Getting paid to solve challenging problems, advance the accounting profession, and help people seems almost too good to be true.
Getting paid to solve challenging problems, advance the accounting profession, and help people seems almost too good to be true. But it’s exactly what Luke Lammer, CPA, does every day as an accounting professor.
Luke knew he wanted to major in accounting when he got to college, but he had no idea that he’d end up back in school after a stint in public accounting. With his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Luke went out into the “real world” and worked as a bank auditor at McGladrey. “I loved my job in public accounting. But then I started teaching an intro to accounting class at night and getting involved with internal training. Soon, I realized that I loved the teaching aspect of my job more than I loved the practitioner aspect.”
It wasn’t long before Luke was headed back to school – this time as a professor. “There’s an energy that comes from working with students and getting instant feedback from their faces when you’re teaching. I come home feeling like I’ve done something important when my students pass the CPA Exam, get internships, and even small victories like when they figure out an accounting concept they’ve been struggling with.”
Other than working with students, the flexibility of professorship is Luke’s favorite part of the job. “As a department, we decide who is teaching which classes, but then we have the flexibility to design and run the class how we want. There is a set time for classes to meet, but I can set up my weekly schedule to hold office hours when it works best for me and my students. Most of our deadlines are also flexible, so if I need to do something outside of work, I can take the time and then catch up later.”
But, even though it’s a great gig, being a professor isn’t all fun and games. “Teaching is busier than I thought it would be.” With only 20 hours dedicated to teaching and office hours each week, Luke wondered what he would do with so much free time. But he quickly learned there’s plenty to do. “It takes a lot of time to be well prepared. Giving feedback and making sure students aren’t falling behind can also be pretty intense. Luckily, even though the hours can sometimes get heavy, the flexibility of the job allows me to get everything done and still have a good work/life balance.”
And then there’s tenure. “Professors go through a review process to receive tenure, or a permanent position at their college. They typically do a review after their third and sixth year that includes a portfolio, interviews, and letters of support from other faculty members. I’m in the middle of the third year review right now and I’m waiting to hear what things I should work to accomplish before my final review. After the sixth year review, they’ll decide whether or not to offer me a continuing position. It’s a pretty big deal and can be pretty stressful. But, just like passing the CPA Exam, achieving tenure will be a great accomplishment, and I’m excited to keep moving ahead with the process.”
Even though Luke is busy teaching and preparing his portfolio, he takes advantage of the position’s flexibility by volunteering with AICPA and the Iowa Society of CPAs (ISCPA). “I’ve been involved with my state society’s career awareness board since right after I graduated. They sponsored my application to the 2011 AICPA Leadership Academy, which has been the springboard for my involvement with AICPA. Now, I serve as the chair of AICPA’s Student Recruitment Committee where I have the chance to work with scholarships and judge the AICPA accounting competition.”
For all of the potential professors reading this, Luke has some advice for you: “If you want to be a professor at a research institution, take as many calculus and statistics courses as you can so that you don’t have to take remedial work when you start your Ph.D. If you want to be a teaching professor, teaching as an adjunct is a great idea. You can try it out before you jump in. It’s not exactly the same because you’re not in committees and doing research, but if you get a rush from teaching, it will probably be enough to get you through more administrative parts of the job.”
Luke also has a pretty good idea of what makes a good accounting professor (or any professor, for that matter). “The best quality in an accounting professor is the ability to take a difficult subject and make it sound easy. You can be brilliant and understand all sorts of things, but you’re kind of worthless as a teacher if you can’t communicate that to a student who doesn’t have a lot of experience. And remember, you can have all the teaching potential in the world, but if you don’t care enough about your students, you won’t be a good professor.”
7am: Prep for the Day
I arrive at my office, check my email, and respond to a few student questions that came in during the night. Today is Wednesday, so I have a busy class schedule. A quick review of my lecture notes for the day, a few changes, and I’m set for classes. Just before I head to the classroom, a student stops by to go over some homework questions.
8am: Class Time - Financial Accounting
My first class of the day is an introductory course in financial accounting. This course is required for all business majors, so I do my best to make the content relevant for accounting majors and non-majors alike. Today we’re discussing inventory costing methods.
9am: Office Hours
A few students stop by after class to go over items from our last test. It only takes a few minutes to help them understand what they missed. While trying to get a little ahead for next week by working on a lecture, a student stops in to talk about an internship opportunity that was just posted.
10am: Class Time - Intermediate Accounting
My second class of the day is an upper-level course in intermediate financial accounting. The course is difficult but the students are all accounting majors or minors and are highly dedicated. We have a great conversation about subsequent valuation of long-term tangible assets. By the end of class, I’m feeling a little impaired (pun intended) so I grab an energy drink from the store on the first floor of my building.
11am: Office Hours
I get some more time to work on lectures for next week. I also get a chance to read email newsletters/updates from AICPA and the Big 4 firms.
I meet my brother-in-law, a philosophy professor here at Loras, for lunch in the campus café. Our conversation about a logic problem we’ve both been working on is a nice break from accounting.
2pm: Class Time - Audit
My last class of the day is an Auditing course, which has mostly senior accounting majors. This class is always fun because the students have already taken most of the accounting courses we offer and are able to keep up with me quite well as we talk about real world examples and theory. Our topic for today is variables sampling.
3pm: Office Hours
After all of my classes, I go online to post the homework assignments for each course. A few more students stop by to talk about the differences between careers in public and private accounting. I finish up the lecture notes I have been working on and organize some homework that I will grade tomorrow when I only have 1 class and more time in the office.
4pm: Committee Meeting
I have a Curriculum Committee meeting on the second Wednesday of every month. A few newly proposed courses are reviewed. After some discussion, and perhaps a little debate, one is approved and the other is sent back with a few comments to be addressed.
I squeeze in a quick (duration, not speed) run.
6pm: Networking Event with Dinner
A large CPA firm with local offices has agreed to come on campus to host an informational session on their firm and careers in public accounting. Students attend and are treated to some free pizza and soda. I used to work for the firm, so I enjoy seeing a few friendly faces.
I’m greeted at home by my wife, Kari, and my dog, MacGyver. I can’t help but respond to a few more emails from students before I shut down my laptop for the night.