When Luis Barrientos was offered a job with one of the Big Four accounting firms in May 2011, the…

Georgia (Jul 30, 2012)

When Luis Barrientos was offered a job with one of the Big Four accounting firms in May 2011, the job was contingent upon completing 150 semester-hours of coursework. Instead of just taking additional undergraduate courses, Barrientos chose to pursue a Master of Accounting (MAcc) degree from the School of Accountancy in the Michael J. Coles College of Business to prepare for the challenges of the accounting profession. He is graduating this week and starts his job in the federal tax department at KPMG LLP in October.

“I wanted to learn about taxes more in depth so I went for a master of accounting specializing in taxes,” says Barrientos, who was awarded the 2012 Federation of Schools of Accountancy Student Award at Kennesaw State. “I learned a lot and I feel like I’m well prepared to take on my job.”

Barrientos is one of 59 students graduating from Kennesaw State University July 31 with a MAcc, whose curriculum and program delivery have been revised in the last year. The full-time master’s degree program is cohort-based, which means that students take their classes together and finish in one year. More than 95 percent of students are graduating from the program at the July 31 commencement ceremonies, says Katherine Acuff, manager of the MAcc program.

“Students have the ability to finish the MAcc in one academic year, which they appreciate and makes them more focused on their studies,” says Acuff. “With the new cohort format, they have also been able to build some very strong networks and relationships.”

To revamp the MAcc, School of Accountancy faculty set out to talk to employers, recruiters and advisory board members to find out the best ways to educate and prepare students for the accounting and business worlds.

“We are very responsive to the needs of businesses, accounting firms and other recruiting organizations,” says Kathryn Epps, director of the School of Accountancy. “The program focuses on educating future leaders in the accounting profession.”

The revised MAcc offers many new features. A new, technical public policy course was added to the curriculum, along with courses on risk analysis, fraud and corporate governance, and emerging topics in taxation. Students now have access to a dedicated communications specialist who helps them with written communication and presentations. Students also learn leadership and other professional skills, and must now take a global course. Accounting firms evaluate each student at the end of the program.

Students for the first time also got the chance to travel to Washington, D.C., for a four-day residential course, presented with Ernst & Young LLP, that focused on public policy.

“We had a chance to listen to Romney’s tax adviser, a former Congressman and professionals from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, a nonprofit that oversees the audits of public companies,” says Barrientos, who was an intern at Invesco during most of the time he pursued the MAcc. “Listening to the speakers gave me a different point of view as to how tax relates to public policy and where the accounting field is headed in the future. I now have a broad vision of what the accounting profession is all about.”

Epps notes that the trip to Washington provided a valuable education and will be organized again for next year. “We think it’s important for students to understand the standard-setting process and the impact of regulation on the accounting profession and on businesses,” she says.

In order to accommodate both traditional and non-traditional students, both a daytime and evening cohort is offered. Also, students choose to focus their studies on financial reporting and auditing or taxation.

The School of Accountancy has seen a surge in interest on the part of students who want to study accounting, and firms are hiring, Epps explains. “Economic activity requires the involvement of the accounting profession, whether in the fields of tax or auditing,” she says.

This past year, the School of Accountancy awarded $95,000 in scholarships to undergrads and graduate students as well as in graduate assistantships.

“The accounting firms have stepped up,” says Epps. “They want highly qualified graduates. We have been able to attract students because of the reputation of our program. At the same time, graduates of our accounting programs are actively recruited by public accounting firms, corporations and regulatory agencies. Frequent corporate recruiters include Ernst & Young, PwC, Deloitte, Grant Thornton, the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts, Turner Broadcasting System and KPMG.”


For more information on the MAcc, please go to



Aixa M. Pascual



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit