BYU Accounting Grads Help Set National Standards

Grads launch careers at Financial Accounting Standards Board

Most accountants spend their days ensuring that company financial records are up to standards. But for a handful of Brigham Young University Master of Accountancy graduates, going to work means helping set those standards.

During the last decade, BYU MAcc graduates have consistently been placed as post-graduate technical assistants with the Financial Accounting Standards Board, the body recognized by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants as the authority on financial standards in the United States.

"For BYU to have someone coming out of the MAcc program placed as a PTA every year for the last five years — occasionally two in the same year — is pretty remarkable," says associate professor of accountancy Jeff Wilks, who oversees students accepted into the FASB and who also worked for the board for two years. "It's a small group of schools that consistently places people in the FASB."

While at the year-long position, recent graduates help prepare documents for board members, answer specific questions from accountants and work on projects as needed. With the board taking only six recent graduates from across the country every six months, it is a rare opportunity for recent accounting graduates to participate.

Candace Jones, a 2009 MAcc graduate who currently works as a PTA, fell into the experience by chance. When the original candidate decided to take a job with the International Accounting Standards Board, Wilks nominated Jones to fill the vacancy, much to her surprise.

"This experience has helped broaden my perspective on the standard-setting process," Jones says. "People complain about the complexity of accounting standards, but when you have to balance the perspectives of financial statement preparers and users operating in multiple industries, the task to present information that is relevant and faithfully represents the company's operations becomes very complicated."

Jones is currently working on improving financial statement presentations. As the staff proposes different ways companies can accurately present their financial statements, she helps create illustrations, or examples, demonstrating how the new standard would affect the fictitious company's statements.  Using these recommendations, the board ultimately decides what presentation methods will be used.

"It's a neat experience to be part of something that is so much bigger than one person, or even one country, and to see positive changes taking shape," Jones says.

For Tracy Farr, a second-year MAcc student from Greensburg, Pa., who will start as a PTA in July, the chance to work with the FASB presents both a challenge and an opportunity to learn accounting standards from those who actually make them.

"I love the way that technical accounting issues force me to think and analyze a situation," he says. "There is rarely a clear answer, and everyone has a different view on how things should be accounted for."

Based on his preparation in the BYU accounting program, it's no surprise to Farr that BYU accounting grads consistently go on to fill this opportunity.

"That so many of our students have been selected seems to be a testament to the Marriott School, the accounting program, and the faculty at BYU," he says. "I only hope that I can represent the school well and continue to maintain the reputation of professionalism that BYU graduates have established."

The FASB, headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., is operated by the Financial Accounting Foundation. It is a private sector organization and is independent of all businesses and professional organizations. It was created to "establish and improve standards of financial accounting and reporting for the guidance and education of the public, including issuers, auditors and users of financial information."

The Marriott School is located at Brigham Young University, the largest privately owned, church-sponsored university in the United States. The school has nationally recognized programs in accounting, business management, public management, information systems, entrepreneurship, and recreation management and youth leadership. The school's mission is to prepare men and women of faith, character and professional ability for positions of leadership throughout the world. Approximately 3,300 students are enrolled in the Marriott School's graduate and undergraduate programs.

Media Contact: Joseph Ogden (801) 422-8938
Writer: Dustin Cammack