When Michelle Bates started a new job in corporate accounting after nearly nine years of employment in public accounting, her knowledge base needed a tune-up.
Bates enrolled in the University of Cincinnati online Master of Science in Taxation program to help herself learn the intricacies of her new job and broaden her skill set. She will graduate in August 2017.
"I got a ton of value out of it," Bates said. "I'm really glad I did it and especially glad I chose this school and this particular program. I hadn't even thought about a master's degree until I took this job. However, if there are two equally qualified people who are trying for a position and one has a master's degree and one doesn't, it's probably going to the one with the master's."
Bates, who was born in Cleveland, raised in New Jersey and now lives in Portland, ended up in accounting after her career path began in a much different direction.
"I started college as a music major," Bates said. "I thought, 'Well, going to college to play piano is maybe not the smartest thing for me. Since I had no desire to play piano professionally, I should maybe do something else.' I took a whole bunch of classes and had no idea what I was going to do. I took classes in math, science and accounting. I loved my accounting class, so I got an accounting degree and started there."
Bates was a senior tax manager for Delap before she became corporate tax manager at CorVel Corporation in July 2014. She enrolled in the online MS in Taxation program the following year. The timing also meshed well with her work schedule.
"When I was at the CPA firm, I worked probably 60 hours a week," she said. "Now, I work normal hours."
Oregon to Ohio
Bates researched online degree programs and found UC was the perfect fit for her.
"I wanted an AACSB-accredited [Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business] school, for sure," she said. "Honestly, if you start there, there are only seven schools in the whole country that offer an online Master of Taxation program and are AACSB-accredited.
"Of those seven schools, I crossed the programs off the list that cost $45,000. I stuck with the $30,000 programs. University of Cincinnati's [online graduate tax] program was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News & World Report, and I liked the class offerings and how they structured the program."
The online format was not only a necessity for Bates, it was the ideal way for her to learn. She said she spends an average of 10 hours per week on school, which effectively helps her balance everything on her plate.
"I prefer self-study online classes, because I can do things on my own time," she said. "With this type of program, you really don't miss the classroom setting. The subject matter for this type of program is so technical that it might actually impede your ability to really learn things. Having a teacher stand there and lecture, when it's this type of topic, would not be very useful."
Bates said the curriculum, which includes fifteen courses spanning individual, corporate and federal taxation, continues to help her become a more well-rounded tax professional.
"I really liked the tax research course because it opened my eyes to a lot of things that I had not seen before," she said. "We focused a lot on the legal part of tax research and how the courts are structured. I also enjoyed the state and local tax class because it looked at things at such a high level and got very technical into court cases."
Bearcat for Beavers
Bates and her husband of 11 years, Dustin, like to spend their Saturdays in the fall cheering on Oregon State University's football team. Bates attended OSU before she earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Portland State University in 2005.
"I've got season tickets," she said. "OSU is about an hour-and-a-half away. There are only six or seven home games a year."
Bates also served as treasurer for the PDX Jazz Festival, a nonprofit organization, for nearly three years. She said she still plays piano for fun at home and for her nieces and nephews.
"Some people say jazz is a little bit of a dying art form," she said. "PDX Jazz's mission is to bring jazz back a little bit and make it slightly more affordable for young people. Oftentimes, young people don't go to jazz shows because they're in these stuffy, expensive restaurants around here. As a nonprofit organization, PDX Jazz brings in big names in jazz and tries to keep the ticket prices low. They also have a lot of educational outreach programs for kids learning jazz in the local schools."
Bates has also worked with another organization near and dear to her heart, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Dustin, who teaches at a community college, was diagnosed with Lymphoma very early in their marriage. Since then, they both have dedicated their time to fundraising efforts for the organization.
"One year they asked me to be on the executive committee for a specific fundraising event, focusing on bringing in donors," Bates said. "That organization helped us with certain medical expenses when Dustin was diagnosed. Both PDX Jazz and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society are important organizations to me."
Bates is also the first person in her family to earn a college degree higher than an associate degree. She said her friends and family were not surprised to see her enroll in a master's degree program.
"I like school, I like learning, and I really like what I do," she said.
Although she will not be able to attend graduation, she believes the MS in Taxation program is doable for pretty much anybody.
"Plan a schedule and don't get behind," she said. "The program has fast-paced classes, so make sure you set aside a certain time to do your studying and homework and stick to that time."
Learn more about the UC online MS in Taxation program.
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