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Professor sees opportunity for accounting, finance grads, despite Bureau of Economic Analysis reports


The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — While a federal report suggests West Virginia’s financial services industries have shrunk slightly, West Liberty University’s Mike Blackwell said there’s still a lot of in-state career opportunities.

West Liberty University accounting instructor Mike Blackwell

“I’m fairly optimistic right now,” said Blackwell, an accounting instructor and Undergrad Program Director at West Liberty. Before joining the university’s full-time staff, Blackwell worked as a certified public accountant and still dabbles at it. “The finance industry has got a lot of potential — it is experiencing quite a bit of growth. Our students are definitely finding jobs, and very good jobs at that. In my conversations with employers, I’m getting requests for internships and entry level placements. I’m very, very proud of what’s going on, our folks are finding work, our recent grads are getting hired. Many students are landing jobs even before they graduate.

“And if you look at the number of CPAs who are probably within a final 10 years of working,, they’re on the verge of retiring right now. That’s going to create more opportunities over the next few years.”

The Bureau of Economic Analysis said in 2016, financial services — finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing — accounted for just 13.4 percent of West Virginia’s gross domestic product and had a 1.3 percent real decline. The national average that year was 21 percent.

“The appeal to students is the job opportunities out there,” he said. “They hear from other students that they’re finding work, they’re finding good-paying jobs. Many of them have been able to find work so they can stay in West Virginia, stay here in the Ohio Valley.”.

Blackwell said there’s a lot to love about the accounting profession, adding he finds it “fascinating to try and solve problems, working with small business owners, helping them through tax problems and figuring how businesses can be more efficient. I love being a problem solver.”

“I always tell students they’ve got to have…good quantitative skills, but they’ve also got to be able to reason skills to solve problems,” he said. “They’ve got to have that critical thinking.”

No matter where they matriculate, Blackwell said accounting and finance majors are going to be tested.

“It’s a lot of work,” he said. “It’s not easy. Sometimes students just see there are a lot of job openings and the job pays fairly well but they’ve got to understand it’s still a lot of work and it’s not easy.”

Blackwell tells students to take the CPA exam as soon as possible.

“Get that CPA license, as early as they can in their career,” he said. “It’s the best thing i ever did. the opportunities that having those three initials behind my name brought me were just incredible. For career advancement, that’s the way to go. That’s why I encourage all the young accounting majors to get get their bachelor degree sand get their CPA. You can still be an accountant without a CPA license, but the payscale and all the best jobs require a CPA license.”

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