Single Mom Crunches All the Right Numbers

Maralee Knoll figures out Accounting program and earns 4.0 GPA.

Maralee Knoll and Isabelle Knoll

Maralee Knoll, 40, of Prescott, Wis., needed a career change that would bring balance to her life. She chose the Accounting program at Dakota County Technical College because a future job as an accountant promised superb pay and a flexible schedule—both necessities for raising her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Isabelle.

“Isabelle’s my pride and joy,” Knoll said. “By choosing a career in accounting, I’ll make good money plus have the freedom to attend events in Isabelle’s school like her Christmas pageant.”

A member of Phi Theta Kappa and named to the National Dean’s List, Knoll initially considered careers as a medical assistant and ultrasound technician, but switched to accounting even though she doesn’t particularly like math.

“Accounting is more about solving puzzles than it is about math,” she said. “You need to know the basics—adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing. After that, it’s just making sure that the numbers match. If they don’t, that’s where the puzzle begins and you have to go locate the problem.”

Born in Rochester, Minn., Knoll graduated from Hastings High School in Hastings, Minn., in 1986. She’ll be graduating from DCTC with an A.A.S. degree in accounting in the spring of 2008. She aims to continue her education at DeVry University and earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

Doris Loes, an accounting careers instructor at DCTC, believes that accounting is an excellent career choice for women and likes the idea that Knoll is leveraging her education at DCTC into a more advanced degree.

“Maralee is good fit for accounting,” Loes said. “She’s got the drive and personality to succeed in a field that really works for women. In fact, more and more women are finding out that accounting is challenging and rewarding while providing tremendous flexibility.”

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, women account for 57 percent of new accounting graduates. The federal government’s Current Population Survey reports that women accountants make up approximately 59 percent of all U.S. accountants, rising 20 percentile points since 1983.

As a single mom, Knoll faced financial obstacles on her path to an accounting career. She served as a work-study in the college’s Instructional Technology Center, but also turned to TRiO/Student Support Services to help her find solutions.

Cori Robinson, a TRiO advisor at DCTC, reported that her program serves 150 students at the college, allowing advisors to provide intensive, one-on-one assistance to meet specific needs.

“Funded by the U.S Department of Education, TRiO/Student Support Services is a program that assists first-generation or low-income students, or students who have a documented disability,” Robinson said. “Maralee has been an asset to the TRiO program, not only as a student, but also as a role model.”

Knoll will graduate this spring with an A.A.S. degree in accounting. Looking toward her future, she sees herself making a comfortable living as an accountant in a corporate setting.

“My dream is work for a company in accounts receivable or accounts payable,” Knoll said. “With my training at DCTC, I’ll be able to go in and do an excellent job—and still have plenty of time to enjoy life and watch Isabelle grow up.”

Students in the Accounting program learn to analyze, interpret and record accounting data. They learn how to prepare financial statements, tax returns, and government forms while becoming versed in state and federal tax laws and payroll laws. They also gain experience with a range of computer software, including word processing, spreadsheet and accounting applications.

Accountants perform one of the most important functions in any business. Duties include budgeting, maintaining accounting systems, compiling financial statements, preparing state and federal tax reports, analyzing cost variances and interpreting results of analysis.

Graduates of the Accounting program find challenging accounting careers in companies of all sizes as well as in accounting firms and government agencies. Accountants work in four major fields—public, management, government and internal auditing.

According to, 2006 college graduates with accounting degrees are climbing fast on the annual wage ladder. Accountants with two-year degrees enter the job market making on average $35,000 a year.

DCTC has transfer agreements for its Accounting program with Bemidji State University, Southwest Minnesota State University, Cardinal Stritch University and Saint Mary’s University.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that occupational growth in accounting will be strong through 2016, with an 18 percent increase that translates as nearly 230,000 new jobs.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2007 lists accounting services as the top employer for new college grads. Accountants are in especially high demand in government and nonprofit organizations.

Minnesota’s Internet System for Education and Employment Knowledge, or ISEEK, listed $28.85 as the median hourly wage for accountants in Minnesota in the fourth quarter of 2007. Accountants in the seven-county Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area make slightly more.