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A Career in Accounting Rarely Follows 1-2-3

Calculator on top of investment report.

Professor Michelle Sotka grew up in a family business but fell in love with her first accounting course in college. Now she chairs the entire accounting program at Howard Community College.

Professor Adriano Lima e Silva majored in mechanical engineering and once envisioned a lifetime in that pursuit. However, he decided to switch careers to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Now he coordinates the college’s CPA candidacy certification.

Sotka has seen the same change of direction in students she’s taught. “One of my most successful was a biology undergraduate,” Sotka said recently on Dragon Digital Radio.

“He thought he wanted to go on to med school. But at a career fair, he met with some folks from one of the big four accounting firms. They talked to him and said he’d be a great candidate. He hooked up with our accounting program and now he’s doing wonderful things” as a CPA.

Students come to the HCC accounting program from different paths and for varied reasons.

“Sometimes they want to be an accountant and become a CPA,” Silva said. “Some just want to learn about the field because maybe they’re going to run their own business and want to know what’s going on. There are taxes, auditing; they could be looking for investors or need to decide the best way to buy equipment …. Everything that happens inside a business, accountants want to be part of it,” he said.

Sotka said HCC business majors are required to take accounting courses, but non-business majors should consider taking the fundamentals course. “It would benefit them personally, as we all keep track of our finances,” Sotka said.

“We want to make sure all of our students are prepared for the next step. Some are going straight to careers. Others are going to transfer to a four-year school. And some are going to take the CPA exam... Students can pursue an associate degree in accounting, a certification in bookkeeping, and a certification for CPA exam candidacy.”

All HCC accounting instructors are CPAs, and yet there are still a wealth of opportunities in accounting for individuals who do not have that designation. Silva noted that, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, there are around 1.4 million accountants in the U.S., and more accountants are needed.

“The field is expected to grow by four percent next year,” he said. “We’re always looking to grow and expand, especially in different accounting fields like cybersecurity, fraud, and computer science. We’re embracing new technology, like blockchain and machine learning.”

Sotka said that the college’s accounting program is aligned with and accepted by the Maryland Board of Public Accountancy, which issues CPA licenses in Maryland. In addition, HCC partners with the Maryland Association of CPAs, which provides industry resources and networking opportunities, allowing HCC accounting students access to these important tools.

“These organizations tell us they’re looking for a pipeline of students and candidates to sit for the CPA exam,” said Sotka. "They have openings nationally and locally in Maryland.

“We know there’s a need.”

Topics: Career Focus
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