Claire Ullom

‘Almost Unstoppable’: Accounting helps students succeed

Meet the grads: Claire Ullom, WVU John Chambers College of Business and Economics

“I’ve always liked math,” said Claire Ullom. “My dad said, ‘You’re a great people person. I really think if you enjoy math and are good with people, you should consider accounting.’”

That conversation marked the beginning of Ullom’s accounting journey. Her journey isn’t over yet, though – five years later, Ullom has notched an undergraduate degree, an internship and a job offer with a Big Four accounting firm. Soon, she’ll have a graduate degree to go along with the rest of it.

But you don’t arrive at a sum without seeing the equation in full. Long before she arrived at WVU, Ullom had gold and blue in her veins.

“My parents are from West Virginia, so we were big WVU fans. My sister also came here for undergrad, and she’s now a Ph.D. student. I was so excited for college – it was the thing I was most looking forward to, and I knew this was where I wanted to go.”

For all she’s accomplished, Ullom’s journey wasn’t without its challenges. Nor was it without support.

“A chunk of my undergrad experience was during COVID, so a lot of my harder classes were online,” said Ullom. “It was difficult for me to stay confident and keep up, but my professors had a big impact on me sticking with it. My Accounting 201 professor was there for me, understood things going on in my life and was always encouraging me. I had a great tax professor, and met with him outside of class for professional advice. They helped me forge my path and figure out what I wanted to do.”

Figuring out what you want to do is the first step of any successful career, and with a field as broad as accounting, that can be a time-consuming process. Luckily, the Chambers College is ready to prepare its students for whatever they want to do.

“There’s a million different paths in accounting,” said Ullom. “You could be state and local tax, or wealth management. International tax is a hot topic that everyone wants to get into. Then there’s forensic accounting and fraud examination – you could be an expert witness and work on cases where people have committed fraud, and explain tax to the jury.

“I’ve tried out several different routes in accounting: banking, financial auditing, forensic accounting. Now I’m into public accounting.”

By the end of her senior year, Ullom had her sights set on PwC, one of the Big Four accounting firms. Hiring for those firms, however, is notoriously competitive. Luckily, the Chambers College was ready to help Ullom boost her career with the Master of Accountancy (Macc) program.

“PwC wanted to know that I was on my way to 150 credit hours before they’d offer me an internship. I was anxious, working for this big public company – what if I didn’t know enough? I think the MAcc program was the best fit for me to be specialized and focus on accounting. I didn’t have to cram those 150 credit hours, and the MAcc program also gave me the skills needed to study for the CPA exam.”

Ullom’s internship led to a job offer, and she’s now preparing to start work as a CPA with PwC. Her college career might be ending, but she’s not looking back.

“WVU has done its job preparing me for a professional life,” Ullom said. “I’m excited to start a career and take all the skills I learned and start working. As much as I’m going to miss WVU, I’m honestly very excited to be out of school and in a professional setting.

“I truly think you can go anywhere with accounting. Whatever interests you, you can add accounting on top of it. You’re almost unstoppable at that point. You can do anything you want with your career. Once you have that base knowledge, you’re very marketable for jobs. It really is the language of business.”

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