An Accounting Career That Was Meant to Be

Certificate graduate Anson Tan’s liberal-arts background boosts his business skills

“From a young age, I had an interest in finance and accounting, as I was taught to keep track of my finances and be prudent,” says Certificate Program in Accounting graduate Anson Tan.

Born and raised in Singapore, Anson took accounting electives in the early years of high school, “and it was then I realized I really enjoyed playing with numbers. At age 14, I started looking into learning the basics of finance: how credit scores worked, how payment systems flow, even just which savings account to put my savings in.”

When Anson took his secondary education final exams, his grade allowed him to apply to a wider variety of programs and he ultimately chose to attend Anglo-Chinese Junior College.

“Junior colleges in Singapore were considered to still be a part of high school, and I specifically chose the liberal-arts education instead of science as they didn’t have business-oriented classes,” Anson recalls. “It was something I wanted to explore, knowing that it would allow me to hone my critical thinking skills and expand my creativity.”

Classes in theatre studies and literature allowed him to start exploring life, while still advancing his business acumen through an apprenticeship with the Youth Finance Academy at UBS.

“I applied, explaining my strong interest in banking and finance, and was selected due to my strong foundation in understanding how the financial system operates, coupled with my strong leadership background,” Anson tells me.

“After I graduated from junior college, I was accepted to study at the two top universities in Singapore—one in finance and one in liberal arts. I again chose the liberal arts education, knowing that it was something that would help develop my critical thinking—a skill crucial for any job I would apply to in the future.”

Then Anson’s mandatory conscription in the Singapore Armed Forces came about, interrupting his educational plans but giving him time to think about his future. 

“Through my time in the military, I learned a lot about leadership and camaraderie,” he continues. “Initially accepting a place at a Singapore university, I decided that it would be in my best interest to gain further independence and explore studying in the U.S. for a strong liberal-arts background while also specializing in business.”

Business World Opportunities

In preparation for that future, Anson enrolled in and completed the online fintech program at University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

“As fintech became more and more of a buzzword, I wanted to delve more into this field and chanced upon this program,” he relates. “This standalone virtual program connected individuals from all around the world to explore fintech, with guidance from professors from the University of Oxford. It provided such a good glimpse into the working world. I had the opportunity to work with people from Australia, Philippines and the United States on a singular project, and we tackled a banking compliance need and proposed a solution to solve it with AI.”

From there, Anson joined the workforce as a project support officer and in customer relations for Reed Exhibitions Global.

“Reed Exhibitions does global events and I was part of a temporary team that served one of their events, cold-calling clients and getting leads,” he describes. “This job was not necessarily crucial within my career path, but it was important for me to make full use of my time, gaining work experience and an edge over other applicants in the future. This also allowed me to explore different industries, talk to different people and ultimately settle on what I wanted to do best.”

Anson’s explorations next led him to sales and marketing for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in Singapore and for the startup MyRent—each adding value to his business skill set.

Upping His Accounting Education in the Bay Area

In the fall of 2020, having finished this professional work, it was time for Anson to finish his undergraduate education and put those critical thinking skills to use internationally.

University of San Francisco (USF) being a strong liberal arts college and having one of the most diverse campuses in the U.S. really attracted me, especially during a volatile time,” Anson says.

With the AP credits that he had acquired earlier in Singapore, Anson was on track to graduate from USF in three years, earning a bachelor’s degree in business analytics and finance. As an international student in the United States, he also needed to be physically present for a whole year before he could start a much-desired internship.

“I came immediately after the COVID-19 restrictions permitted, even though all of our classes were still online,” he relates. “My next two years at the University of San Francisco were in person and that was a lot of fun. I managed to accomplish a lot of things and grew deeply as a person, understanding myself and my community better.”

He was a member of or held leadership roles in several student and campus organizations, but it was the International Student Association that provided critical initial support and a career-enhancing job in accounting.

“Through the organization, I was able to secure an on-campus job that has helped highlight relevant skills on my résumé. At that job I honed my skills in accounting, completing daily reconciliations and producing reports. As the lead accountant in the office, I worked closely with the managers, had a lot of autonomy in how the accounting process would work for the department, and had to combine this with my undergraduate classes to ensure a secure and streamlined reporting process.”

However, it was an auditing internship in financial services for Deloitte in San Francisco that was a career game changer for him.

“My time at Deloitte was really what made me start seriously considering accounting as a profession,” he divulges. “During the internship, I was tasked with completing various financial work papers for an audit. These working papers included complex formulas and required exploring deep analysis into the company and prevailing economic conditions. This is what led me to want to eventually pursue accounting as a career.”

The following semester back at USF, Anson became vice president of leadership and finance for the university’s culturally focused clubs council, in addition to working toward completing his bachelor’s degree, working at his on-campus job, and still participating in other personal and career-related activities.

He also registered for our Certificate Program in Accounting.

“I knew I wanted to graduate early while still being able to have the opportunity to be eligible for the CPA Exam after graduation,” he explains. “I was made a full-time offer at Deloitte after the internship and CPA eligibility was one of the criteria. I had the option of either pursuing these extra credits at a local community college or completing a certificate program like the one UC Berkeley Extension offers. I ultimately decided to go with your accounting certificate program as I knew that it would allow me to gain the necessary requirements toward the CPA Exam, while also being able to gain a certificate from a challenging and established institution like Berkeley.”


“Completing the professional certificate while concurrently completing my bachelor’s degree definitely allowed me to stay on track.”


So how did our courses support Anson’s undergraduate learnings? By providing different perspectives and boosting his critical-thinking skills.

“The courses in the certificate program were extremely helpful in strengthening my understanding within accounting,” he lauds. “While I had already taken entry-level accounting classes in my bachelor’s degree, the accounting classes at UC Berkeley Extension went deeper and included discussions with classmates who were more seasoned professionals, some already accountants looking to refresh their knowledge. This led to many insightful and invigorating debates with peers and instructors.

“Further, the classes in accounting helped build a foundation for some of the finance classes I was taking as part of my bachelor’s. This allowed me to see various topics from both the finance and accounting sides.”

One of those courses that provided Anson with important insights and real value-add was Accounting Ethics.

“I always looked forward to the classes with Marjorie Bailey,” he says. “Marjorie was extremely knowledgeable in the courses she taught, and she brought in relevant, personal real-world examples and experiences to help enhance our learning. This allowed me to view the topics within a real-world context, especially when the pandemic was underway. It also led to many interesting discussions on how accounting evolved during such a dynamic time, and how businesses and clients could adapt various accounting concepts in different ways that made sense for them.”

Looking Forward

Today, Anson is a junior analyst at Deloitte.

“They really made it easy to fit in and yet challenge myself,” he says. “I work closely with my team and leadership, having access to mentorship at every step of the way. I want to be at a company where I can excel and grow and I feel like Deloitte invests in me and gives me the opportunity to do so.

“Within my role as a junior analyst, I am given the autonomy to make decisions and take ownership of work that would have typically been reserved for more senior members of other large companies. This autonomy with close guidance from my mentors allows me to grow and gain the skills necessary to be more successful within the team.”

This trust in Anson and the knowledge he possesses is important because he is working with clients’ financial data every day.

“Having a strong accounting knowledge from the certificate allows me to navigate these financials with ease, as the certificate not only built a strong and firm foundation for my accounting knowledge, but also allowed early on for this knowledge to be very relatable to the working world,” he says.

As Anson now prepares for the CPA Exam, he looks back at his career path and the role our certificate has played in his future.

“Completing the professional certificate while concurrently completing my bachelor’s degree definitely allowed me to stay on track as I pivoted my career path mid-degree,” he reflects. “This also allowed me to accelerate my path toward being a CPA.”

With his critical-thinking skills and eyes always on personal and professional growth, Anson’s future looks bright.