How to Get an Accounting Internship and Why it Matters

In today’s competitive market, experience matters. Getting an internship while earning your degree can help set students on a path to career success, while fortifying the lessons learned in the classroom. To get a leg up on landing a great accounting internship, it’s best to start preparing early. Consider these three simple tips:

  1. Collect People

Even if networking does not come easily or naturally, you can work through the obstacles with practice. Start small by connecting with one or two recent accounting graduates who you know, even casually. Ask them if they could take a short (15 min) call and share some accounting internship advice. 

Recent alums can share insights about recruiters and tell you how they targeted their internship search. Learning why someone else made a choice between a Big Four, regional or corporate accounting internship might help you focus your efforts when the time comes.

Summer might allow the school’s accounting executive in residence a little more wiggle room for a morning coffee or short zoom meeting. Try to craft a short, clear agenda for the call. For example, maybe you want to better understand the choices around professional accounting certifications. Tell the professional that you have narrowed down your consideration to three certifications and would like to hear their insights around what makes someone a good fit for each path.

  1. Rehearse the Interview Game

Accounting internship recruiters increasingly rely on behavioral interview questions when evaluating candidates. Behavioral interview questions focus on how you’ve handled various situations to predict future behavior and abilities.

While a savvy accounting internship recruiter will likely smoke out someone who has over-rehearsed these questions, a little bit of familiarity with the behavioral interview process will level the playing field some when you step into the interview.

Brevity is key, and that’s where rehearsing with a friend or family member might provide good feedback. Keep in mind that you may be interviewing over zoom — and will want to learn a little about using your voice and projection. A good resource is a renowned voice coach, someone like Patsy Rodenburg who coaches the world’s top stage and screen actors.

  1. Do Your Research

Accounting firms vary by size, location, reputation, type of business and clients and culture. Just as they will put you through a rigorous process of evaluation, so should you do your research and decide what firms make for a possible right fit.

Big Four firms will offer the greatest prestige and potential starting salary, but know that the accounting internship cohorts for such firms gather the most type A of accounting students.

Ask your circle of recent alums how they evaluate the options. Research firm’s client lists and learn if you have connections with accountants at these firms. You might find something in a Linked In post or profile that makes for a natural ice breaker — like a shared interest in a non profit group or cause.

Along with size, culture and people — learn more about the investment that each firm makes. Some firms simply recruit accounting interns, while other firms invest in robust and successful internship programs. Learning the difference between the two might be the first step toward finding your right fit.

Your Future in Accounting

Find your path to a successful accounting career through John Carroll University’s Bachelor of Science in Accountancy program and some proactive methods of lining up an internship. With John Carroll alums working all across the Northeast Ohio region and beyond, in various aspects of accounting, you will have resources to learn from inside and outside of the university.

John Carroll is a private Jesuit university located in University Heights, Ohio, near Cleveland.