All You Should Know About Accounting Internships
Being a certified public accountant is a significant achievement for people entering an accounting career. The certification gives you the authority to practice as a professional in the state where you want to work. Certification requirements vary slightly from one state to another, so you can only practice professionally in states with similar certification criteria. If you wish to practice in a different state, you might have to undergo additional tests, depending on the requirements of the state of interest. However, any additional tests you need to take will not be as stringent as the CPA training programs and CPA exams that are standardized throughout the country. Only the additional state requirements restrict your region of practice.
One of the main requirements to be a licensed accountant is completing at least 150 college credit hours. Part of this time is spent doing an internship. An internship is training to get you familiarized with the work environment at real workplaces, like an accounting firm or accounting department in a large company, and you get paid while learning. Most institutions schedule the accounting internship during the spring semester. However, this period varies from state to state, depending on the schedule. As a public accounting intern, you must perform at a certain level during your internship to begin building your professional reputation. Although the internship might not add to your academic credentials, it exposes you to potential employers.
To get more insight on accounting internships, their benefits, and how to get them, we’ll look at the following.
- How accounting internship will help your career
- What accounting interns do
- How to find accounting internships
- Tips for getting an accounting internship.
How an Accounting Internship Will Help Your Career
As an accounting student, internships have many benefits, both to you as a person and for your career. However, these benefits depend on the accounting firm you intern with. You should intern in a firm that deals in the same field of accounting as the one you major in or are interested in working in down the line. For instance, if you major in forensic accounting, you should be an intern in a firm that focuses in forensic accounting. Here are some of the benefits you get from an accounting internship in the right accounting firm:
- Improves Your Skills and Competence
One of the main purposes of an internship is to help students use what they learned in class in the real world. Getting an internship job in the right accounting firm allows you to practice the skills you learned in class. The supervisors and other senior staff will guide you on how certain concepts affect real-life situations. As a result, you perfect the skills you learn in class. The more skills you have, the better an accountant you will be.
- Provides Clarity of Future Coursework
Internships are a perfect reflection of what awaits you in the future of your CPA training program. While at an accounting internship, pay attention to concepts that you are new to you or those you have never encountered before. In most cases, this indicates that these concepts have yet to be covered in your degree program, and seeing them in the real world becomes even more important. This experience is common with CPA training institutions that are not well equipped in terms of tutors and other resources. CPA training is done in four stages. After these stages, you sit for the exam. Concepts from advanced stages of learning might seem new if you are on your first internship job, but they will make more sense over time.
- Provides an Opportunity to Evaluate Employers
Job offers usually come from the businesses or departments where students complete their internships. This opportunity is the main reason why you should take your internship interview seriously. The employers analyze the performance of interns and, in the end, extend job opportunities to those who perform best. While the potential employer analyzes your work performance, you also have time to think about whether you want to work there. The internship opportunity allows you to interact directly with permanent employees and see first-hand how the employer treats them. At the end of the internship program, you will have a clear picture of who the employer is, allowing you to make the right decision about whether to accept or reject employment offers and giving you a good idea of what your life will be like as an employee.
You will face many challenges during your internship, the biggest challenge might be finding the best internship opportunity. Although some institutions offer internship opportunities for CPA students, some don’t. High-performing companies already have their preferred schools where they like to get interns and may not open the positions to students from every school. When looking for an accounting internship, then, the best place to go to is the government and international organizations. Many areas of the government require accounting services, implying that you stand a higher chance of being employed by the government.
Generally, how successful your accounting career depends on how much you invest in your internship program.
Here are some of how internships are beneficial for your accounting career:
- Resume Building and Networking
The main goal of many students seeking accounting internship opportunities is to build their resumes for the future job hunt. Being an intern in renowned accounting institutions makes it easier for you to find employment in the future. Many employers ask for recommendations from institutions you have previously worked with, so you are an advantage if you get recommendations from reputable companies or supervisors who have strong reputations in the industry. Networking allows you to make essential connections for your future as a professional accountant. In addition to meeting potential employers, you may connect with future partners, too. Additionally, networking allows you to identify, share, and explore ideas in the accounting profession.
- Determination of Your Career Path
One of the main internship advantages is that it allows you to determine what field to major in as an accountant. After completing the normal accountancy training, an internship allows you to see roles in the profession that interest you. With this knowledge, you can make proper decisions on which fields to major in. For instance, if you intern at a forensic accounting firm, you will identify potential areas that you might explore. Such ideas could motivate your research for advanced education such as masters and Ph.D. degree levels.
What Accounting Interns Do
Many business degrees require an internship to guarantee employment after studies. Accounting degrees are not an exemption. To benefit from an internship, you must know your role during the internship period. The role of accounting interns varies depending on where they intern. However, some are typical across most companies with internship opportunities. These include:
- Shadowing staff members- The main role of internship opportunities is to create an environment for students to learn about the accounting profession and how concepts apply in real life. Shadowing members of the accounting department as they perform various roles is one of the ways to learn. Shadowing members allows students to experience first-hand how certain accounting procedures apply in the workplace. In most institutions, the initial stages of the internship program involve shadowing. However, some institutions encourage shadowing at later stages of the program, too. For instance, students shadow members of the accounting department when new concepts are introduced in the classroom.
- Performing simple duties within the accounting department- Interns must perform simple duties within the accounting department. Such roles include issuing invoices to clients and simple data entry. Performing such roles lifts the pressure from permanent employees, allowing them time to show interns what to do. Most accounting firms pay their interns to encourage them to learn during the program. Interns can also be involved in the collection of data used in accounting. Such data includes cash flow information from company records.
- Performing complex duties- After a certain period in your internship program, your supervisor will give you complex responsibilities within the accounting department. At this point, the accounting firm expects that you are familiar with the procedures involved in the workplace. You are expected to follow up with the company’s financial health and offer solutions to arising problems. Towards the peak of your internship period, you might be working as an accounting assistant, performing technical roles when the accountant is absent. Additionally, the accountant could be delegating duties to you.
The company or organization you get absorbed in as an intern significantly impacts your career life. The accounting firm determines the level of skills you attain during your internship program. Therefore, you need to intern in firms that have adequate accounting work to help you learn. Finding the right company could be challenging. Therefore, you need to consult practicing professionals for advice on the best companies to intern in. Accounting finance businesses are the best for accounting internships. The distribution of these businesses varies from one state to another.
Here are some of the common businesses that require accounting finance interns:
- Science and technology businesses
Scientific inventions and innovations contribute to the running of the modern world in many ways. For this reason, a lot of money is invested to fund research programs for better technology. Through scientific research, medical and other discoveries are made, helping to make the world a better place. To plan for the finances channeled towards scientific projects, science and technology firms need accounting specialists. As a prospective accountant, you can be an intern in such institutions. These internship opportunities allow you to learn the relationship between technology and finances.
- Retail and logistics businesses
A lot of funds are associated with trade. To make the trade cycle complete, retail and logistics firms play a big role. These businesses are capital intensive and have high returns on investments as well. For instance, international logistics companies are responsible for shipping goods to different parts of the world. Retailers, on the other hand, redistribute the goods to final consumers. For the sustainability of these businesses, the owners must make sound financial decisions. These decisions are influenced by advice from accounting experts. These businesses, especially international ones, provide adequate training to allow you to work overseas.
- Entertainment businesses
Entertainment earns a lot of money. Musicians, actors, and other entertainment industry players rely on financial experts to make sound decisions. Financial stability allows the entertainers to focus on perfecting their craft. In most cases, accounting experts work with record labels and other entertainment agencies such as event organizing firms. However, some are employed by independent individuals in this industry to help manage their finances. You can get an accounting internship in one of the companies operating in the entertainment industry. Although the company’s face might be entertainment, you will work in the accounting and finance department. Your roles as an intern will include helping budget for artist tours.
Internships help you acquire a wide range of accounting job skills. One of the main skills you attain is generating financial reports. Financial reporting is the basis of all accounting tasks. It allows you as an accountant to tell how money flows in an organization for accounting purposes.
How To Find Accounting Internships
There are many internship opportunities for accounting students. The nature of these internships depends on your level of study. Some companies offer internship opportunities for bachelor’s degree program students, while others focus on those in MBA accounting programs. As stated earlier, the accounting firm you intern in should be practicing the same accounting discipline as the one you study. Here are some common types of accounting internship programs you might find across various states:
- Tax preparation- Tax preparation accountants are responsible for helping people and organizations file their returns. Being an intern in this field of accounting allows you to learn to prepare tax returns. With this knowledge, you can work for the government to help prepare state income taxes. The ideal period for this internship is usually during the tax season. However, some institutions don’t let their students into internship programs until summer. In this case, look at the overall operations of the organization and determine the taxes paid.
- Forensic accounting- If you wish to practice in the legal field as an accountant, forensic accounting is the best discipline to study. As an intern in forensic accounting firms, you are exposed to various relationships between the law and finances. Forensic accountants analyze business accounts in search of evidence which is later presented to authorities. They play an important role in ensuring national security, including providing evidence of corruption and theft of public funds. They also provide proof of the involvement of certain bank accounts in illegal businesses such as drug trafficking.
- Auditing and corporate accounting- Auditors play diverse roles in the business world. As an auditor, you are tasked with following up on your client’s income and expenditure to generate financial reports. These reports are mainly used for accountability in case a question arises. Corporate accounting is another beneficial discipline of accounting. A corporate accountant mainly works with corporate organizations to track cash flow. Accounting students can intern in auditing and corporate accounting organizations to learn about the impact of financial management in firms.
Understanding the accounting discipline you pursue helps in selecting an organization for your internship. However, it does not guarantee that the organization you choose benefits you. Finding an internship opportunity goes beyond mastery of the accounting discipline. Here are some things you should do to secure an accounting internship.
- Put the required effort and focus on studies
Most accounting firms require you to present transcripts before being accepted as an intern. This implies that your academic scores in the previous classes can affect your internship opportunity. Therefore, you should put adequate effort into your studies to secure meaningful internship opportunities. Companies that emphasize academic excellence offer the best training during the internship period.
- Network and interact with other students and practicing professionals
Networking is one of the easiest ways to secure an internship opportunity. By interacting with other students, you expand your access to internship opportunities. Fellow students are likely to alert you when they see an opportunity that suits your internship needs. Networking with individuals that are already practicing in the accounting field is important. It allows you to create valuable connections with potential employers that can offer you internship opportunities. Practicing professionals could recommend you to their bosses or colleagues for consideration in case of internship opportunities.
- Stay up to date with current affairs
Being up to date allows you to identify and apply for internship opportunities. There are many ways to stay up to date. Thanks to technological advancements, you can see what is going on through mobile phone platforms. Most companies update information about internship opportunities on social media platforms, making it easy for you to spot and apply for the said internships. Reading print media also keeps you up to date with internship opportunities. To be sure about available openings, you can visit websites of companies offering the opportunities.
With many students enrolling for accounting courses, there is stiff competition for accounting internship opportunities. To secure one, you must be at your best. Many accounting students are making the most out of their internship programs. Their main aim is to be competent professionals or even secure employment in the companies they intern in. Securing the first internship makes it easy to secure the second one, but this only happens if you were an exemplary intern in your first internship job. If you change the accounting discipline you study, you might have to look for a different accounting firm for an internship.
Tips for Getting an Accounting Internship
Securing your first internship is very important. It represents your first encounter with the professional world in the accounting field you study. Preparing for an internship is very important, and you will have to perform well in the interview to get a position. There are several factors you should consider in preparation for your internship. These factors will determine whether you get an internship. Additionally, they determine how comfortable and beneficial your internship will be. Here are some tips you might consider when preparing for your internship:
- Figure out the logistics- Understanding what the firm expects of you before reporting for an internship is very important. Your internship program will be more comfortable if you have fewer surprises and challenges during your first days at work. You can speak to the individuals you will be working with in advance for information about what you will be doing on your first day or week of internship.
- Know the company and industry- Prior knowledge of the company you will work in as an intern is important. Having information about the company’s administration management policies and office rules eases your adjustment into the department and helps you get along better with current staff. This knowledge helps you appreciate what you should contribute as a team member of the accounting department. You should also know the accounting discipline that the company majors in. If it’s an auditing firm, you should be prepared to handle accounting duties related to auditing. Having this knowledge helps you understand the skills you need and those you will acquire during the internship program.
- Practice office lingo and etiquette- How you address people at work during your internship program is very important. Although many people might overlook it, how you talk to fellow students is very different from how you should address your seniors at work. If it is your first internship, practicing office lingo will improve how you communicate with other staff members. Make complete and understandable statements when addressing your seniors. At all times, address people with etiquette. This approach is contrary to casual conversations that you might have been used to.
The quality of internship you get determines the trajectory of your accounting career. Many accounting firms target producing competent professionals for the accounting industry, which is the main reason why some contact internship interviews. The questions you encounter in an internship interview depend on the firm offering the internship opportunity. However, some questions are common in various firms, although they are framed differently. Such questions include:
- General knowledge questions- These are questions about general information that you might be exposed to. It could be questions about the government, business, and any other aspect that might impact accounting processes. The main aim of general knowledge questions is to test how informed you are, which is one of the main reasons why prospective interns should be up-to-date with information before going for internship interviews. Some interviewers might ask about news items that interns are expected to have seen.
- Specialized questions- These are questions that mainly focus on the accounting profession. Interviewers ask specialized internship interview questions depending on your level of study. If you are an intern at higher levels of study, say master’s degree level, you might receive more technical questions. These questions also depend on the accounting discipline you specialize in. For instance, an intern specializing in auditing cannot be asked technical questions about forensic accounting.
The other questions asked during the internship interview are at the discretion of the interviewers. These questions usually test your etiquette and communication skills. To secure internships in big accounting firms, you must impress the interviewer with your answers. Additionally, recommendations from powerful people and institutions increase your chances of being hired as an intern in huge corporations.
There are many accounting internship opportunities for accounting students. Internships affect your eligibility for licensing and employment later in your career. How beneficial your internship is depends on the accounting firm you intern with. Some schools secure internships for their students. However, you can also secure an internship in big accounting firms without school assistance. To do this, you have to pay attention to preparations and the internship application process. Being an accounting intern in government organizations is advantageous. It increases your chances of being employed in the accounting departments of one of the many government organizations that need accounting services.
Factors such as your academic scores determine how easy it is for you to secure an internship. Therefore, you should put adequate effort into your studies as well as networking. These two are the main tips for securing meaningful internship opportunities. During your internship, you should master etiquette and office lingo, making it easy for you to communicate with senior staff and other interns at your workplace. Knowledge of the accounting firm you work in and the accounting discipline it specializes in is essential. With this knowledge, you can estimate how much you will learn from the internship program. Additionally, it helps you know which accounting field you should major in while advancing your studies.
Financial considerations are essential when signing up for an internship program. Having the expected expenses in mind helps you determine ways of attending your internship duties without straining your finances. Look for paid internship opportunities. Most companies offer stipends to interns for their roles in the running of the company’s businesses.