Five Things the MPA Program Taught Me

Hi All,

I’m coming up on six months as a full-time audit associate at one of the Big Four firms in Boston.

Taking a moment to reflect, I’ve identified five things (among many) I learned as a traditional MPA student last year that prepared me to succeed in my current role.

1 – Debits and Credits: Whenever I’m doing audit work and come across something strange or complicated, it always helps to bring it back to basics. What’s being debited? What’s being credited? Does that make sense? How does that affect the income statement? The balance sheet? Is it material? What are the assumptions? These questions help me wrap my head around my work every day.

2 – Cycles and Assertions: It turns out that auditing really is done by focusing on cycles and assertions. You do controls testing (“404” or “SOX” testing) over the Inventory cycle separate from the Purchasing and Payables cycle. When you test Cash, you identify what assertions you are testing, such as accuracy, rights and obligations, etc. Not the most interesting stuff I’ve ever studied, but definitely useful, and certainly foundational.

3 – Teamwork: I’m always working on teams these days. Always. Team projects and research papers were great practice for this aspect of the job.

4 – Technical Accounting: It turns out that new associates, and even experienced associates, aren’t expected to know a lot about specific, technical accounting rules. Rather, we focus on fairly straightforward accounting during the first few years. But the MPA program taught a good amount of technical accounting rules and research skills, so I feel well prepared for my current role and also to step up to the plate when it is my responsibility to make some of the more technical calls.

5 – Career Planning: One of the most useful resources provided to MPA students, IMHO, is the Career Center. The counselors, seminars and advice were invaluable to me when planning my career path and interviewing with the Big Four and other firms. The advice to “manage your career” remains excellent advice even now that I’ve joined a Big Four firm. Some things are clearly planned and set out for me. But much of what I do to further my development, my education, my network, and my career in general, is largely up to me.

It makes a guy grateful to have attended such a great program. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. Feel free to e-mail me at mpablogger[at]gmail[dot]com.

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