Alumnus Mike Hays Prepares for Career Shift in Online Master’s Degree Program

After spending the last four years working in sales, Army veteran Mike Hays is on the road to an accounting position.

“During my senior year of college, I realized that the sales field wasn’t where I wanted to end up,” he said. “But my GI Bill funds were running out, so I could not add an accounting degree at the time.

“I figured I’d get some work experience instead. I loved the credit aspect of breaking down financial statements as part of my role.”

Hays is now enrolled in the online Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) program at Eastern Washington University (EWU) and expects to complete it in March 2022.

“I was terrified of online at first,” he said. “I am a cerebral person. It’s weird for accountants, but I love being around people and that energy.

“My grandparents had some health issues this year, and we had to provide care for them. With the flexibility, I was doing homework all over Idaho. The online format worked out great.”

Although Hays has a public accounting position for post-graduation, he is completing an internship at Stauffer & Associates, an accounting firm in Spokane Valley.

“The online format is even better when starting the internship because there are no time obligations outside of getting the work done when it’s needed,” he said.

Hays was set on returning to EWU for his MPAcc four years after he completed his undergraduate degree on campus because he knew that the school’s course offerings would help offset his lack of an accounting background.

“Eastern provided a four-course foundational section that took one quarter to complete to fill those prerequisites,” Hays said. “It was perfect.”

Solid Investment

Hays was born and raised in Spokane. After high school, he spent three-and-a-half years in the Army, including a one-year deployment to Iraq.

After a post-military stint as a high school coach in Rockford, Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and math in 2017.

“A professor in my capstone course told me to go into sales,” he said. “I was about to graduate with an economics degree with no idea what to do other than to go get more school, so I went to work at Balboa Capital as an account executive.”

While biding his time to transition into an accounting position, Hays worked his way up to branch sales manager in Spokane.

So far, Financial Statement Analysis for Accountants is Hays’ favorite course in the online MPAcc curriculum.

“I’ve always been drawn to financial statements and the analysis based off of them,” he said. “When I was doing a case study interview with PwC, the coursework provided me with a lot of foundational knowledge that helped me out.

“The tax and software classes that I have taken in the master’s degree program are also great for the area that I am in right now.”

Happy Returns

Hays’ cousin, an investment banker, helped him narrow down the type of position that he plans to pursue.

“We’d go back and forth on the work we were doing,” Hays said. “He told me about a specific type of accounting role, the financial due diligence on merger-and-acquisition transactions for private equity companies, that he thought I’d be interested in doing. I had that in my head when I enrolled at Eastern.”

With a few months remaining in the online MPAcc program, Hays is eager to take on new career opportunities and challenges with a master’s degree.

“I look forward to finally going into an accounting role,” he said. “My family and friends love it. Both sides of my family are very educated. They are supportive of my academic interests.”

Additionally, Hays is an officer in Beta Alpha Psi, an honor organization for professionals and students dealing in financial information.

“The in-person and virtual networking opportunities fill the gap,” Hays said. “Any online student can join the EWU chapter of Beta Alpha Psi.”

Hays, who also enjoys water skiing, snow skiing, backpacking and hiking, is glad that he could return to EWU and lay the foundation to follow his passion. While working at Balboa Capital, Hays had toyed with the idea of earning a bachelor’s in accounting. He’s thankful to a colleague for having steered him toward the MPAcc program instead.

“I have got more out of it than I expected.”

Learn more about EWU’s online MPAcc program.

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