Robin Duong has been moving up the accounting ranks. She started out as an accounts payable specialist at Allergan, moved to staff accountant at a luxury retail company in Santa Monica and is now working as a tax accountant.
Throughout that career-advancement journey, Robin was making her way through our Accounting certificate.
“Mentioning that I am completing an accounting certificate did not deter anyone from inviting me to an interview or hiring me,” Robin says. “Prior to coming to UC Berkeley Extension, I had completed only one accounting course. I'd say 90 percent of my current accounting knowledge came from this certificate.
“My career and salary progression was fast,” she continues. “As I completed more courses, my title and salary increased accordingly, and I was able to answer interview questions with great confidence.
“All the material that you learn in the courses will be relevant to potential interview questions and situations that you will encounter in the workforce,” Robin adds.
Not only was Robin gaining real-world accounting knowledge and experience—both in and out of the classroom—but she was also uncovering a love for the profession along the way.
When I ask her what draws her to accounting, she replies:
“If Sherlock Holmes wasn't a detective, I think he would have made a great accountant. When you start digging into case studies from accounting, you learn how vital a role accounting has played in everything from the daily operations of a business to the arrest of thousands of criminals across history. Al Capone, Crazy Eddie and Kenneth Lay are just three reasons why the world needs more great accountants.”
So while the world may view CPAs as bean counters, it’s safe to say that accountants serve the community at large in a more meaningful way. And that’s exactly what Robin is bringing to the profession, thanks to our certificate and preparation to sit for the CPA Exam.
“When you're an accountant, you essentially are hired by the company to not just serve the needs of the business, but to serve the good of the stockholders and the general public,” she confirms. “Accounting is a diverse field. With it, you can go into auditing, tax, financial accounting, forensic accounting, managerial accounting—the list goes on and on!
As I completed more courses, my title and salary increased accordingly, and I was able to answer interview questions with great confidence.
Why did you choose our Accounting certificate?
I graduated with my bachelor's degree in environmental economics and policy from UC Berkeley, so there was no question in my mind about the high-quality education I would receive from UC Berkeley Extension. I wanted to learn everything that I could about accounting while working toward the credit hours needed to sit for the CPA Exam.
You took all of the classes online. What was that experience like for you?
I've never taken online coursework before UC Berkeley Extension, but adapting to online coursework was easy. The best part is that you can study anywhere, anytime.
Online education is incredible because it's one of the only types of education that will meet you halfway and allow you to learn whenever, wherever. My commute would have taken anywhere from one-and-a-half to two hours one way. So instead, I took the bus and train to work for two to two-and-a-half hours a day, but most of that time was spent reading a textbook or completing an assignment on my laptop.
There's an additional, hidden bonus to completing the courses online: Chances are, if you're thinking about taking the CPA, CMAⓇ, EA or any other certification, you'll likely be studying on your own, using mostly online resources. There won't be someone holding your hand and guiding you every step of the way when you study for any professional accounting certification.
A lot of my peers have expressed that they struggle deeply with self-learning. I felt I was better prepared to study for the EA and CPA because of my comfort with self-study and online learning.
The instructors were caring and answered all my questions via email promptly. I also networked with several students via email. Students in the online accounting program come from various fields and all walks of life, and the diversity is incredible. You will meet classmates from all across the United States and even some from the other side of the world!
Nobody will look at an accounting certificate from UC Berkeley Extension and take it lightly.
You were also working full time. How were you able to fit the coursework into your busy schedule?
Toward the end of completing the certificate, I was so comfortable with the format that I took two to three courses at a time.
Even as my responsibilities and salary increased, I was able to push myself to take on more courses concurrently. The certificate is excellent for working professionals.
What does earning this certificate mean for you personally and professionally?
Recognition and respect in the field. Nobody will look at an accounting certificate from UC Berkeley Extension and take it lightly. These are university-level courses with detailed syllabi, real professors monitoring the conversations and answering questions, textbook requirements and hard deadlines for assignments.
I pushed myself to finish the certificate earlier than the average student by about six months, but everyone should go at their own pace.
Because the course fees were due whenever I signed up for a new class, there was no large upfront bill for the entire program at once. As my responsibilities grew, so did my salary, and I was able to afford the luxury of taking on more than one course at a time. I was able to receive a high-quality education at a fraction of the price of a bachelor's degree.
What advice would you give to a student who is starting the certificate?
If you're a working professional, the accounting certificate offers great value and flexibility. The program is especially beneficial to students who have a bachelor's degree in another field but would like to move into accounting.
Learn to set goals for yourself and stick tightly to deadlines.
Ask questions early on and network with other students in the course.
Keep your mind sharp and keep your eye out for resources available to you as a student.
When you finish and have a sparkly new accounting certificate, apply to every job and go to every interview and pick up the phone for every HR manager, CEO, CFO and recruiter who calls you—and, trust me, they will call! For every interview that you didn't pass, book yourself for three more. Learn from your mistakes, but keep moving forward.