An Interview with Justin D’Amico
“If you decide that accounting is an area that you enjoy, be prepared to compete with people who put in late hours and go the extra mile to succeed in their careers.”
Justin D’Amico graduated with a Master of Accountancy from Arizona State University in 2010. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Arizona State University in 2009.
Justin decided to earn his masters degree in accounting so that he could fulfill the credit hour requirement that he needed to become a certified public accountant. Justin works for the auditing and tax consulting firm Deloitte and Touche in Phoenix, Arizona.
In your own words, what is accounting?
Accounting is a field and a set of skills that allow people to understand and categorize various kinds of financial transactions, including assets, liabilities and expenses. Whereas math is focused on numbers and calculations, accounting is more focused on categorizing.
Do you have a specialty within the field of accounting?
My specialty within accounting is auditing. Usually students who earn bachelors degrees in accounting get a generalized background in the field. In my masters degree program, I was able to spend the last few terms focusing my coursework. Now that I am working the field, I have spent the last year and a half working in auditing.
Why did you choose to get a masters degree in accounting?
I chose to get a masters degree from Arizona State University because, in the state of Arizona, accountants are required to earn 150 credit hours to become certified accountants. This is a very common requirement across many states. Students are not able to meet these credit hour requirements in a bachelors program, so you have to do further study if you want to earn your certification. I also thought that earning a masters degree would be a great thing to put on my resume.
When you first considered pursuing a masters degree in accounting, what were your expectations?
I didn’t have very many expectations when I started my masters degree program in accounting. I knew that I wanted to enter the profession and I had earned my bachelors degree in accounting, but I didn’t know much more about what I would learn in the program. I was glad that I was able to take advanced classes in subjects like forensic accounting and intermediate debits and credits.
What did you find most and least enjoyable about studying accounting?
What I enjoyed most about studying accounting was the opportunity to be back in school again. School is a lot of fun, and I enjoyed interacting with my classmates and professors. Even though it is challenging work, it is much more enjoyable work than what you do in a typical job. I had a great time in my program.
Having said that, there are still tasks that you have to do and subjects that you have to study that are not very interesting. Sometimes I found it challenging to stay focused when I was doing work that I didn’t find as engaging.
How did you choose your graduate school?
I chose to attend Arizona State University for my masters degree in accounting because it was the most convenient school for me. I attended Arizona State for my undergraduate degree in accounting, and I knew that they had a very good masters program.
The school is also affordable, and this was a big part of my consideration as well.
What was your program’s curriculum like?
My masters program in accounting was broken into trimesters. In the first trimester, students focused on taking basic classes in accounting like debits and credits and courses on equity. Then our coursework shifted toward applied accounting topics, including classes on auditing and controls. Some of these classes were also on more general managerial topics like performance measurement.
Most of my assignments were problem-solving assignments that asked students to consider a real-life problem and then present a solution.
My favorite class was a class on forensic accounting. For 1 of our class projects, we had to figure out how much money different businesses should receive from their insurance company if the building that they occupy has a fire. After we established our position and performed a financial analysis, we attended a mock trial with practicing lawyers from Phoenix, Arizona, and argued our case.
What parts of your curriculum or particular classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?
I think that all of my classes have been valuable to me since I graduated with my masters degree in accounting. I appreciated how most of the classes incorporated problem-solving rather than asking students to present right answers to questions. We were taught to use our skills to examine situations that come up in the real world, and this has been great preparation for being on the job.
What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in an accounting program and what traits would hinder success?
Dedication is a very important trait for students of accounting and for people who want to have successful careers in the field. Patience is also important, because you will spend long periods of time examining data that may not be complete, and you will have to search for information to fill the gaps.
Flexibility and time management are also important traits in this field, since you will work with clients whose schedules will take precedent over your own. You will need to able to shift your schedule around to fit other people’s needs and still be able to meet multiple deadlines.
I don’t think that there are any personality traits that would hold someone back from doing well in this field. If you are a talkative person, you will certainly do well, but there are also positions that would work well for someone who is more quiet.
Did you have an advisor, and if so, how does your advisor support your academic progress?
I didn’t have an advisor who was assigned to me individually, but we did have someone in the program who we could consult if we had questions about program requirements. We also had access to a career center at Arizona State University, which was a great resource as well.
What was your weekly schedule?
When I was a masters student at Arizona State University, I worked as a teaching assistant on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. In the mornings, I would teach, then my own classes would start around 1:00 p.m. Between teaching and going to class, I would try to get some of my coursework done. I usually took 2 classes each day and was done by 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. I would go home and either prepare for my next day of teaching and going to class or relax a little, if my schedule afforded it.
Overall, I found my masters program to be less stressful than my bachelors degree program. As an undergraduate I would often take 5 classes at a time, which made things hectic. But as a graduate student, I only needed to balance 2 classes with my teaching responsibilities.
How did you balance your studies and your personal life?
I didn’t have a hard time balancing my studies with the rest of my life. I would advise other students who might struggle with this to make sure that they stay structured and keep busy. I knew students in my program who would think that they had a lot of free time because they were only taking 2 classes. They would decide to go out or sleep in and put their work off, and it would cause them trouble down the line.
My work as a teaching assistant allowed me to stay on a more regular schedule, and I think this helped me to make it through my program and perform as well as I did.
Now that you have completed your accounting graduate program, if you could go back to college, what would you do differently?
If I could go back to college, I would participate in an exchange program and spend 1 or 2 semesters abroad. I wasn’t aware of these opportunities until I was a junior in college, and by that time I was pursuing internship opportunities. If I had known about study abroad earlier, I could have gone to Europe and held an internship.
What advice do you have for students who are considering a masters degree in accounting?
My first piece of advice for any student is to make sure you are doing something that you enjoy. In order to succeed in any field, you will need to work hard and apply yourself. This will be much harder to do if you don’t enjoy your field.
If you decide that accounting is an area that you enjoy, be prepared to compete with people who put in late hours and go the extra mile to succeed in their careers. Know that you will most likely need to commit more time to your career than people in other professions.