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24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-10-2006, 09:37 PM   #1
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24 years old: what's my next move?

I'm 24, graduated in 2004, joined a large multinational corporation with their finance training program. In two years I've had 4 assignments with various segments. I'm getting ready to graduate from the program in a few months and I'm trying to decide what my next move should be. I'm evaluating job offers from my employer and there's a lot of demand for my finance/accounting skillset within the company right now. My undergrad degree was in business/finance but I don't have a CPA or MBA.

I like working in finance and I expect that I'll be in this function for a while, so I don't have any desire to get a full-time MBA (don't want to take on massive loans and give up two years income for an uncertain payback). Long term, I hope to continue working in operational finance, but I may want to move towards the technology industry. If I could someday become a general manager, that would be great, but I may not be enough of a politico to pull that off.

However, I do wonder about how long I will stay with my current employer. I can see another 3-5 years here but after that the picture becomes more hazy...will depend on what kind of opportunities they keep offering me. I know that I'm getting great experience here, but without some more letters after my name I fear that I will be limited when it is time to start looking for greener pastures. This also means that I'll have less bargaining power if HR starts limiting my career (I've seen it happen). Another problem with my employer is that they require you to relocate every few years if you want to stay on the career fast-track. I want to continue moving up the ladder, but I don't think I should have to constantly move across the country to do this...plus I have a SO who is not so geographically mobile due to her own career.

One option is a private part-time MBA program. The school in my area wants $75k for a two year program. I think this is a lot given that they're not ivy league, not even top 20 in the rankings. It's unlikely that I could get my employer to spring for this; maybe they would pick up 50%. The 2nd option is to go to a public university that has a good regional program, but is not as well known nationwide. They want $25k, so there's a better chance my employer would reimburse me. Since I can't negotiate on salary, I may be able to get tuition reimbursement. I don't have any plans to leave this part of the country so I am thinking that the cheaper program is the better value. I have the right background to get in to either program.

Another benefit of either program is that it would allow me to get enough accounting credits to sit for the CPA exam. I don't have any desire to become an auditor but I think a CPA would give me even more credibility with potential employers. Plus, a CPA/MBA would help differentiate me from the hordes of freshly minted MBAs.

What would you do? Have I missed any other options?
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-10-2006, 10:36 PM   #2
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soupcxan


Another benefit of either program is that it would allow me to get enough accounting credits to sit for the CPA exam. I don't have any desire to become an auditor but I think a CPA would give me even more credibility with potential employers. Plus, a CPA/MBA would help differentiate me from the hordes of freshly minted MBAs.
I am a CPA/MBA and the CFO of a small (300 employee) company. The route I took was to have my employer pay for my MBA night school to include enough accounting credits to sit for the CPA exam. Once I completed the MBA and passed the CPA exam, I went into public accounting to satisfy the experience requirement for my license. From that point I moved on to various financial management positions.

I think that if you plan a career in the financial arena, a CPA license will give you a lot of credibility and a leg up on your competiton.* Good Luck
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-10-2006, 11:45 PM   #3
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

75k is a lot of money for not being top 20. in my opinion, i respect degrees from very high ranking universities and also cheap state schools, no matter the ranking. both have some brilliant minds attending. but an expensive mediocre school, not so much.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 07:50 AM   #4
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

$75k is fine if the school is a top flight place, but not in the top 20? Bad deal. The regional school for $25k sounds better. The way to look at this is return on capital invested. Figure out what the degree would add to your earnings power and compare that to what it will cost to get the degree. This investment will require a lot of blood, sweat and tears from you, so the returns should be good to make it worth it, say at least 15%.

A few things to consider:

- Are you even sure you will be able to stay in one place long enough to finish the degree? It would suck to have to move before you finish the program.

- Doing a degree on top of a FT job sucks. Be ready for the pain, if that is what you choose. Been there, done that, and in the end it was worth it to me (since I went to the #1 part time program in the US mostly on my employer's dime), but it was a painful and exhaisting process.

- Is there another way to skin the cat? You want some letters after your name to help you advance, so why not investigate other ways of doing this besides an MBA. In my profession, a CFA will get you about as far as an MBA (farther, in some cases). It is about as hard to get, but doesn't require sitting in classes. Maybe there are otehr ways of getting yor CPA? What other designations could you pursue that might add value to your career/increase your earnings power?
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 08:59 AM   #5
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

I'm with brewer. If you like finance, how about a CFA? I got mine in 2002.

You can read about it here:

http://www.cfainstitute.org/

Basically, you take 3 exams in succession, and it's probably like trying to pass the CPA exam. Quite tough, but doable. I studied for about 5 months for each one, 10-20 hours a week. You study on your own, although you can take review courses if it helps you learn.

It helped me get the job I have now...

Good luck!
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 09:34 AM   #6
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

I'm not in the finance field (disclaimer), but I've been debating your same question for a while myself.* I'm 28 and kind of feel like the door is closed for further advancement and more interesting work.* The obvious route to take would be to get an advanced degree on the hope that it will get my foot in the door.* I've been considering grad school for a while.* My current employer covers "only" 4k/yr tuition, so that leaves me footing a large bill or stretching part-time grad school out for a long time.* For now, I've decided to test the waters for the next 6 months.* If nothing works out, I'll probably take the GRE and go from there.* If I land a job somewhere else, I may get better tuition reimbursement coverage and can consider school anyway.

If you're ready, willing, and able, the public school sounds like a fair deal.* It is hard work to work full-time and go to school.* If there are alternative credentials that may get your foot in the door, that's an option.* The path of least resistance might be to just "sit tight", since you anticipate another 3-5 years being ok.* If nothing comes along by year 2-3, you'll probably feel better about school being a good investment.

One thing I wish is that more employers looked for intelligent, adaptable people versus a checklist of requirements ( especially in the IT field ).

Good luck!
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 09:57 AM   #7
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

The CFA looks interesting but not as much in line with what I want to do...seems to be more externally focused - I'm more interested in internal corporate finance. Not that a CFA would hurt me, but doesn't seem as directly related to my career. My stereotype of the CFA is an equity/FI trader/analyst...I don't know how much use it would be in industry, unless you were working in a specialized function like treasury or investor relations. Maybe I'm wrong?

One other set of credentials I've looked at is the CMA - Certified Management Accountant, but it doesn't have nearly the cache that the CPA does. However, I wouldn't need to take any more accounting classes to sit for the exam and I think I could pass it with self study efforts.

I'm taking the GMAT this weekend, so we'll see how that goes.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 09:58 AM   #8
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Soup, could you take a few accounting classes and sit for the CPA, or do you have to do the whole degree?
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 11:32 AM   #9
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

I dont know much about MBA degrees, but i'm surprised you cant get tuition remission to go to grad school.* I got Baylor univeresity to pay for all of my grad school for only breaking 1000 on the GRE.* I made 1110 (excluding analytical section), but they would have done it for 1000. This was for a M.A./M.S. in Biology.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 11:45 AM   #10
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Back when California had a public university system, I went back and got my M.P.A. at night school, while working full time. While it was a pain at times, I have never regretted it. It has opened doors and helped create opportunities that will allow me to RE soon!
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 12:17 PM   #11
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

I would need more than a few classes to meet the 30 hours of upper-level accounting courses requirement, so I could knock some of that out with the electives in an evening MBA. The rest I could pick up on an as-needed basis from the school's certificate program (designed to offer accounting classes so people can qualify for the CPA). I have all the other requirements to sit for the exam. And once I passed it, I don't think I'd have a problem finding a CPA in the company to work under for 2 years to satisfy the experience requirement. The other option is to do a masters in accounting, but I think the MBA is more versatile, and I'm not in a rush to get the CPA anyway.

And yes, I'm sure that FT job plus PT school equals a lot of stress, but I'm not crazy about either of the alternatives: waiting until I'm 35 and have a family to try to cram an MBA in or taking 2 years off with the associated costs/lost income.

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Originally Posted by brewer12345
Soup, could you take a few accounting classes and sit for the CPA, or do you have to do the whole degree?
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-11-2006, 03:58 PM   #12
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Interesting thread, thanks for starting it. I am trying to figure out my next step as well. I finished a FT MBA program in December. Tough to say which is better but in your case PT certainly sounds like the best route. It depends on the person. For me, however, I wasn't in finance prior to grad school and I didn't have a company willing to pay for jack so I chose the FT route.

Well, IMHO a CPA is best thing to have if you want to remain in the corp finance area. I think you know that. An MBA is probably the most versatile of the 3 mentioned and could certainly help you get into MGT. However, in my experiences I am think it goes beyond the degree or certification when it comes to MGT. You really have to possess certain skills that are ahhh not taught in the classroom. To me an MBA doesn't qualify you to be a great MGR but a CPA does mean you have some credibility when it comes to accounting. Does that make sense? You probably know if you have those traits and I am guessing you would not be interested in MGT if you didn't.

My advice and it isn't worth much but - check out the MBA programs you are interested in and talk with an MBA advisor. I think you could clearly state that you want to fill your elective requirements with graduate level accounting courses. We were allowed to take MACC classes for non-accounting undergrad majors. It shouldn't be a problem (my program was flexible like that) and that should give you enough accounting hours to sit for the CPA. So. with that said, you could knock out the MBA and also meet the requirements to sit for the CPA.

As far as your employer goes, I would try to get them to pay for as much as possible so long as there isn't any clauses.

With that being said, I am not sure whether or not I want to pursue a CPA or a CFA. I love investments but I didn't graduate from a top 20 school and I think it would be difficult for me to get into the investment biz even with a CFA. CPA is pretty hot right now and the accounting shortage doesn't look like it is going change any time soon. Seems more like a sure thing but damn I love investments.

Good luck Soupx.

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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-15-2006, 03:34 PM   #13
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Update: Decent GMAT score.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-15-2006, 04:01 PM   #14
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soupcxan
Update: 710 on the GMAT. I think that's pretty decent.
Yup. Good job. With that score you can potentially go where you please.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-15-2006, 10:52 PM   #15
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

MBA's seem to be a dime a dozen these days. CPAs not so much.

My $0.02
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-16-2006, 10:08 PM   #16
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

So now that I have my score, the MBA question is:

1) Take 2 years off and go full time at UT-Austin (top 20 by most accounts)
Cost: $40k tuition

2) Part-time UT-Austin program in Houston (same diploma but not as prestigious as the full-time program? less networking opps? debatable.)
Cost: $60k, may be hard to get employer support at that price

3) Part-time Rice program
Cost: $70k, may be hard to get employer support at that price

4) Part-time University of Houston program
Cost: $25k, but likely to get employer support for some/all of it

While the costs are easily quantifiable, I don't know how to value the expected income growth from one program versus the another. If I plan to keep working in Texas, how much more is a full-time MBA from Austin worth versus a part-time MBA from Houston?

Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345
Yup. Good job. With that score you can potentially go where you please.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-17-2006, 07:38 AM   #17
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Quote:
Originally Posted by soupcxan

While the costs are easily quantifiable, I don't know how to value the expected income growth from one program versus the another. If I plan to keep working in Texas, how much more is a full-time MBA from Austin worth versus a part-time MBA from Houston?*
I've no clue, but most schools publish thae average salary + bonus of graduating MBAs, so you could pretty easily build a model of the costs and benefits relative to your current earnings and see what kind of return you might be looking at.
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-17-2006, 02:59 PM   #18
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Here are the self-reported statistics on salaries for these schools' full-time programs:

UT-Austin: $85k+$15k bonus

Rice: $83k+$15k bonus

U of Houston: $67k - think this is skewed downward by a small sample size and high % of non-profit acceptances but maybe not. also, no data provided on bonuses

No one seems to publish salary info for part-time programs, which I understand since it may not be as applicable to their graduates who may continue to work in their current job for a period of time before getting a promotion. So I don't know how relevant these numbers are to my situation. On the other hand, the Rice and UT Austin numbers may be skewed upwards by grads with extra high salaries who take investment banking or management consulting jobs, neither of which I'm interested in.

Based on this, I'm still having a hard time quantifying the expected return from one program relative to another...
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-17-2006, 03:05 PM   #19
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

sup, how do these comp pacages compare to your current pay?
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?
Old 04-17-2006, 03:09 PM   #20
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Re: 24 years old: what's my next move?

Go to the very best program and the one with the best alumni network. With that said I would scratch U of Houston off the list and stick with UT or (my choice) Rice.
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