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Furman ranks third nationally in pass rate for first-time CPA test takers

Do you want to attend an elite graduate accounting program after college? Do you aspire to work in one of the Big Four accounting firms or a large regional firm? Do you want to be among the best of the best in the accounting profession?

If the answers are yes, Furman University’s small but rigorous accounting program is the place for you.

Suzy Summers, Ph.D., James C. Self professor of business administration and chair of Furman’s business and accounting department, and Marion McHugh, Ph.D., associate professor of business and accounting, said the recent release of 2013 CPA exam results ranked Furman’s graduates as No. 3 in the nation when it comes to scores on the Uniform CPA Examination. The information was released by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy.

“We know we have a great program,” says Summers, adding the ranking is a validation of that belief. “We get great students. We demand a lot out of our students. Our students mostly go to good graduate programs. ”

And many end up working at the Big Four accounting firms—PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG—or large regional firms such as Elliott Davis.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs in the field are expected to grow by 13 percent annually through 2022, and starting salaries tend to range from $40,000 to about $60,000.

Furman’s accounting program is relatively small with 45 to 50 residential students and 30 evening students at any one time, and usually 25-35 graduating annually from both program formats.

“We have an intense accounting program,” says Summers, “…we offer specialized training in auditing, accounting systems, tax, and financial accounting.”

Furman also has a smaller student to faculty ratio. “I think that supports the quality. What we try to do is provide the student with a big-picture program . . . giving them the tools to think through a problem they might find on a job or in the CPA exam and figure out how to solve it,” says McHugh.

In addition to business, economics, and accounting students, the program also has liberal arts majors, particularly in the arts, political science, and pre-medical, who want to learn something about accounting they can use in their fields. Professionals in the community also take evening accounting courses as they work toward meeting CPA test requirements or earning a postbaccalaureate certificate in accounting.

McHugh said his philosophy to teaching is to answer the question: “How do I develop people who are able to think and develop defensible, logical solutions?”

That approach appears to be working as Furman’s accounting professors receive positive feedback from alumni, elite graduate accounting programs, and firms.

The ranking shows that “a student can go to a liberal arts university and choose to major in a non-traditional professional program and get a good education,” Summers said. “They get the best of both worlds.”

The department ensures the students are involved in reaching out to the community in various ways and exposed to liberal arts ideas as well as rigorous professional education. For example, residential students majoring in the tax area of accounting are required to volunteer to help elderly and low income people prepare their income tax forms.

When they graduate, these students also will become part of a network. Furman sends students to elite graduate schools and those schools recruit for more Furman alumni. Furman alumni go to a major accounting firm and those firms then begin recruiting at Furman for interns and employees.

In addition, Furman accounting majors run the Furman Accounting Society. The society organizes events during the year to help students advance in their career. “Meet the Firms” is an event that brings in representatives from the Big 4 firms and large regional firms to network with students, and at “Graduate School Night” students meet representatives from a number of graduate accounting programs in the Southeast.

Students also can be involved in the Investment Club, which manages a portfolio of investments that is part of the Furman endowment. Evening students have the opportunity to participate in Certified Managerial Accounting preparatory courses.

Learn more about Business and Accounting at Furman.

Last updated August 11, 2015
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Clinton Colmenares
News & Media Relations Director