John Boland accepted an offer as an audit associate at the highly competitive firm after just a few months in the Master of Professional Accounting program offered by Penn State Great Valley.
By: Christy Selagy
Job hunting can be stressful for recent college graduates, but sometimes everything falls into place. That’s how it worked out for Penn State Great Valley graduate student John Boland—after just a few months in the Master of Professional Accounting program, Boland landed a job as an audit associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
After completing his undergraduate degree at James Madison University in spring 2019, Boland knew he wanted to pursue a master’s degree to prepare to take the CPA exam. Penn State Great Valley was the perfect fit, given the reputation, small class sizes, and, best of all, the location; Boland grew up in the area, so he could stay with his family, see old friends, and have a quick commute to campus.
During the fall 2019 semester, Boland took a class taught by Michael Swanick, who had recently retired from PwC. Boland, a full-time student, knew he needed to start applying for jobs to secure a position for the fall of 2020. With that in mind, Boland began talking to Swanick about the firm.
“He was kind enough to take time out of his day to talk to me,” Boland said. “He spoke on the phone to me about what he learned there, what he liked about PwC, why he thought it was a great company. And then, he was also really kind enough to forward my résumé and cover letter to the company.”
As one of the largest professional service firms in the world, job openings at PwC are competitive. Swanick estimated about 90 percent of new jobs go to applicants who interned with the company as undergraduates.
Boland interviewed with PwC about two weeks after Swanick passed along Boland’s résumé. The company told him he could expect to hear about their decision in another two weeks.
That afternoon, PwC called to offer Boland the position.
“I owe it a lot to [Swanick],” Boland said. “I owe a lot to Penn State, as well. … I would not have met people like Dr. Bo [Ouyang] or Mr. Swanick, who helped set me up for a very successful start to my career.”
Swanick is no stranger to introducing students to the PwC recruiting process; in addition to recruiting at Philadelphia-area colleges as an employee, he has also fielded interest from students while teaching courses at Saint Joseph’s and Villanova.
Those students are all eager to secure jobs and helping young professionals with their careers is one of Swanick’s favorite things about teaching.
“I was so happy to hear it worked out [for Boland],” Swanick said. “He had a good personality, he had strong grades, and he’s a very likeable young man. I think that combination, and perhaps with me on the other side and some relationships at PwC, got it to work. … He must have just nailed the interview.”
Boland will begin his new job in October, and, although he hasn’t started the position yet, he can already see how what he’s learning in classes will be helpful.
Graduate classes have helped ingrain key accounting concepts, as well as introduced Boland to new fields he hadn’t studied before. As an undergraduate, his classes were more focused on problems and numbers pulled from a textbook. Now, assignments are based on real-life situations, like looking at financial statements from companies and providing hands-on experience.
Boland also values his interactions with his classmates since many of them are working full-time and can provide insight on variety of topics. Penn State Great Valley’s international student population has also been an asset for Boland, exposing him to how different cultures and viewpoints shape the accounting world.
In a few months, Boland will finish his master’s degree and is ready to take the next step in his career, thanks to his experiences at Penn State Great Valley.
“The professors are all really helpful and willing to answer my questions and meet up at office hours,” Boland said. “Michael Swanick is a perfect example of being able to help you outside of the classroom, going above and beyond to assure that the students are not only being successful in their classes, but being successful in their work field.”