Become an Accountant
Accounting students benefit from the on the job experience gained through an internship. In today’s competitive job market accounting students need to take advantage of every opportunity to distinguish themselves from the competition and a successful internship experience is one very good way to do that.
Internships are required by some accounting programs for both undergraduate and graduate accounting students. Even if your school does not require you to secure an internship you should try and obtain one. Internships provide valuable real life experience, help you to establish contacts in the accounting profession and will provide you with on the job experience and professional references to include on your resume when you begin your search for a full-time job after graduation.
The best place to begin your search for an internship is with your college career services or internship office. Most accounting programs have staff to assist you with your search. Your accounting professors are another great source for leads for internships. Professors stay in touch with alumni of the program and accounting colleagues who will often seek out the professor’s advice as to students who would make good interns. Professors are great references for internships especially if you did well in their class.
Join The National Accounting Fraternity, Beta Alpha Psi or other professional associations. These types of organizations can provide helpful networking opportunities to meet and get to know potential internship employers. Your best shot at an internship is through networking. If you know someone in the office offering the internship you are more likely to get an interview. And employers are usually inclined to help out students they have had a prior contact with or who are students in the program they graduated from.
You can also look on line for opportunities, just type “accounting internships” into your favorite search engine and sites providing lists of internship opportunities will appear. This may be especially helpful if you are looking for an internship in a different location than your college town.
Before you start your search determine if you must have a paid internship or if you can afford to take an unpaid internship. In these uncertain economic times it is sometimes advantageous if you can afford to take an unpaid internship rather than forego an internship experience. Are you looking for a summer experience or an internship that continues during the school year? It may be easier to find a year-long internship. A firm often prefers to have an intern stick around longer than three months so that they can get the advantage of the intern’s familiarity with their work and clients. Often in a summer internship by the time you know enough to be helpful the summer is over and you are gone.
If you have a high GPA and are an upper level undergraduate or master’s student there may be paid internships or assistantships available at the university in the administrative or college offices. An assistantship or work study position in a University Controller’s Office or with the Internal Audit Staff or Budget Office can provide great opportunities to not only to work with the university accountants but to meet and work with the University’s external auditors or accounting consultant firms. Another advantage of working at the college or university is these positions often come with tuition waivers in addition to stipends.
Many government agencies at the local, state and federal level offer internships. Among the federal offices offering accounting internships are the General Accounting Office, the Federal Reserve, and the CIA. Almost all states hire accounting interns in their audit and accounting offices. Local municipal governments, county governments and school districts sometimes hire accounting interns.
Essential to a successful internship search is a professional resume. Again, a good place to seek help developing a good resume is your college career placement office. Make sure the resume is easy to read and has no grammatical or typing errors. Your resume will often be the difference between getting the opportunity to interview or not. The office or firm you are sending your resume to will receive many applicants for their internships and your resume should distinguish you from the other candidates. Make sure you include a list of references including former employers and professors and their contact information. Let those you are using as reference know ahead of time you want to use them as a reference so they are prepared to provide a positive reference if a potential employer calls. Plus when you talk to your potential references you may find they know someone at the office you are sending your resume to and are willing to give them a call suggesting they interview you. If the office is sorting through hundreds of resumes nothing brings your resume to the top of the stack faster than a call from a former professor or trusted colleague.
If you are mailing, emailing or dropping off your resume include a business-like cover letter. Follow-up after you have sent the resume to make sure the office received it. If you are lucky enough to get an interview dress professionally and show up on time (or a little early). Be prepared for the interview. Do a little research on the firm or office before your interview. Be familiar with the kind of work the office does. If you know who will be interviewing you check around and see if your references or college office are familiar with them. If they are an alumni take advantage of that connection. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. Don’t exaggerate but if you have skills and experiences that are relevant to the position bring them to the interviewer’s attention. If you have a directly related class paper or project bring it to the interview. After the interview send a thank-you letter. You want to create a positive impression on those who are interviewing you. There are many good accounting students looking for an internship so don’t overlook any opportunity to distinguish yourself as an exceptional choice.
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