Accounting Internships Give You More than Practical Experience

Accounting Internships are often recommended as a way to gain practical work experience while you complete your education.  An internship is your chance to work alongside accounting professionals and learn on the job, often while receiving a paycheck.

Many universities encourage them as a core component of their accounting curriculum because of the experience they provide. 

Accounting InternshipsAccounting Internships

Marks of Good Accounting Internships

Experience is important, but they have the potential to be so much more.  We will show you ways to maximize your internship experience and gain benefits beyond those immediately apparent.

An accounting internship is a temporary position where a student works as an entry level employee of the host organization.  Some internship positions are coordinated through your university and earn academic credit while some are simply opportunities for the employer to get lower cost entry level or project assistance in return for work experience.

So, what makes a good accounting internship?

Accounting internships should involve a variety of accounting related tasks to give you a wide exposure to as much of accounting as possible.  In the best internship situations, your supervisor will assume a mentoring role and give you valuable professional and career advice while you work together.

You can maximize this experience by maintaining a humble and teachable attitude.

Be willing to try new things, help out where and when you can, and learn as much as you can from the experience.  Ask for and accept constructive criticism of your performance, and work on areas where you are lacking.  Guard against treating your internship as a casual, temporary position.

Instead, treat it like a unique opportunity and express gratitude to your host employer.

Use Internships to Explore Specialties in Accounting

An accounting internship is your chance to see the day to day role of an accounting specialty.  Using your internship to solidify your specialty choice maximizes the value of the experience.  Are you considering:

  • Public Accounting? – An internship with a public accounting firm will be the best experience for you.  In the tax department you will assist with tax preparation by organizing and assembling client’s tax related information, researching tax law, and sometimes even preparing portions of the returns themselves.  In the audit department you will work closely with a staff accountant or auditor and learn to prepare audit documentation, reconcile accounts, and potentially even participate in an on-site client audit.
  • Forensic Accounting? – During your internship with a forensic accountant, you will learn the investigative process and experience what it’s like to work closely with law enforcement or the fraud prevention departments of businesses.  You may assist with preparing evidence, case documentation, and maybe even observe a legal proceeding.
  • Cost Accounting? – What better way to solidify your interest than working closely with an experienced cost accountant?  You will work on the types of projects and analysis that challenge cost accountants daily.  You may even visit the production floor to see the source of all the data you review. 
  • Financial Accounting? – Perhaps your career goals include a position as Chief Financial Officer for a large corporation.  Selecting an internship within industry will let you experience the work involved in recording the daily transactions, maintaining the general ledger, and preparing financial reporting at the end of the month or quarter.

International Accounting Internships – A True Differentiator

Today’s business environment is increasingly global.  All but the smallest organizations are entering the global market and competing internationally for customers and resources.  Globalization impacts every department of a company, including accounting.  

Would you like to really stand out among your peers?  Consider going abroad for an international internship.  

International internships are available through organizations like GoAbroad and World Endeavors, and a variety of charitable organizations.  Your university’s career placement office will often assist you in your search.  International internships have many benefits beyond the normal internship experience.

  • Global Perspective – going abroad will give you a global perspective on accounting and increase your value to organizations with an international presence.
  • Communication Skills – it’s a myth that accountants only work with numbers.  Accountants are in the business of communicating numbers, analysis, and insight on financial matters to people.  If you believe you can succeed as an accountant without strong communication skills, you are mistaken.  Overcoming cultural and language obstacles will challenge and strengthen your skills.
  • Flexibility – working abroad will expose you to work environments you’ve never experienced.  You will learn to adapt to the situation and accomplish a goal regardless of technological limitations.
  • Foreign Language Proficiency – interning in a foreign country will force you to develop your foreign language skills.  Language experts will tell you total immersion into a language is a much more efficient path to mastery than a classroom.  Even if you are already familiar with a language from your studies, you will learn the business related terminology needed for proficiency.

An international internship is a unique addition to your resume.  It tells prospective employers about your character as well as your background.  It takes an adventurous spirit to travel abroad for an internship.

Your prospective employer will see you as a candidate that is willing to take risks and go above and beyond expectations in order to excel.

Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities

Accounting internships are so much more than work experience.  As an intern you have exposure to professionals who can jump start your career.  Connections you make during your internship can develop into relationships that benefit you for years. 

Most organizations that make accounting internships available enjoy acting as mentors to the students they hire.  It’s a way for organizations to give back to the professional community.  These organizations look for ways to introduce interns to every aspect of their organization.  If you show an interest, you will learn about the interdependence of key departments and functional areas, and meet leaders in those areas.

  • Ask intelligent questions – this is your chance to learn the strategies behind key business decisions and processes.  Take advantage of this opportunity to learn from leaders.
  • Participate in company functions – Get involved in the social life of the company.  Observe the culture and working environment around you.  Give the people you work with a reason to like you personally and maintain a professional connection with you after you leave.
  • Volunteer for additional work – When projects come up, make sure you offer to assist.  Impress your supervisor with your willingness to share the department’s burden. 
  • Ask for advice – You chose this internship in order to work closely with a professional in your desired field. 

After you've developed a rapport with your supervisor, ask their advice.   How did they achieve success?  What would they recommend to you?  

Often accounting internships lead to an entry level position after your graduation.  Keep the human resources department and your supervisor informed about your progress in the university and your job status.  Express your desire to work for the company in the future.  

Even if they don’t offer you a position, maintaining the positive relationships created from accounting internships will provide you with references and introductions when you begin your job hunt.