When Leigh Schmidt realized she was missing out on job opportunities because she did not have a degree in accounting or finance, she decided she would commit to going back to school part time while continuing to work full time.
She enrolled in the Master of Accounting (MAC) online program and set her goals of career advancement in motion.
“I liked the option of taking my courses online so I could continue working and pursue my degree at night and on the weekends,” she says.
Schmidt is graduating this May and has already seen the results of her MAC degree pay off. “Last December, with my degree 3/4 complete, I was able to get a new job that was a step up,” she adds. Schmidt is currently a financial analyst at a company in Raleigh.
“I love learning, so taking the time for my education has been fun for me. NC State has made it easy for me to reach my goals.”
Director of the MAC Program Scott Showalter says of Schmidt, “I have been impressed with her preparedness for class and her willingness to help other students. As one of the first online MAC students, Leigh undertook a journey where the path was not clearly established, but has embraced the journey and got as much as she could from the experience.”
We caught up with Schmidt to learn more about her experience in the online MAC program and congratulate our #NCStateOnline spring 2020 graduates!
Describe your experience in the MAC program?
My experience has been great. It’s clear that the professors want all of us to succeed in the program and beyond. The virus has highlighted for me the faculty’s dedication to us as students and that they have a real interest in our future.
How did you balance working and completing your degree?
For me, balancing working full time and going to school part time required planning and a strong support system. I don’t have the luxury of large blocks of time to complete assignments during the week, so my strategy was to dedicate an hour or two each weekday to chip away at assignments, with large chunks of my weekend dedicated to schoolwork.
One thing I liked about online classes is that due dates were on Saturdays, which gave me time to complete assignments. In addition to planning, I had a strong support system at home. While I would be working on schoolwork at night, my husband would cook dinner, wash dishes, and walk the dogs so I could focus. His support has been key to my success in the MAC program.
Did you have any faculty members who were particularly inspiring or stood out to you?
I really enjoyed my classes with Kathy Krawczyk and Scott Showalter. Kathy was the first person I spoke to after being accepted into the program, and she made me feel at ease. I had a lot of questions about what to expect in the program. Kathy met with me, answered my questions and we made a coursework plan. This was extremely helpful.
I also really enjoyed my class with Professor Showalter. What I appreciated most was the communication. This semester was the first semester that the advanced auditing class has ever been offered online, and I feel like it was very successful. The expectations for performance and assignment due dates were all very clear. I also liked the Zoom office hours at 6 p.m. I felt engaged and that I was always able to get help if I needed it. I also appreciated Scott’s transparency after the virus regarding all the things that the faculty were doing to make sure the students were successful.
What is your advice for other working professionals who are thinking about continuing their education or are currently enrolled in a master’s program?
I absolutely encourage others to continue their education in the online program. It takes planning and it will be challenging, but the challenges are not insurmountable. Many of my friends would comment that they didn’t know how I did it with work and school.
My response to them was this — The time will pass no matter what. The sooner I started, the sooner I would be finished, and you have to take it one day at a time. The hard work and focus are finite. In the end, you have a degree and a path forward that you will reap the benefits of for the rest of your life.
My 9th grade English teacher had us write this phrase at the top of our assignments for extra credit: “Once begun is half done.” Getting started is the hardest part. I encourage everyone thinking about returning to school to take the leap.
Do you have plans to celebrate your graduation during this time of social distancing?
The department is having a virtual hooding ceremony, so I will attend that and I’ll probably get a nice bottle of wine to share with my husband to commemorate the occasion.
Congratulations to Leigh and the rest of the online Master of Accounting spring 2020 graduating class!