Tips for an Accounting Graduate

College Students walking across campus

Are you headed off to your last year of college or seeking an internship for the upcoming year? Feeling like you’re not prepared or unsure of what your professional future may hold?

After reading this, you will hopefully leave with ideas to consider and perhaps a different perspective on your own professional future. This advice is based solely on personal experience as well as the experience of friends and colleagues; always remember that you have to make the best decision for you.

For graduating seniors:

If you have already lined up a job: congrats! I am guessing you are still a bit nervous and aren’t sure what to expect? Don’t be nervous about starting and knowing everything right away. We expect recent graduates to need lots of help, and we will teach you as you go. It’s really true that while you have the concepts, applying them in the real world is totally different; be sure to take notes and check your work before submitting it to your boss for review. Do not panic if you don’t know something, but instead ask questions until you understand. Lastly, always dress professionally to play it on the safe side. Even if you are in a casual work environment, wait until a few weeks into the job to break out the jeans!

If you are job seeking, consider the following as you navigate finding your first position:

1) If you have a passion or know what you want to do long-term, get started now. Getting in your sector at entry level can be key to finding future opportunities at a higher level. For instance, if you know you want to work in international development, then start your career in that sector as employers are often looking for those with experience. If you know you want to be in non-profit start your career with a public firm specializing in non-profit audits/tax.

2) Seriously consider starting your career in public accounting. Experience in public accounting is by far the most sought-after work experience for any employer because of the foundation that audit/tax experience at a public firm provides. Beginning your career in accounting at a public accounting firm for the audit or tax department is a great way to build solid technical skills, gain exposure to various sectors, and enhance your own professional development. As an auditor, as opposed to a staff accountant at a private company, you will learn to be comfortable with auditing procedures and GAAP, and, in addition, you will be comfortable combing through a general ledger. Employers and recruiters look frequently for those with public accounting experience because that foundation makes the transition from public accounting to the private sector fairly easy when the time comes for your next career move. Also, public accounting firms often encourage and help offset the cost of studying to pass the CPA exam and obtaining your CPA license, as well as provide ample continuing education opportunities. Continuing education is required once you obtain your CPA license. The cost to maintain your license, including licensing renewal fees, is at least a few hundred dollars a year.

3) If you’re positive you don’t want to be in public accounting then this is all about personal choice and fit. What sort of working environment do you prefer? If you don’t know, think back to your classes for some insight. Did you prefer your small classes of 30-40 people or the large lectures of over 200? Are you interested in working for a publicly traded company, a small business or a non-profit organization? Where do you envision yourself fitting in?

  • Apply to everything that sparks an interest!
  • Get the interview!
  • When interviewing, ask tons of questionsfind out how keen the company is on mentoring and training. Find out if there are opportunities for training and development. Determine if there is room for growth. Meet as many team members/bosses as possible, and figure out how much employees communicate with one another.
  • Decide if you can see yourself at the company/organization based on the questions you ask and the answers you receive about the culture, work environment, etc. Being happy at work is largely about the work and the people. If you click with the people, then great! The only way you will know about the work as an upcoming graduate is by doing it.

For juniors and sophomores, everything above applies, but in addition:

4) Get an internship if possible. It’s a great way to get a little experience and exposure before you decide where to go full-time. Plus, some internships are paid and can help you earn some spending money for your final years of college!

5) Go abroad. Unless you are extremely travel adverse, if at all possible, go abroad for a semester or even a year. This amazing experience will help you grow immensely and possibly even help you figure out what your first career move will be.

6) Consider staying in school for 150 credits and obtaining either a master’s degree or double degree. Take accounting or other business courses that can help you determine a path and/or give you more exposure to various types of accounting/sectors.

7) Take a resume-building/interviewing course if offered or visit your career center for assistance.

8) If you have student loans, start paying now if possible!

For freshmen:

Stop reading this, and go enjoy being a young adult while you can! If you are a freshman, my best advice is to start planning your study abroad semester and to experience as much of the world as you can.


Written by Allison Como