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Schools: School of Taxation Frequently Asked Questions


Can I take classes before I am formally admitted to the MS in taxation program?

Yes you can, as long as you first talk to an advisor and establish that you will be admitted once all the paperwork is completed. Through "Open Enrollment" status, you can enroll in classes while your application is pending. We just need to know that you are an admissible student (with a four-year undergraduate degree and the requisite GPA). It is important to know that no more than nine units taken under open enrollment may be applied to the degree.


Do I need to take the GMAT to be admitted?

No, the GMAT is not required for any of our MS degrees. It is only required for admission to our MBA degree.


What is the rank of the School of Tax in comparison to other tax programs?

There is no agency or other body that ranks taxation programs. Golden Gate University's tax school is considered nationally to be one of the top programs serving the practicing adult. We are, in fact, the largest graduate tax program in the nation. We won first place in the only national tax education competition and have consistently placed in the top ten in other years.


Do I need to know something about tax to begin the master's program?

You do not need to know anything about taxation in order to be successful in the master's program. The beginning courses start at the very beginning. However the courses are accelerated and are very in-depth, so conscientiousness, commitment and tenacity are required in order to succeed. We find these factors are the critical ones in determining one's potential to do well in the program.


What are the prospects for tax students just entering the job market after receiving their master's degree?

Currently, the market for tax professionals is very, very good! Our full-time day-tax program provides a nice laboratory with which to examine the marketability of fresh MS tax students with no prior experience. Thus far, we have found that every one of our full-time students has found employment in a tax position. The market is even hotter for tax professionals with a few years or more of tax work experience.


What type of jobs are available for those with an MS in taxation?

The MS in taxation is a program that primarily prepares students for positions in tax departments of accounting firms and corporations. A substantial majority of our working student population holds this type of position. Other areas for which an MS in taxation might be helpful include financial planning, design of tax software and tax publishing.


What is the difference between an MS in taxation and an LLM in taxation?

The LLM is a post-law degree specializing in a certain field, limited to those who have completed their law degree. GGU does offer an LLM in taxation at its San Francisco campus. It is not available online. Generally, classes taken in the MS program are not transferrable into the LLM program.

There are several subtle differences between the LLM and the MS. Which is the best for a particular student depends largely upon the reasons for the student taking the courses. The following is a brief guide to some areas for consideration:

Number of units - The MS in taxation requires the completion of 30 units of graduate tax courses. The LLM in tax requires completion of 26 units. The MS in taxation requires the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree. The LLM tax requires the completion of the four-year undergraduate degree and the JD.

Curriculum - Both degrees obviously study the same subject, and in pretty much the same way - tax law using as the sources of information the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations and case law. So overall, there is not much difference substantively between the two degrees. There are differences, however, in the courses required for the degrees. The LLM at GGU does not require the following courses required in the MS degree: Tax Research, Advanced Federal Income Taxation, or Partnership Taxation. A one-unit course on professional responsibilities of tax practitioners is required by the LLM program.

The only other curricular difference is a very subtle difference in focus due to the different composition of the student body in each program. Almost all of the students in the MS program are in the tax field via accounting firms and their tax departments. Only a small minority of lawyers from law firms are enrolled in the MS program.

External recognition of the degree - Law firms typically expect tax attorneys who have advanced degrees to have the LLM. An MS won't shut the door, but it will generate a question "why the MS and not the LLM?" Generally, most accounting firms do not appear to care whether a student has an LLM or an MS in taxation … they just want to know that the student has the necessary knowledge to perform the job. Many of us have found that the general public doesn't actually know what an LLM is, but they typically do know what an MS is. So for those who ultimately might want to hang up their own shingle or will be dealing with the general public, the MS is probably more recognizable.


How long do I have to complete the program?

As long as it takes. There is a formal time limit of six years, however an extension of this time is allowed upon request. Once admitted to the university, every credit you earn stays with you regardless of how old the credit is. However, when you are admitted into a program, you must take at least one class a year in order to stay a matriculating student. If you allow more than one year to lapse, you must reapply and therefore be subject to any changes made to the degree requirements.


How long does it normally take to complete the master's degree?

The program is entirely self-paced - you decide how many classes you want to take each trimester and whether or not to take a course each trimester. Generally, we have three trimesters a year in which to take a course (fall, spring and summer). If you take one class each trimester, the program will take you a little over three years to complete. However, you can complete the program in as short a period as nine months if you participate in our full-time day program (offered only at the San Francisco campus). Other students may take as long as 10 years to complete the degree, deciding to take only one class a year. It's up to you!


How much time should I anticipate spending each week on one class?

We find that most students who earn the best grades in any class are those spending approximately 10-15 hours a week in study-time per class. This time frame applies to both in-person classes and cyber courses. Of course, some students have performed well devoting less time to their studies and others have needed to spend considerably more time. For those taking a class on cyber, you will want to make sure you are well disciplined and schedule sufficient study and "class" time to allow for the 10-15 hours per week.


How many classes do most working adults take each trimester?

Because of the time expectations discussed in the previous question, some working adult students find they can take only one class each trimester. The decision is entirely left to the student. We are happy to advise you in making this decision.


In what order should I take my classes?

We require that students take TA329 (Tax Research and Decision-Making) and TA318 (Advanced Federal Income Taxation) as their first two classes. After this, students have more choice and can select from a variety of courses as long as they make sure they have first completed the prerequisite courses. However, we recommend that students consider taking the remaining required courses in the following order:

  1. TA 330 (Property Transactions)
  2. TA 338 (Tax Timing)
  3. TA 322A (Taxation of Corporations)
  4. TA 328 (Taxation of Partnerships)
  5. TA 319 (Tax Procedure)

In addition, although not required, we highly recommend for those students working in the corporate arena that they take the elective courseTA 356 (S Corporation vs LLC: a choice of entity).


Do I have to take the required courses before I can take an elective course?

No. Students may take an elective course at any time as long as they have satisfied the prerequisites for the course.


Can I take some courses through CyberCampus and others in-person, or do I have to take all of my courses in one mode or the other?

Students can mix the type of courses they take. Therefore a student may take an in-person class one trimester and an online class the next. Each course, regardless of its format or location taken, is recorded on the transcript and counts towards the degree.


If I begin as a certificate candidate, can I apply the courses I earn for the certificate towards the MS?

Yes, as long as they fit within the requirements of the MS. Some of the certificates require several courses that in the MS program are elective courses. In total, only three elective courses are allowed in the MS program, so earning a certificate in International Taxation, for example, will require taking more elective courses than can be absorbed in the MS. A student who wishes to earn the MS and International Certificate need only take 12 courses, as three of five courses towards the certificate can satisfy the three electives towards the MS.