Ali MacKay, who received undergraduate ’16 and graduate ’17 degrees in accounting from Clemson University’s College of Business, has won an award from the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) for being among the nation’s top CPA test scorers.

CPA, Ali MacKay, accounting, test score

Alumna Ali MacKay was among the nation’s top scorers on a CPA exam.
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MacKay, who is employed by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Charlotte, N.C., was one of 58 Certified Public Accountant candidates who averaged 95.50 across all four sections of the CPA exam in 2017. A total of 95,858 candidates sat for the examination in 2017, but only those who met the scoring criteria received the Elijah Watt Sells Award. Established in 1923 to recognize outstanding CPA exam results, the award is named after Sells, who was one of the first CPAs in the U.S.

MacKay, an audit associate, works with PwC’s New York City office serving the firm’s real estate clients there. She said Clemson’s graduate and undergraduate accounting programs were keys to her success on the CPA exam in her first attempt, and preparing her for a career with a Big Four accounting firm.

“The graduate program is designed to ready students for the examination. There is a built-in support system and study plan that gives candidates a sense for what to expect,” she said. “Beyond the test, the graduate program in Greenville is taught in a very professional environment. It provides real-life simulations and projects that resemble interactions with clients. That was especially true in audit, which prepared me for my current position.”

The School of Accountancy graduated 143 students with bachelor’s degrees in May and has more than 350 majors enrolled. The master’s program, based in Greenville, has about 140 students enrolled. In 2017, 90 percent of the MPAcc graduates were placed at graduation, with a third of them going to one of the Big Four accounting firms.

Clemson’s accounting program is wired to prepare students for a variety of careers, according to Sally Widener, the school’s director.

“Our bachelor of science degree in accounting positions students to begin business careers, or to pursue graduate studies,” she said. “Beyond that, our MPAcc program graduates had an average CPA pass rate above 80 percent. So, Clemson accounting professionals leave here well prepared to succeed in business or in public accounting.”

MacKay said the undergraduate program not only prepared her for what to expect in graduate school, but also for her career responsibilities.

“I had two internships before getting into the graduate program,” the Randolph, N.J., native said. “They really helped familiarize me with a professional setting. And the program at Clemson is very good at drawing accounting firms to campus through classroom visits, recruiters’ picnics and job fairs where students are able to apply for internships.”

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