From left: Erik Peachey, Riley Kingsley and Austin Tomlin earned graduate assistantships to attend James Madison University's MS in Accounting program in the fall. The three senior accounting majors are among many Eastern Mennonite University grads who go to graduate school at JMU to meet requisite fifth-year coursework and prepare for the CPA exam. (Photo by Macson McGuigan)

Three future CPAs head to JMU for grad school

Three senior accounting majors have been accepted into James Madison University’s graduate accounting program: Riley Kingsley, of North Newton, Kansas; Erik Peachey, of Lititz, Pennsylvania; and Austin Tomlin, of Greenville, Virginia. Each student has been awarded a graduate assistantship, which will help with tuition costs. Among their duties, they will help with preparations for instruction, research, grading and other administrative tasks within the College of Business, the students said.

Each year, a few EMU graduates typically apply and are selected for JMU’s accounting program, which recently waived the GMAT requirement for applicants from EMU in acknowledgement of their consistently high level of preparation.

Dozens of employers also recruit from the graduate program at JMU – a public university with an enrollment of nearly 20,000 students – making it an even more attractive option for EMU graduates looking for a first job opportunity.

JMU’s nearby location and the rigor of its program attracted all three grads, they said.

Tomlin, who wants to specialize in auditing and is also considering teaching college-level accounting, said his EMU education has been great preparation for the future. “My success as an accounting major is 100% due to professors Tammy Duxbury and Leah Kratz,” he said. “They helped me develop a passion for the field.”

Peachey plans to return to the Lancaster, Pa.-area to work as a CPA after graduation. Kingsley is also considering moving back to to his home state of Kansas, possibly to work alongside his grandparents at their tax accounting firm.

“Over the years we have developed a great relationship with JMU and many of our students have gone to graduate school there,” said Kratz. “We give them a good foundation, while JMU has the resources to offer graduate-level training in taxes, auditing and other aspects of accounting. We really feel the combination is the best of both worlds. Students get small class sizes and individualized attention while at EMU and then they can expand on that knowledge at JMU.”

Graduate school is part of a necessary path to becoming a professional accountant. In most states, including Virginia, the boards that regulate the accounting profession have adopted policies requiring prospective CPAs to have completed 150 collegiate credit hours – basically a year of academic credit beyond the usual four undergraduate years – before they can be licensed as a CPA, even if they pass the CPA exam.

Providing this year of further coursework is the primary goal of JMU’s MS in Accounting program. Its grads also have a high successful pass rate on the CPA exams. In 2015, students had a 95.6% pass rate, according to the department website.