Data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning have become mainstays across industries in today’s business world. As such, the demand for skills in these areas has seen exponential growth for professionals of all backgrounds. The Broad College’s Master of Science in Finance and Master of Science in Accounting programs now meet the real-world needs of the digital economy as each program has earned STEM designation.
“It was a huge a lift — and it was worth it — from the departmental faculty, program directors and university leaders because it forced us to go back to the drawing board and make significant changes to the curriculum that would add the most value for student learning,” Richard Saouma, associate dean for MBA, EMBA and professional master’s programs, said. “We are very grateful for Bethan Cantwell’s tremendous assistance from the Office of Planning and Budgets and Associate Provost Thomas Jeitschko’s vision of graduate studies and how that contributes to the university’s mission.”
The M.S. in Finance and M.S. in Accounting join the M.S. in Business Data Science and Analytics as STEM-designated programs offered at the Broad College. With this status, the M.S. in Finance has expanded from its traditional corporate finance foundation to also offering education focused on soft skills and modern methods that professionals need today.
“Our students now have a range of knowledge and experiences that was almost impossible to imagine 10–20 years ago,” Andrei Simonov, chairperson of the Department of Finance and Philip J. May Endowed Professor, said. “Students can take classes where they will learn how to manage a small-cap stock portfolio, choose early-stage venture capital projects for funding, learn how to use Google searches in forming investment strategy, understand the modern fixed income or derivatives and risk management tools. The STEM designation reflects the breadth of knowledge that the students are getting.”
Similarly, the designation allows the M.S. in Accounting to offer a greater breadth and depth of learning for students eager to make an impact in the accounting industry.
“Public accounting firms have been recommending deeper training in data science, including topics like advanced statistics, predictive analytics and machine learning, because those are the tools the profession is increasingly going to need,” Brian Pentland, The Main Street Capital Partners Intellectual Capital Endowed Professor, said. “Our students will be graduating with skills that are well aligned with the future of accounting.”
Chris Hogan, chairperson of the Department of Accounting and Information Systems and Russell E. Palmer Endowed Professor, added, “Our program includes extensive training in quantitative and analytical methods, as applied in business and accounting settings such as public and corporate accounting, tax, transaction services support and accounting information systems. Our graduates have the skills and competencies they need to succeed.”
Perhaps the most significant impact of the STEM designation is how it benefits international students seeking employment in the United States. Traditionally, with an F-1 Visa, international students are eligible for up to 12 months of Optional Practical Training, which allows them to gain training to complement their field of studies in the U.S. upon graduation. Students who complete a STEM-designated program can apply to extend that training for an additional 24 months.
“OPT is one of the best ways to earn a work visa or even possible U.S. citizenship,” Simonov said. “For companies in the United States, they attract and retain much-needed professionals in STEM-related industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has also classified STEM careers as having some of the most significant growth potential and the highest paying jobs for the 21st century. A STEM-field education could be the most valuable tool a student can have.”
Hogan added, “We are committed to preparing our diverse and global students to be successful in finding employment and launching their careers. The STEM designation provides more time for graduates to successfully apply for a work visa and additional comfort to employers hiring international students.”
Students graduating in the Class of 2021 from each of these programs mark the beginning of STEM-designated Broad Spartans going forward.