at networking events, engage each other in mock interviews, drive to interviews together and read each other’s cover letters and resumes.”
Most all of Katz’s classmates are now immersed in their accounting careers. Katz, himself, is a senior accountant with Ernst & Young. He’s happy with the change in direction he took.
“There’s a perception that accountants sit in a corner and run numbers all day,” Katz says. “But the truth is, public accounting is a very dynamic, people-focused profession. We do spend a good bit of time crunching numbers, but there’s much more to it. We help our colleagues to be better professionals, we work to understand our clients and we help clients to be better at what they do.”
Katz credits SJSU’s MSA program with helping him learn to take a broad view of his clients’ interests—what he calls “thinking like an accountant.”
“Whether it’s working with colleagues or clients, there isn’t a day that my work doesn’t reference the foundation I built through the SJSU MSA program,” he says. “Looking back on my career so far, there’s no way this philosophy major could have been on this trajectory without it!”