SJSU MS Taxation Program Elevates Your Professional Career

by | Apr 26, 2024 | Academics, Featured

April is often marked by Tax Day on April 15. San José State’s Master of Science in Taxation program helps accountants advance their careers in taxation and helps students set themselves apart in the finance, accounting and tax spaces.

A unique and flexible program designed to serve both working tax professionals and those pursuing a new career in tax or accounting, an MST from SJSU can be used for many different career paths. Graduates of the program are working at CPA firms, government tax agencies, or establishing their own tax firms. 

Many students get to explore potential careers in tax through experiential learning opportunities, including writing for The Contemporary Tax Journal. Each issue includes a Tax Maven interview where an MST student editor interviews a well-known tax professional who is associated with SJSU. The maven might be an alum, a former speaker at SJSU tax conferences or a faculty member.

Professor Annette Nellen, director of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business MST program, observes that tax law isn’t going to get simpler and new types of investments and transactions raise challenging tax questions. 

“Effective tax practice today calls for a broad and deep understanding of tax law to identify issues and excellent tax research skills using primary authorities (e.g., The Internal Revenue Code, regulations, cases) to find answers with confidence to those issues,” says Nellen. “An MST degree will open many doors to exciting and rewarding careers in taxation.”

How an MST degree sets Spartans up for career growth lists SJSU’s MST program as the #1 taxation program in the U.S. It’s not surprising that such a top-tier program produces highly skilled professionals. Numerous MST alumni have advanced to vice president positions, such as Stephen Dunphy, ’07 MST, who is now the senior vice president of tax at Ross Stores, Inc. 

“The MST provided me with the building blocks to research tax positions, change accounting methods, learn international tax and prepare for a lifetime career in tax,” says Dunphy.

Stephen Dunphy, ’07 MST, senior vice president of tax at Ross Stores, Inc.

Stephen Dunphy, ’07 MST, senior vice president of tax at Ross Stores, Inc. Photo courtesy of Stephen Dunphy.

He began his career at CSU East Bay, where he completed his undergraduate studies in business with a focus on accounting. His educational foundation enabled him to take the CPA exam and secure a role in tax and business advising at Arthur Andersen LLP.

Reflecting on his journey, Dunphy mentioned, “I did not plan to specialize in tax, but started preparing corporate income tax returns with Andersen on day one.” 

After gaining experience in tax at Andersen, he transitioned to Cisco Systems, where he focused on handling income tax returns and maximizing their share-based compensation tax deductions resulting from the tech bubble. 

“I quickly realized the tax department was large and there were a lot of opportunities in other tax groups such as defense, tax reporting and tax planning,” says Dunphy.

While exploring these opportunities, he realized he would need a specialized degree. “You need to locate, analyze and execute tax positions in practice every day. SJSU was well-respected and I enrolled in the MST program with the intent of getting my degree while I worked full-time.” 

The program’s structure allowed him to take one class per quarter, offering flexibility during busy seasons. During his time in the program, he took a cutting-edge tax accounting and reporting course, a decision that profoundly influenced his professional journey. 

“I ultimately took three tax accounting classes in the MST program which ignited my career. I was viewed as a subject matter expert and became chair of the Tax Executive Institute’s (TEI) Financial Reporting Committee (FRC),” he says. TEI is an organization committed to establishing a worldwide network of tax professionals to enhance their professional growth and advance their careers.

“Under my oversight, I was able to consult with the FASB [Financial Accounting Standards Board] on upcoming tax law changes, including the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which afforded me two trips to Norwalk, Connecticut, to help shape US GAAP [Generally Accepted Accounting Principles] specifically impacting tech companies in Silicon Valley.”

Dunphy had a significant impact on shaping tax accounting standards that directly affected companies in Silicon Valley and established connections with numerous tax professionals with whom he remains in touch to this day. 

His advice to current MST students or individuals considering the program?

“The combination of a BS in business with a concentration in accounting, a CPA license, and the MST degree makes you invaluable to any tax department. The combination of accounting and tax makes you a well rounded business advisor. The MST from SJSU is well-respected in industry and Silicon Valley.  

“As an employer, I look for the CPA and MST combination on candidate resumes. As a job seeker, I trumpet my CPA and MST combination to differentiate myself from other candidates.”


MST applications for Fall 2024 admission close May 1. Learn more about the program.