Joann Wolfenberg came to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point looking to follow in the footsteps of her father, brother and sister-in-law, all business owners.“They inspire me because of how hard they work and how successful they’ve become with their businesses,” Wolfenberg said. “Eventually I want to have my own business.”
For Wolfenberg, accounting is more than recording numbers on paper. It can make or break a company, she said.
“Accounting is about how numbers work together to run a business and produce profit,” she said. “It breaks down in number form what makes a company successful, and how it can improve financially. Accounting analyzes and records numbers to interpret information.”
UW-Stevens Point Accounting Professor Christine Schalow agrees. “Accounting is about using numbers to make better decisions,” she said. “It’s about understanding the relationships within the accounts.”
What makes studying accounting at UW-Stevens Point so beneficial is its low student-to-faculty ratio, Wolfenberg said. Schalow said it makes the classes more personal.
“I know almost every student by name,” Schalow said. “Our faculty members teach both lower and upper division courses, so we get to know our students as they go along. You can see their growth. It becomes more to them than just a class – they begin to see their future.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of accountants and auditors is increasing faster than other careers and has a median salary of $63,550 a year. In addition, average salaries for U.S. accounting professionals will increase between 4 percent and 5.3 percent in the coming year, according to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, a noted source for the accounting and finance industry.
UW-Stevens Point accounting graduates become certified public accountants (CPA) for private, public and nonprofit organizations as well as financial directors, business owners and administrators, business teachers, tax accountants, tax preparers and auditors.
Those who have good attention to detail and accuracy, good communication skills and who are hardworking, critical thinkers may want to consider accounting, Schalow said. They should also like working with numbers – but complex mathematic skills are not necessary.
The accounting major at UW-Stevens Point includes business courses as well as eight core accounting courses and two electives, which often include internships. Internships may be local, at companies such as Sentry Insurance, or international, with internship programs in both Britain and China.
Students at UW-Stevens Point also have the opportunity to work on independent study courses that meet their own interests. Schalow said one of her students worked with her to create a farm accounting program she was able to use for own family, while another took an in-depth look at financial analysis.
Many accounting majors add a business major to help them earn the 150 credits needed to take the CPA exam. Wolfenberg added two additional business majors, but many of her courses overlapped, so it did not add a huge course load.
Even with the added responsibilities of being a member of the Pointers women’s basketball team, she will graduate in May after four years of classes.
“Accounting is an underrated major,” Wolfenberg said. “It offers a good career and lots of job availability and flexible choices. Blending it with a business major brings even more opportunities.”