Taxation master’s program sets students up for career success

Kim Valentine had done her research and knew Portland State’s master of taxation program would help her take that next step in her career. But it wasn’t until she started interviewing for internships during the fall recruiting cycle that she realized how well-regarded it was by employers. She went on some 50 interviews with boutique, large regional and Big 4 accounting firms and received offers from 10 of the most sought-after firms.

“All the public accounting firms — and that’s what I was interviewing for — know the program and value it highly,” said Valentine, who graduates this June. “You’re definitely put at the head of the pack. … They find us to be better prepared and we are.”

Though she was initially looking to secure an internship that could lead to a full-time position, she landed a full-time position with a boutique firm from the get-go. The irony was that the firm wasn’t even hiring for the coming year.

“They thought I was a quality prospect because I was coming out of Portland State University and they decided to interview me even though they weren’t looking,” she said. “They didn’t want to lose an opportunity.”

Success stories like Valentine’s abound in the MT program, which has the highest rate of post-graduation employment of any of PSU’s Graduate Business School programs.

“The program is really designed with the student in mind and trying to maximize the student’s opportunities to work and get experience,” said Julie Hackett, academic director of the MT. 

Flexible, convenient schedule

Classes are synchronized with professional recruiting cycles. The program’s summer start gets students ready for fall interview season, the winter term is structured to accommodate full-time employment during tax season, and the spring term begins after April 15. Each term, students are invited to campus for a weekend residency to connect with classmates, faculty and staff, and network with industry professionals and employers.

Briauna Dodson ’21, who also did her undergraduate degree in accounting at PSU, said the MT program’s schedule was a big draw.

“What I really appreciated about the MT was that the terms were structured so you were not expected to be in school during tax season and could have a full-time tax season internship,” she said. “As many undergraduate accounting students know, it’s near impossible to work a

full-time tax season internship and attend school at the same time.”

Paid internships give experience, offset tuition

The internships — often an added bonus to the quality and rigor of the curriculum — provide students with an opportunity to apply and practice their learning in real-world environments. Because the internships are paying ones, Hackett said they can also help significantly offset the cost of tuition. For students from Oregon and select Western states, the paid internship could help cover nearly half of the program’s cost.

Morgan Healey ’19, who in a previous career worked abroad teaching English in Japan, jumped at the chance of living abroad again, completing an internship in the U.S. Business Tax Group (USBT) at Deloitte UK-London.

“It was really useful and made me more invested in the company knowing that I was being valued enough to be paid for my contribution,” she said.

She encourages students to work hard, try their best, ask questions and find their people.

“Internships are as much of an interview for you as it is an interview for the company,” she said. “You need to make sure your values and culture align or it won’t be a good long-term fit.”

Within two months of her internship ending, she started as a full-time tax analyst at Deloitte UK-London, continuing much of the same work she had done as an intern. She stayed at Deloitte for more than two and a half years before moving back to the states this past December, where she now works as an experienced senior associate for BDO USA.

“Deloitte UK was a great stepping stone for me,” she said. “At my current job, I am more comfortable with processes than I would otherwise be and it gave me a great launching point to take my career as far as I’d like. I am more comfortable with communication and research than several of my peers and I am able to move toward promotion faster than if I had started somewhere else.”

Like Healey, Dodson also hoped to land an internship that could double as a trial run for the firm she would work at after graduating. She secured an internship and a full-time offer during fall recruiting from her top choice, Geffen Mesher, where she continues to work as tax staff.

Though Dodson already knew she wanted to go into tax, the MT program exposed her to different areas of tax and helped her find what she was most passionate about. The classes on partnerships were her favorite and now that she works on a variety of entity returns, partnerships remain her favorite.

“Although I never thought I would get a master’s degree, being in the master’s program gave me the confidence I needed to ace fall recruiting,” she said. “Completing the master’s program gave me confidence in my ability to accomplish things above what I ever thought I could!”

Valentine said you get out what you put in.

“This degree will absolutely open every single one of those doors that you think it will, but it also takes work on your end,” she said.

The final application deadline for a summer 2022 start is June 1.

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