College graduates expect to leave school with skills appropriate for their chosen career path. However, the gap between what’s learned in the classroom and the skills employers really want can be large. That’s led to the emergence of employer-aligned programs that incorporate input from top employers into curriculum design. The goal is to produce graduates ready to enter the workforce with skills and knowledge they can immediately use.

In the case of online graduate degree programs, many students apply their learning immediately, well before they graduate. That’s because these programs, such as the employer-aligned graduate degree program in accounting from Merrimack College, attract working professionals looking to boost their career with a master’s degree.

What Is An Employer-Aligned Graduate Degree Program?

Employer-aligned programs seek input from industry leaders on the skills they look for in college graduates. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported a number of factors have led to this approach.

One factor is that colleges and universities increasingly judge programs based on career outcomes and the employability of graduates. That’s a smart approach, as 99% of the 12 million net new jobs created since the great recession went to college graduates, according to NACE.

Another factor is the competition between companies to land college-educated talent in a tight job market. The number of qualified candidates often comes up short. The more graduates who are ready to hit the ground running, the larger the talent pool for employers.

The modern job market “demands more continuous input into curriculum from the employer community—and a willingness among academics to embrace a greater role for employers in program and curriculum design,” according to NACE.

Employer Input, Coaching

In a report on the future of higher education, the Institute for Higher Education Policy placed an emphasis on “the need to align post-secondary and employer strategies to meet the workforce needs of the 21st century.” The report also said coaching and mentoring are key components of modern education.

Merrimack College offers an example of employing both strategies in creating its employer-aligned graduate degree program in accounting. As with all the school’s online degree programs, a panel of outside industry experts provided suggestions and insight around the design of the MS in Accounting program.

This is a continuous process, with input sought every year.

Merrimack also provides students with coaches who work with them one-on-one, offering personalized support for both the student’s academic and career choices. They work with students to develop the best curriculum plan, support them on making progress toward degree completion, and offer advice on topics such as when and how to prepare for the Certified Public Accountant exam.

Earning a master’s degree in accounting is an important step toward reaching your accounting professional goals. Entering an online, employer-aligned graduate degree program can make a big difference in your appeal as a job candidate.