Today we feature Jacob Rodriguez, a senior Accounting major from Hammonton, NJ (Atlantic County). Jacob is a first-generation college student who transferred here from Rowan College of South Jersey in Gloucester County. We featured Jacob in a previous story as part of our Hispanic Heritage Month #PROFspective series, which you can read here.
Could you walk us through the Accounting major?
Generally, it’s the bookkeeping of businesses and organizations. Every business needs an accounting department in order to keep track of expenses, revenue, and what’s coming in and out of the company.
What classes are associated with the major?
So first year you could look at your general electives, Principles of Accounting I [and] Principles of Accounting II. As you progress, you start learning more so of the specific areas of accounting. As you get to upper level courses, you’ll be taking Advanced Accounting, which talks more about specific transactions, as well as Federal Taxation and Auditing, where you’re going to be learning the other sides of what it is to be an accountant.
What different paths are there in accounting?
Every company needs an accountant, and there’s a lot of different companies out there. So you could go into government accounting, nonprofit, international, auditing, tax advisory — the list goes on and on. Every company has their specific needs, and they take care of their bookkeeping in their own way. As long as they’re following GAAP, which is generally accepted accounting principles — every company has to follow GAAP. So there’s many, many, many doors that you could take with accounting.
Getting your foot in the door in a public accounting firm would tend to be the best thing that you could do. Just to get that experience, it’s very fast paced, and you can grow within the company very quickly. Once you have the experience, you can virtually go anywhere.
What area have you focused on?
Right now I am focusing more on audit and tax, just because most staff level positions will have you doing both audit and tax. Having both under your belt … It’s going to be very beneficial for you and your career moving forward that way. You have the experience on both sides, and you could venture into whatever side of the business more interests you.
How did you become interested in accounting?
I was looking more for stability in a career. I was actually going to go for music education, and I switched to business. Didn’t really know if I was going to like it, didn’t really think much of what my future would look like, I was just looking for stability. And what I found in accounting was not only something that very much interests me, but something that is profitable.
You do make the investment to go to a four year institution to come out with a degree and, you know, hopefully get a good paying job, [but] the accounting profession is one of the few professions where if you do well and you do everything that you need to do, you will move up very fast in a company and be able to do very well for yourself.
What about the accounting process attracts you?
You really get to see how things happen behind the scenes. So when a customer comes into a business and purchases an item in a store, you don’t see the hundreds of micro transactions that are happening as this customer is purchasing an item. Accounting is all about figuring out how these numbers place and what they actually mean. Does the sale price on the item actually mean that the company made this amount of money, or is there an expense that’s attached to that? So I look at it kind of like a puzzle, and how each piece of the puzzle makes this big picture.
And that’s what accounting is, in a nutshell: you are taking bits of information and placing them all together in order to show, in a financial statement, how the company is doing.
Is there strong demand, in today’s market especially, for accountants?
There is definitely in today’s market more of a need for accounting. Less people are going into the accounting profession. Personally, I believe it’s because of the fact [that] if you want to go for your CPA, which you would [to] be a certified public accountant, you need to first attain 150 credits in order to sit for the exam. Most programs are geared towards 120 credits, not 150. So that means extra classes, maybe even extra semesters. It might even mean more money you’re spending in order to get the degree. So it requires more time and attention for a student to go for the 150, and it might even require them to have less of a school and extracurricular life balance. It requires more of a person in order to get that 150 credit requirement.
How is the profession adjusting to the lack of accountants currently?
There are talks about changing the requirement of 150 credits. The CPA exam, within the next two years, it’s going to be completely different. It’s going to require more analytical based questions, so more on the side of programming — things like Python, that’s going to be a requirement for accountants moving forward sitting to take the CPA exam. So not only is the CPA changing, what you need in order to attain your CPA, but they’re noticing, hey, students don’t want to become accountants anymore. Is it a pay thing? Is it alright? Do we need to make the credits amount smaller? Do we just need to change it to 120, 130? They’re definitely looking at it in the long term and saying something needs to change, whether it’s the credit amount, whether it’s the courses that you need to take in order to sit for the CPA, or in order to just get the degree. I am fairly certain that something is going to change within the next one to two years. Because not a lot of people are going for accounting.
Do you feel you’ve been well prepared for this change from your time at Rowan?
Absolutely. As far as I know, when Rowan first was informed of all the changes that were happening within the CPA exam, they quickly changed their course structure. So now, courses like Accounting Analytics are required where you learn the analytical side of accounting, and an Intro To Programming using Python. So Rowan as a university has definitely adapted to the changes very well.
And graduating as a senior [this May], I feel very confident that no matter where I go I stand at a very good position and have all the knowledge that I could intake because of the course schedule and the course structure.
What opportunities are there for accounting majors to get real-world experience?
One thing that I would recommend for students who go into Accounting here at Rowan: definitely take advantage of all of the programs that we have here. Beta Alpha Psi is an amazing group and sorority — it’s going to allow you to network with people all across the country, and the events that the business side of Rowan holds, they are phenomenal. I’ve been able to network with so many different people. Just recently we had an Accounting, Finance, and MIS Expo where there were, I want to say, 30 employers, and I was able to network with so many people outside of Rowan. And because of this event, I now have several interviews lined up.
So definitely take advantage of every single event that you see, sign up for as many things as you can [to] volunteer, do whatever you can in your free time. It’s going to be worth it in the long run.
Have you been going to Rowan all four years?
I actually haven’t. I’m a transfer student from Rowan College of South Jersey, which is a community college that Rowan owns. And I transferred right after the pandemic. It was my first semester back in the classroom, but it was a smooth transition. All of my credits transferred. It was different than being all virtual. But the staff here, especially in the Business Hall, they’re amazing. All of my professors have been phenomenal. I have no complaints. I haven’t had an interaction with a professor or any classmates that has negatively affected me — on the contrary, every interaction I’ve had with people here has been positive.
Could you talk to us about the community that you found here at Rowan?
Absolutely. All of the faculty here at Rowan, they genuinely do care about your success, they care about your future, they care about you as an individual. You’re not just a number. And all of my professors, if there’s ever been an issue, I email them, and they answer fairly quickly. They talk to me if there’s an issue about an assignment, whatever it is, but not just in the classroom — outside of the classroom [as well]. Everyone here at Rowan is very friendly. It’s a community, not just strangers who go to the same campus. Everyone here genuinely cares about who you are as an individual.
How have you overcome challenges in the new curriculum?
Some of these upper level courses have definitely been challenging. But with enough time and personal preparation, you won’t be set up for failure. All of the courses are structured in a way where you will get the answer.
There’s resources here on campus. I’ve done tutoring myself with some of the harder courses, and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. Everyone here is [here] to help you and to further your education. I’ve definitely taken advantage of the resources here on campus.
What keeps you motivated through challenges in accounting?
Accounting is going to require a lot of you, no matter where you go. It’s going to be a very fast-paced environment. And for some people that is very overwhelming, but just know that leaving Rowan I am 100% confident that no matter where I go, I have the right knowledge and information to work for a company and know that I’m doing the right thing. So don’t be so stressed about the job that you’re going to be taking in accounting. Just know that you’re not set up for failure, you’re in a good spot.
Is there a specific company or industry that made you want to become an accountant?
Personally, I’m looking at public accounting firms. If you’re working for a big firm, expect to be working more than the 40 hours when it’s coming time for the end of quarters or companies’ end of their fiscal year. Because not all companies run on [the standard calendar], January’s the beginning and December’s the end. Some companies are a little bit off in their calendar and their year run. It is going to require a lot of you, but it’s not something that should deter you from doing accounting. It should motivate you. It’s not going to be the same thing every single day. It’s a profession that you will enjoy and you will reap the benefits from.
See our video with Jacob here:
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Joseph Conte, junior community and environmental planning major