Focus Forward

Innovative programs meet needs of today’s students and industry

Businesses that are successful over time are those that innovate, adapt, and change to meet market demands. Business schools are no exception. They, too, must take a wide view of emerging trends to prepare the next generation of business leaders.

Penn State Behrend is at the forefront of innovation in business education. Ten years ago, it was one of the first educational institutions in the country to bring its schools of business and engineering together under a single roof to create multidisciplinary learning experiences for students.

Today, with visionary administrative leadership and guidance from a board of advisers of accomplished professionals from a variety of business backgrounds, the Black School rigorously evaluates its offerings and adapts to meet the needs of its students and the larger business world.

Here are two examples.

Master of Professional Accounting 

Increasingly complex business methods, growing sophistication of auditing approaches, new tax laws, and demand for highly technical services require an expanded knowledge base for an individual to become an effective, efficient accounting professional. To that end, forty-eight states now require 150 credit hours of education for Certified Public Accountant licensure.

Recognizing the need for additional education beyond a bachelor’s degree, the Black School of Business is now offering a Master of Professional Accounting degree.

The 30-credit program can be completed in one year of full-time study, so Black School students who graduate with a business degree from Penn State Behrend can continue learning for a year and fulfill the educational requirements for CPA licensure while also obtaining a graduate degree.

The M.P.Acc. curriculum takes a more in-depth look at accounting topics covered in undergraduate classes and also delves into new territory such as business law, leadership, ethics, corporate tax planning, and financial management.

“The coursework in the program is much more analytical and discussion-based,” said Andrea Kressler, who graduated with an Accounting degree in 2015 and continued enrollment to earn her M.P.Acc. this summer. “The assignments don’t just require you to find the right answer. Instead, you’re challenged to think outside of the box to find your own solutions and explain your reasoning.”

A bonus of the M.P.Acc. is that a student can sit for CPA exams while still learning and earning the 150 credit hours required for licensure.

“In Pennsylvania, you can sit for your CPA exams with a bachelor’s degree,” Kressler said, “so you can take that extra year to pass the exams and be done before you start your job. I was able to pass two exams the summer before I started the M.P.Acc. I took the last two while I was still in the program.”

Kressler said obtaining the M.P.Acc. immediately after her bachelor’s degree gave her a solid understanding of accounting before she entered the field.

“The M.P.Acc. coursework helped me understand topics from several different angles,” she said. “I would definitely recommend the program to others.”

Kressler recently joined Ernst & Young in Columbus, Ohio, as a member of the company’s Financial Services Office.

Online finance degree

The Internet has changed not only the way the world does business, but also the way it learns. Online education offers students the flexibility to earn a degree without having to quit their daytime job or make accommodations to attend class at specific times.

Two years ago, the Black School of Business began offering its accredited B.S. in Finance degree through Penn State World Campus.

Faculty from the school teach courses in the 120-credit program, which provides students with a foundation in the principles of business, economics, and accounting.

Students who complete the degree may go on to jobs such as financial planners, financial analysts, security analysts, portfolio managers, bankers, and risk managers as well as jobs in corporate tracks that lead as high as the chief financial officer.

It’s a degree likely to offer a high return on investment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, financial-sector jobs will see robust growth through 2022. For instance, jobs in personal financial advising are forecast to increase by 27 percent, and the number of financial analyst jobs is predicted to increase by 16 percent.

In addition, learners in the online Finance major can complete the 18-credit Certificate in Financial Planning, which is a registered program with the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. It gives students an introduction to the areas of insurance, taxes, investments, retirement planning, and estate planning.

Students in the World Campus Finance program say it exceeds their expectations.

“I already knew that Penn State was an exceptional institution, but now I know that World Campus is too,” said Andrew Hoverson, an enlisted Marine who lives in Virginia and is also an online Finance major through World Campus. “I’ve been surprised at the effort put forth to really include online students in things that are happening at the school, such as guest speakers, club meetings, and the Intrieri Family Student-Managed Fund.”