Mar. 28, 2020
As an accounting professor, Phil Woodward has an obvious love for numbers — especially the rare 95 percent post-graduation job placement rate for his students. In the 19 years Woodward has taught at Biola University, he has created an accounting program with a remarkably high job placement rate for graduates in the highly competitive industry, many of whom land positions with the “Big Four” national accounting firms.
Woodward is also spearheading one of Biola’s newest programs — a Master of Professional Accountancy (MPAcc) degree — that will launch this fall. The program will meet new state requirements for a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license in a more affordable and faster fashion than is currently available at most local universities.
Here, Woodward shares about the new program and why he is so passionate about career counseling and, ultimately, job placement for business students.
You are clearly passionate about career readiness. Why is that and how has it affected your teaching?
As an undergraduate I was unprepared for the job recruiting process. I did not know how to prepare a resume, interview or find job listings. When I got to Biola I wanted the graduates to be prepared for job recruiting. As the faculty advisor for the Biola Accounting Society we have events that include resume writing, interviewing techniques, mock interviews and the annual Meet the Firms program. The Accounting Society has done a tremendous job and last year we reached a 95 percent placement rate and had student hires at all “Big Four” international accounting firms. The “Big Four” firms are the most prestigious jobs for accounting students as they represent almost all of the largest companies in the United States.
A 95 percent job placement rate for graduates is impressive. Is that a result of the Meet the Firms event?
We were very pleased with our placement rate of 95 percent. That included accounting and business jobs along with one student at a mission agency. A big part of the success is due to the Meet the Firms event. Biola hosts more than 250 students from local schools to meet with accounting firms in a recruiting event held on campus. It is a student-run event by the Biola Accounting Society and they do a great job. I hear compliments about the event year after year.
Tell us about the new MPAcc program.
Starting next fall we will be offering a master’s degree in professional accountancy. In 2014, California mandated that 150 credit hours of college education is required for a CPA certificate, which is more units than a bachelor’s degree requires. We felt the best way to prepare our students would be to offer a master’s degree that works in conjunction with Biola’s current programs so students can finish their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years. We have hired a new professor and are really excited about the future of the accounting program at Biola.
You didn’t enter the academic world as a career-teacher. How did you move from finance management to accounting to teaching?
I was a finance major at University of Southern California and hoped to work in financial management for a large company after graduation. At USC, I obtained a great skillset, however, it wasn’t until my senior year that I knew how to actually get the job I wanted. It was at dinner with a fraternity brother’s dad when I shared my plans for a financial management career. My friend’s father strongly urged me to get my CPA license as it was his experience that was the best path to my career goals.
Looking back, I’m thankful for that bit of guidance and can’t help but think that I should have known earlier on that I was destined to be a CPA — my grandfather had recommended that I become a CPA long before I started college. I know he would have been proud to know I actually went on to secure a job with a CPA firm shortly after his death.
Eventually, I earned my MBA at Cal State Fullerton and started working at Deloitte Haskins and Sells (now Deloitte and Touche). Fast forward a few years and I was working at a savings and loan company that was taken over and left me time to evaluate my career. I had been teaching one class as an adjunct professor at Cal State Fullerton and really enjoyed the experience. An opening for a full-time teaching post at the college opened up at the ideal time and thus, I became a professor. After a few years, a position became available for an accounting professor at Biola and I couldn’t say no to teaching in a place where we pray before class and discuss biblical principles in the classroom.
How is accounting full-time ministry and how do you see it as a mission field?
Your vocation, or calling, is your full-time ministry and you should see it as such. My best times of witnessing and counseling have occurred with people I have worked with. You need to see God in everything you do. I believe God put me here to train accountants that could go anywhere in the business world so that they can bring light to a dark world.
Learn more about Biola's Master of Professional Accountancy program.
For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne at (562) 777-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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