MISSOULA – The University of Montana accounting program has a long-standing reputation for preparing top accounting graduates. Now it boasts a new impressive statistic: In 2017, UM students and graduates passed the certified public accountant exam at a rate higher than any other four-year public school in the West.
UM’s 69.5 percent pass rate on the four-part exam is the highest in Montana and well above the national average of 52.9 percent, according to new rankings released by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. UM ranks above schools including University of Oregon, University of Colorado and University of Utah. Among all large public and private schools in the Pacific Northwest, it ranks second behind only Gonzaga.
“This ranking really speaks to the quality of our students and faculty,” said Josh Herbold, chair of the Department of Accounting and Finance in UM’s College of Business. “When you have a strong curriculum and excellent students who are willing to work hard, you get strong results.”
Terri Herron, director of the Master of Accountancy Program, said that passing the exam upon graduation sets UM alumni apart from members of their cohort, who often start exam preparation classes only once they’ve joined an accounting firm.
“Years of faculty dedication to student success and the broader profession of accounting have helped build the graduate program’s strong reputation,” Herron said. “The pass rate for our graduate students is even higher at 75 percent in 2017. They are rock stars.”
The ranking isn’t UM accounting’s only recent national recognition. Public Accounting Report’s 36th Annual Professors Survey ranked UM’s master of accountancy program 16th in the country for master’s programs with less than 17 full-time accounting faculty members in 2017. UM placed 19th when compared to programs of all sizes in the West, one of four regions the survey ranked. Nearly 1,000 accounting professors from 200 U.S. colleges and universities participated in the survey, which ranks programs based on student and faculty activity.
Not surprisingly, employer recruiting for UM accounting graduates is competitive. About 50 firms actively recruit potential accounting hires from the College of Business each year. The program’s master students are in especially high demand. The 10-year average for master’s alumni who have jobs within three months of graduation is 94.7 percent, with about half of all grads working out of state.
“Our programs’ reputation is founded on a history of success – passing the CPA exam, launching a career right away and ultimately being a professional in one of the most widely respected professions,” Herron said.
UM’s accounting programs are the only programs in Montana that are separately accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Accounting is one of the original degrees offered by the College of Business; the master of accountancy program was founded in 1993.