New Penn State Smeal online certificate begins with financial accounting

For Barbara Yener, director of the new Penn State Smeal College of Business online Graduate Certificate in Corporate Accounting, the first class in the program is akin to a course on language.

Financial Accounting (MBADM 811), which begins in August, teaches students the language of business, Yener said. Learning how business transactions are measured, recorded, and ultimately communicated in the financial statements allows professionals to better understand their own role in decision-making, as well as their company’s financial position.

It’s the perfect start for students enrolled in a program designed for working professionals without an accounting background, but with the desire to build a strong accounting foundation for future career growth. Coursework in the program may also fulfill the concentration requirement within the new Smeal-led Penn State Online MBA Program.

The 12-credit-hour Graduate Certificate in Corporate Accounting, delivered online via Penn State’s World Campus, also includes courses in taxation, auditing, and managerial accounting. The certificate can be completed within one year. Applications are now being accepted for fall 2017 enrollment.

“We think this program will benefit professionals from many backgrounds who have reached a point in their career where accounting knowledge is crucial to advancement. Employees who combine accounting expertise with knowledge of their industry and business are more valuable to their employers,” said Steven Huddart, chair of the Smeal Department of Accounting.

“For example, professionals who have climbed to a level in their organizations where performance is measured in financial terms and coordination is achieved by budgets will benefit greatly from this curriculum. Likewise, understanding how taxes affect outcomes, how internal controls protect an organization's resources, and how audits mitigate risk become more important at higher rungs of the corporate ladder.”

Yener, who will teach financial accounting, emphasizes the role of accounting as a communication tool.

“Accounting conveys information. Knowledge of accounting rules and conventions is necessary to prepare an accounting report or to extract information from a report prepared by someone else. Professional judgment is required to handle uncertainties within prescribed guidelines. People tend to think of accountants as being numbers-oriented, but the actual math is pretty basic,” she said.

Yener emphasized that this course and the three others that make up the certificate are designed for those who have little or no accounting education.

While working in public accounting, Yener said she encountered clients who needed a stronger foundation in accounting concepts, much like the students she anticipates teaching in her class. Many clients expressed a keen interest in accounting practices and interpreting company financial information.

Yener also emphasized that the online platform and plan for MBADM 811 will foster an integrated community learning environment. While some might think of online learning as a solitary pursuit, she stressed that financial accounting and its companion courses are anything but.

“Online education has come a long way. It is much more dynamic than it used to be. We will use social devices like discussion boards and occasional live sessions, to provide the feel of a classroom,” she said. “The class will function as a learning community. And, part of the appeal is that working professionals can bring their work experiences into the class and potentially arrive at solutions to actual workplace challenges.”

More information about the Graduate Certificate in Corporate Accounting and an overview of the application process can be found online. Applications for fall 2017 are due in July. For answers to specific questions, call 814-863-0474 or email

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Last Updated May 15, 2017