Magazine article The CPA Journal

Hiring Academically Inexperienced Accounting Interns: Exploring the Challenges and Benefits

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Hiring Academically Inexperienced Accounting Interns: Exploring the Challenges and Benefits

Article excerpt

The key to success for accounting firms is a strong team of quality individuals; however, the competition can be intense when it comes to hiring them. Many accounting firms recruit and compete vigorously to hire entry-level employees from accounting programs at colleges and universities. Accounting firms of all sizes have established internship programs that provide students with opportunities to gain experience and to learn about both the firm and the profession. In return, firms get a less costly look at whether a student would fit with the firm as a potential full-time employee in the future. Most internships involve students at the junior level or higher, at which point most accounting students are well into their major, having completed (or in the process of completing) requirements such as their intermediate accounting courses or tax courses. The competition for the best and brightest students is often intense at mis point in the students' program.

Because most firms do not hire student interns who have only completed introductory courses, the competition at this level is minimal; this presents an opportunity for firms to identify and hire some of the best and brightest early in their educational programs, before it gets tougher to do so. The ensuing discussion focuses on the early internship experiences of one firm and one student who had only completed introductory financial and managerial courses. It will also discuss how an early internship experience can be successfully accomplished and how it can benefit both firms and students.

Advantages of an Early Internship Experience

Most students who choose a major have typically performed quite well in introductory courses, find the material interesting, and believe mat this area is one they would like to pursue in the future; however, most students still remain uncertain as to whether mis decision is the right one for them. An early internship experience can solidify students' choice of major, and it can give them confidence in their decision while they earn money and obtain valuable experience that will help them be even more motivated and successful in advanced courses.

The majority of students completing introductory accounting courses are not accounting majors, because these courses are typically required of all business majors. Faculty members often recruit successful students from these courses into the accounting major. Many students only decide to become accounting majors after taking these introductory courses and finding that they are interested and successful in them. An early internship experience may be especially valuable to reinforce these high-performing, but recently declared, majors.

By providing an early internship experience, firms can get an inside track on the best recruits early in their programs. If the experience is good for the firm and for the student, it is possible for the student to return for multiple internships, perhaps in different areas, while earning a degree. This gives bom the student and the firm an extended opportunity to learn about each other, all before making that expensive deeision about permanent employment In addition, these recruits will share their experience with other students, thus promoting the firm and enhancing its chances of recruiting other strong candidates.

Challenges of the Early Internship Experience

For CPA firms, one central challenge is how to set up an experience that will be successful for both the students and the firm. Although a firm might have had an internship program in place for years to support and mentor upper-level students, the needs and abilities of less experienced students might require a different process. The primary goals of the early experience are to support the student's choice to major in accounting, to show them they can be successful, and to show them that the profession is challenging and interesting. Thus, it is important to provide the student with a positive experience. …

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