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Accounting

The information below provides an overview of the accounting industry and job function. The intent is to provide you with a path for reaching your career goals. Consider this a step-by-step guide that can be used as a starting point for a career in accounting.

What is Accounting?

“Accounting is a system by which financial information is identified, recorded, analyzed, summarized, and reported for the use of decision makers. Put simply, accounting is the language of business.” (Vault, 2015)

Accountants and auditors are the key players in this industry. They prepare, analyze, and verify financial statements and reports for businesses as well as not-for-profit and government organizations. Tax accountants prepare tax returns for corporations, other organizations, and individuals, as well as develop strategies to reduce the amount of taxes paid and investigate the tax implications of various business decisions. Accounting advisory professionals assist organizations with strategic accounting and financial reporting decisions and compliance concerns.

Public accounting firms prepare and review their clients’ financial statements and related records. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), there are approximately 43,000 public accounting firms in the United States. Many accountants are employed by the Big Four, which are defined as the four largest public accounting firms. The Big Four is comprised of Deloitte, EY (Ernst & Young), KPMG, and PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). Accountants, however, don’t work just for the Big Four. They work for public accounting firms of all sizes. Many others work in corporate accounting (from Fortune 500 companies to “mom-and-pop” shops), in government accounting, and for nonprofit organizations. Public accountants provide services to individuals, governments and businesses while private accountants work for businesses, governments and non-profits. (Vault, 2015)

There are other organizations and fields that are interested in hiring people with accounting education or experience. Financial analysts analyze the financial situation of companies and recommend ways for these companies to manage, spend, and invest their money. Government and regulatory organizations seek candidates with a strong knowledge of accounting principles who are able analyze financial performance and ensure compliance.

Skill Set

You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field to become an accountant. Accountants need strong mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills and you will need to be detail-oriented and logical. Effective oral and written communication and interpersonal skills are also key to successfully working with both clients and management. Data analytics skills and experience are becoming increasingly important in the accounting profession, so taking classes and gaining hands-on experience in this area is encouraged. Additionally, soft skills like time management and resourcefulness are key to succeeding in the field. Think about how you can be proactive, creative, and organized in the work you to do to make things easier on your supervisors, teammates, and client contacts as you learn and adjust to the working world.

It is highly desirable to obtain the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation, and it is required for most positions within a public accounting firm. Becoming a licensed CPA at a minimum requires completion of 150 semester hours of education and passing a series of exams. Some states have specific curriculum requirements and may also require that candidates complete two years of supervised service in a public accounting firm. (Vault, 2015)

For more information about how to obtain the CPA designation, please visit the following links:

Externships, Internships, and Full-Time Opportunities

Public accounting firms offer short-term summer externships and leadership programs to rising sophomores and rising juniors. These are often set up to introduce students to individual firms, and have the potential of an interview and junior summer internship at the end of a good visit. Internships with these firms tend to lead to full-time job offers upon graduation, although participation in these programs is not a requirement for being considered for full-time opportunities.

You can also gain internship experience and find full-time opportunities in the internal accounting division of a corporation, government entity, or not-for-profit organization. Internships with these organizations do not always lead to full-time job offers, but it depends on the size and scope of the company. Internships tend to be available for students of all class years, and full-time opportunities for seniors approaching graduation are posted in both the fall and spring.

Salary Expectations

Salaries will vary depending on the sector, the organization, and the geographic region. There is not much room for salary negotiation at the entry-point of any career path, and most companies have benchmarked salaries with their competitors. As a summer intern, you can expect a comparable, pro-rated salary.

Resources to learn more:

Recruiting Timeline

Public accounting firms are some of the first companies to schedule on-campus interviews at the beginning of each semester. If you are interested in public accounting you should apply for summer externships during your sophomore year and summer internships with target firms during your junior year. It is very important to make a favorable impression during these experiences, as externships may lead to internship offers and internships often lead to full-time offers.

Most public accounting firms conduct on campus recruiting (OCR) activities, including information sessions, office hours and interviews, through UR Career Services. It is important to participate in all OCR activities, not just interviewing, as recruiters track event attendance and give preference to those who participate. Recruiting for internships and full-time opportunities begins early in the fall semester and recruiting for externships occurs during early spring semester. Most accounting firms will only make full-time offers to students who will be eligible to take the CPA exam before or shortly after the full-time start date.

Companies and government entities also offer internships and full-time positions in their accounting and internal audit departments. These positions are posted throughout the year and may not require that you obtain the CPA designation, though it is always recommended.

Interviewing Process

Most firms will use a behavioral interviewing process based on the premise that your academic record is a strong indicator of technical performance. You will be asked to introduce yourself, explain why you are interested in accounting and discuss strengths, weaknesses, and examples of accomplishments achieved and challenges faced. You may also face questions about current accounting practices and events in the accounting industry. Be prepared to ask relevant and insightful questions before completion of the interview.

You may have to go through a series of phone, Skype, and face-to-face interviews before receiving an offer. UR Career Services provides interview workshops and mock interviews throughout the academic year. Plan to participate in these Career Services programs and meet with a career advisor as you prepare for your interviews.

After you apply for an internship or job opportunity, some accounting firms may have added an interim step before first-round interviews of a virtual, pre-recorded interview. This may be through a technology platform like HireVue, and you will be given questions to record yourself answering on video. Make sure to dress professionally, speak slowly and clearly, smile, and deliver your answer into your computer camera (instead of looking down at yourself on the screen). You can practice this type of interview on InterviewStream, accessible through SpiderConnect.

Additionally, if you are studying abroad during recruiting season, you may be given the option of a remote interview. For first-round interviews that are typically held on campus, these are set up by Career Services and allow the interviewer to be live in-person while you are set up live through our technology to conduct your interview via the TV screens set up in each room.

Campus Resources for a Career in Accounting

 

 First Year 

 Sophomore 

Junior

Senior

Explore

Accounting Information Meetings

X

X

Professional / Business Fraternities

X

X

X

X

Wellness 090: Career Exploration

X

X

 

 

AccountingFest

X

X

 X

 X

Spider Shadowing/Career Chats/Alumni Informational Interviews

X

X

X

X

 

 

 

 

Prepare

Information Tables, Sessions, and Events 

 X

X

X

X

Internship/Externship

 X

X

X

 

Mock Interview/Interview Workshop

 X

X

X

 

Resume Review Workshop

 X

X

 

 

Wellness 090: Life & Career After UR

 

 

X

X

Connect

On-Campus Interviews

 

X

X

X

Q-Camp & Q2 Events

 

X

 X 

 

Robins Mentoring Program

 

X

X

X

Spiders in RVA: Accounting

X

X

X

X

Office Hours

X

X

X

X

Meet the Firms

X

X

X

X

Spider Career Expos

X

X

X

X

Campus Resources for a Career in Accounting-Defined

Accounting Information Meetings
These meetings are held once during each semester and are designed to expose accounting students to pertinent accounting topics and to ensure students are aware of curriculum requirements and the appropriate timing for taking various courses.

Alumni Informational Interviews
Most UR alumni are willing to talk with you and share insights about their industries and career paths via informational interviews. After meeting alumni at career programs and networking events, you may consider reaching out to them directly.

Evening of Etiquette
Network with UR alumni to learn how to make a good impression during a business meal. Practice your networking skills as you learn to engage someone in conversation, and yes, even use the correct fork.

Information Sessions
Many employers conduct information sessions on campus. In these sessions, company representatives will provide an overview of their organizations and describe available internships and jobs. Participation in these events is a great way to learn about organizations, job functions, and industries, and provides an opportunity to ask questions and network with professionals.

Internship/Externship
Internships are opportunities for you to gain hands-on experience in an occupation or profession of interest. Internships are usually 8-10 week experiences during the summer after your sophomore or junior year. Externships are often short-term experiences, typically less than one week, designed to provide an in-depth introduction to an organization.

Mock Interview/Interview Workshop
Prepare for the interview process by attending a Career Services sponsored interviewing workshop, where you will hear about the interview process and learn tactics for excelling in a behavioral interview. When preparing to interview for a specific opportunity, schedule a mock interview with a career advisor to practice and receive constructive feedback.

On-Campus Interviews
Many organizations conduct on-campus interviews for externships, internships, and full-time jobs via Career Services. These opportunities are posted on SpiderConnect, where you will not only submit your application documents but also, if selected, schedule the interview.

Professional/Business Fraternities
Join a professional/business fraternity to take advantage of educational, friendship and networking opportunities. Currently, there are two professional/business fraternities on campus: Alpha Kappa Psi and Delta Sigma Pi.

Q-camp
Q-camp, named for Paul B. Queally, R'86, is designed to introduce undergraduate students to practical, real-world exercises in professional and career skills. Held at a nearby conference center, this event is an opportunity for sophomore business students to experience first-hand the social and professional interactions faced in the workplace. Additional information about Q-camp may be found here.

Resume Review Workshops 
UR Career Services holds workshops where you can learn about the basics of resume writing and have your resume reviewed.

Robins Mentoring Program
Senior executives from various industries are matched with students of the Robins School who apply to participate in the program. Mentoring may include: meeting one-on-one with students to provide general career coaching and advice, assisting in outlining a job search strategy, or sharing real world experiences. Additional information about the Robins Mentoring program may be found here.

Spiders in RVA: Accounting 
Visit the Richmond offices of large and regional public accounting firms to network with alumni and recruiters and learn about the recruiting process for externships and internships.

Career Expos
Career Expos allow participants to connect with recruiters and alumni at organizations that recruit at UR and learn about full-time and internship opportunities. The expos are open to students in all majors and class years.

Wellness 090: Career Exploration
Students who complete the Career Exploration course will learn about and practice using Career Services resources; develop self-awareness through assessment tools; learn how to create well-written resumes and cover letters; navigate LinkedIn; complete an informational interview; and develop strategies for selecting a major.

Wellness 090: Life & Career After UR
Students who complete the Life and Careers course will learn about and practice using Career Services resources; increase self-awareness through assessment tools; learn how to create tailored, well-written resumes and cover letters; manage a professional network using LinkedIn; and complete a career development exercise relevant to career goals and needs.

Accounting Events

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