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AMA: Brock BAcc Graduate, Carleton MAcc Graduate, Big 4 Employee

My name is Neal, and I graduated from Brock's Bachelor of Accounting Co-op program in 2016 and Carleton's Master of Accounting program in 2017. I was a yconic Student Ambassador for 2016-17. Although I work full-time at PwC now, I'm still around answering questions about accounting as a career and universities. 

My co-op work experience includes:
-Corporate Accounting, Henkel (Germany)
-Assurance and Tax, Collins Barrow
-Risk Assurance, Ernst and Young

I currently work at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Assurance. . 

A snapshot of my time at Brock:  
-Served as an executive for several clubs  
-Participated in numerous internal/external case competitions and conferences  
-Served as a Tutorial Leader for Brock's first-year Macroeconomics course  
-Inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma (the top 10% of Goodman get invited)  
-Did co-ops and internships with 3 different companies in corporate accounting, assurance, tax and risk assurance located in Germany and Canada  
-Participated in a short-term exchange to France  
-Volunteered for the business school's Career Services office, where I critiqued students' resumes  
-Lived in residence (first-year) and off campus

A snapshot of my time at Carleton:  
-President of the Sprott MAcc Society  

Feel free to ask me questions below! Or you can add me on LinkedIn if you'd like to send a private message (https://www.linkedin.com/in/nsengupta).
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394 replies
 
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Hey neal. I'll be ending first year with a 81 major and 79cavg. Is it possible to get recruited at big4, given I did one case competition, on Brock's sports team and also taking on a role in a business club.
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Hey, yup, definitely! Just network with reps from your target firm by meeting them at events (CPA Day, case competitions, office visits). Also, be known to your Co-op Office staff so that they can put in a good word for you too!
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What’s your opinion on going to Schulich, if you want to be a CPA? What programs did you get accepted into during highschool?
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Schulich's a really great choice if you want to be in the GTA. They do an amazing job of attracting employers (especially the Big 4) on campus, and they have a strong accounting alumni base.


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Hey Neal, what type of laptops are best suited for accounting students?
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Hey, It's all a matter of preference. People got through with PCs and others got through with Macs. 

You will need a PC for your MAcc/the CPA PEP Program, but that's probably a few years down the road for you. :)
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Hi Neal I know it's hard to take an online elective working at the big four. However during a fall coop term, which isn't busy season do you think it would be fine to take it? Like in terms of managing an elective?
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Hey, I think the co-op office advises against this because work should be your first priority, but you're right - the fall isn't as busy as the winter. If you were to devote maybe your Sundays to class, I think it should be okay!
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Hey Neal, have you taken the Course ADED 4p93.also do you know if ADED 1p31 or recl 1p03 has exams or midterms that have to be attended physically?
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Hey, I've only taken ADED 1P31 and there was no final exam. Not sure about the others!
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Out of the box question. Out of all accounting services, which one do you enjoy the most? Could you rank them and explain why. (Tax, audit, advisory, consulting)
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Hey, interesting question! The answer is pretty subjective depending on who you ask, but the only one I genuinely like is Audit. You're dealing with financial figures, solving issues, talking to clients, interacting with your team, and moving around geographically to different client sites. 

Advisory and consulting are two terms for related areas. "Consulting" is the name of the actual work, and "Advisory" is the name of the department. You typically move into the Advisory Department after you have your CPA and the work includes things like Fraud Investigation, Internal Audit, Standards Research, etc. I haven't had much exposure to this area yet, but it's a popular move to make within larger firms as the pay is a bit higher and the work hours are a bit lower than Audit/Tax. In Advisory, you're adding value to your client, instead of doing a necessary evil such as Audit or Tax work - so there's a chance there will be less of a negative attitude towards you. One thing is, if you're in an area where there's not a lot of work, you may have to write Proposals or do Research assignments - something you definitely don't have to do as a Junior in Audit or Tax. 

In Tax, the work is more individualized. You also don't leave the office too much, so the scenery remains the same. I personally don't enjoy the work - to me, it's not as interesting as Audit. You may also have to call the CRA regularly (to inquire about things for your client) and that's never a fun thing to do.


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Hi, it looks like you have left a big four or midsize firm a few times. Was there a specific reason with those firms of why you left or was it just for experience?
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Hey, so I left a bunch of firms as a co-op student. Those firms were just stepping stones to find out what type of company/service line I actually liked.  I left Collins Barrow because after buying into the whole "midsize is better" idea, I realized that wasn't the case. You don't have the same resources (technology, people, learning material) as a Big 4 firm. Also, client quality is generally not that great (smaller clients can mean messier files and there's less exit opportunities).

At EY, I co-op'ed within IT Audit. The firm was great, but I didn't really understand the IT side of things. I thought working in Financial Audit would be better because I understand numbers more than IT systems.
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Hey Neal, I heard that BAcc Co-op has a high dropout rate. Why is this? When do most of these students drop out (after 1st year, 2nd year, etc.)? Sorry for bringing such a negative question to this thread.
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Hey, no worries at all! People drop out because of two major factors: 
(1) People realize they don't like accounting, so they switch to BBA/BBE/other majors on their own accord. 
(2) They don't meet the academic requirements (I think it's a 70 overall "major" average to continue on - but don't quote me!) so they are forced to leave the program. Some people make it back into BAcc by pulling up their grades - but I assume this isn't common.

If you surround yourself with good people and generally keep up with the work, you should be fine! 
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Hi Neal, Thanks so much for this discussion. it has really helped!
I have a question regarding post-grad acc diploma and the MAcc. I am trying to decide which way to go, but my biggest, and most pressing, questions are:
1)  I recieved 65.1% for intermediate financial accounting l. It is by far my lowest grade and is bringing down my average. My average for all the cpa prep required courses combined is about 84-85% ( that is 15 courses i believe).  Should I really redo this course? I am taking tax 1 and 2 plus performance  management so adding interm fin acc 1 into the mix makes me a bit nervous ( that it might bring down my tax marks due to extra workload...)
2) I also have against me that i am a bit of an odd duck in terms of courses, i did take 4 courses from cpa prep (mostly intro courses) and then switched to McMaster CCE and then to athabasca( because Mcmaster wouldnt let me complete the advanced accounting certificate because i had already taken some of their diploma courses; just some werid rule they have) for the rest. Perhaps this puts me at a disadvantage right off the bat. Have you known anyone from Athabasca that has gone to the Carleton MAcc? 
My gpa stands at 3.88 right now for the advanced accounting certificate (which is basically just the final level 300 and 400 courses that CPA requires for entry into PEP).
Also, someone told me that they knew of people that dropped out/ failed post-grad because the work load was too hard/ they failed the exams and spent $15k and then had to go the PEP route. That sounds awful. Does this happen, and in what situations? Because that has made me the most worried!!!
Anyway, ANY insight would be appreciated.
Thanks so much!
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Hey, no worries, glad the discussion helped! 

1) Don't worry about that one mark! I had lower marks than that in some of my courses. 
2) I did a course at Athabasca, and someone else in my MAcc cohort took a few as well. As long as you take your courses at an one of these post-secondary institutions (https://sprott.carleton.ca/programs/master-of-accounting/maac-admissions/macc-prerequisite-forms/), you should be okay. 
3) My MAcc cohort of over 30 lost one person. It happens, but it's definitely not the norm. No one really knew them, so I'm not sure why they left, but I wouldn't worry too much about getting kicked out.  The unofficial rule of thumb is studying 2-3 hours at home for every 1 hour you're in class - as long as you do this (or something similar), you should be fine in a MAcc/Grad Diploma. (Also - Core 1 and Core 2, which are your first two classes in the MAcc, are by far the hardest. As long as you get past them, the rest of the program should be fine.)
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Thank you so much, Neal!  Really appreciate your help. I also read that most uni's will average both marks for repeat courses, so even if I do retake it, it isn't going to improve my overall average that much (and it is a LOT of work to retake). Glad to know that you had a similar situation. Also, if I don't make it then PEP is an ok backup plan. Either way, I think, a better use of any extra time I might have would be to perhaps review the Densmore competency map before starting (like you say Core 1 and 2 are the hardest).

Thanks again. I really appreciate you taking the time!
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Good luck! :)
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Hello Neal. I just finished first year in the BAcc Co-op program. I noticed that in some of the years ahead of me, I am required to take courses like Marketing, Businesses Ethics, Organizational Behaviour, etc. Are those still part of your major average and would you consider those courses easy?
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Hello, congrats on making it through Year 1! These classes are part of your major average - as a rule of thumb, all courses offered through Goodman are major classes. I wouldn't say OBHR, Marketing or Ethics are too difficult - you just need to put some time in.
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Hi Neal. What are some easy electives in the 2nd year level? If I'm not mistaken, BAcc students need an elective in the 2nd year level to graduate.
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Hello, my go-to classes were any of the first-year ADED classes. There are some first-year science classes for non-science majors which could be easy as well. Not sure if your electives HAVE to be second-year - I think the only requirement was doing at least 1.5 elective credits in non-business areas.
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Hi Neal, 

I really want to talk to you about something and i would truly appreciate if I could get some personal advice. I want to talk privately and tried to contact you on linkdyn, but i cant private msg you because I dont have a premium account. If you dont mind, can you please reply to me with your business email so I can contact you. I would greatly appreciate any help.

Thank You 
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Hey, 

If you add me on LinkedIn, you should be able to send me a message after I accept your connection request. Let me know if that doesn't work! 
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Hey Neal,
A quick question about the elective course you took, ADED. Did you buy a textbook for that course? I'm taking it currently and I am not sure if a textbook is essential or if I can do fine without it. 
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Hey, I think I bought a previous edition of one of the ADED textbooks, and I didn't end up using much of it. I think you should be fine!
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Hi Neal
I’ve been following your posts prior to me being accepted to the BAcc program at Brock and have found your posts to be full of excellent info
I’m curious to know what your year 2-6 schedule looked like... since you mentioned that it took you 6 years to complete your undergrad.
You obviously dropped courses and repeated courses on occasion and went out of the regular degree schedule which I thought would risk being removed from the program 
Just want to know what flexibility I may have and still stay in the program according to your experience ,as I may need to take a reduced course load in the future 

Any guidance would be greatly appreciated 
Brandon 


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Hey Brandon,

Sorry for the late response! And congrats on getting into the BAcc program! 

So my degree took 6 years for a few reasons: (1) I had a two off-sequence co-op terms (2) I had an extra fifth co-op term (3) I retook Tax 1 twice [I think there's a cap to retaking classes now]. You definitely have flexibility to finish whenever you want - ahead of schedule (I would not recommend this for BAcc - it would be a nightmare), on-time, or behind schedule without any repercussions. As long as you discuss this with your Academic Advisor (and ask them to help create a Program Plan for you), you should be fine. The only time you're at risk from being removed from the program is if your GPA drops below the percentage stated in the calendar (I think it's if your major average drops below 70% but don't quote me - look it up!). 
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Hi Neal, I noticed that you worked at two big four firms so far. Out of curiosity what made you not stay with the first big four firm?
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Hello, I worked in IT Audit at the first firm, and I wanted to switch to Core Audit. They weren't receptive to having me leave IT Audit...Until I interviewed elsewhere and told them I was leaving for a competitor.
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What is the salary a full time student gets with the big four in audit or tax?
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In terms of salary, would a big four firm have a good pay in the long term compared to a midsize firm or a bank?
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To begin with, midisize firms and the Big 4 have similar salaries. Banks/industry roles pay more.
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