MS in Taxation Student Cites Program Flexibility and Preparation

Caitlin O'Malley, a graduate student in the Department of Accountancy pursuing an MS in Accountancy with a specialization in taxation, says she enjoys balancing her advanced accounting classes and her role as the teaching assistant for the undergraduate Accounting 201 course. Her hectic study and work schedule this year is a portent of her career with a Big-4 accounting firm, a job she has already landed thanks to her Illinois bachelor's degree in accountancy and an internship she secured last year.

"Accounting firms really like to go after Illinois students," comments the alumna who received a BS in accountancy in December 2005. "I think recruiters like the fact that U of I students have learned the importance of critical-thinking and teamwork as a result of the Project Discovery curriculum. Students from other colleges are more immersed in the technical aspects of accounting."

A native of Naperville, Illinois, O'Malley says that her internship in Chicago with KPMG this past spring helped prepare her for a challenging, yet exciting career in public accounting. "It was a great experience to be able to apply my classroom experience to the real accounting world, and now, I am able to carry the knowledge I learned at KPMG back to the classroom," she says.

This fall she has a full academic schedule with two tax classes -- corporate taxation and tax research -- in addition to two finance electives -- employee benefits and real estate appraisal. Each class is comprehensive and challenging. "My professors are great, and I like the emphasis they put on practical, hands-on knowledge that we can take with us into the real world."

O'Malley likes the flexibility of the MSA-Taxation program at Illinois. The program's electives give her the opportunity to craft a graduate program tailored to her specific interests and career needs. "The electives are my chance to get more advanced coursework in areas that might turn out to be a specialty for me."

Next fall O'Malley will start full-time work for KPMG as a tax associate and believes that her Illinois experiences -- from accountancy theory and research to group presentations and memo writing -- have prepared her for the rigors of a career in taxation.

"I like the challenge of trying to solve people's problems and helping them realize their objectives," she says. And she credits Illinois with her expertise in making that happen.

--Michael Romain

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