When I first chose accounting as my major, I fully intended on following in my dad’s footsteps and getting my masters and then sitting for the CPA immediately upon graduation. Then, life got in the way. As a college baseball player, I transferred to four different colleges and my final college, UTD, ruled that 30 hours of my upper level business credits were non-transferrable. This put me over a year behind my graduation track and made me come to the difficult decision that getting my masters and CPA immediately was no longer an option. So how does an accounting student who isn’t planning on getting certified right off the bat find a job in today’s crowded job market?
Know Your Options
It took a while for me to realize that going to a large public accounting firm was probably not going to be a realistic option. Last fall, I interviewed at a national firm with a big base in Dallas. All three phases of the interview went very well. When I reached the end of the process and talked to the HR manager about the details of the job, I was devastated to learn that they only hire CPA candidates for full-time positions. Thus, even an internship with them was out of the question.
This isn’t something you learn in your accounting classes at school, and I was shocked to realize what the impact of me not getting my CPA would be. Almost all around the board, if you’re not getting your CPA license immediately, public firms have almost no interest in you. This eliminates a big portion of the accounting jobs out there, but it is not the end of the world. For me, it just meant looking at smaller companies that would offer a little more flexibility in when and how I get licensed.
The two places I have interned at this year are both very small companies that were looking solely for interns and not any full-time candidates. I was still able to get some valuable experience and even learn tax accounting under a CPA. I will be the first one to admit that ideally it would be nice to intern at the place you’re going to eventually work at full time but, just as with anything in life, it is important to make adjustments based on a person-by-person basis.
Have a Game Plan
To get licensed as a CPA in Texas, you have to meet a certain set of requirements. The basic guidelines of this are you need 150 hours of college credit and 30 upper level accounting hours (including classes such as Intermediate Accounting etc.) I have over 150 hours, however, I am short of the 30 upper level credits.
After being in college for nearly six years, I have decided that I want to wait before I return and get those extra hours to be able to sit for the CPA Exam. I still need to work after I graduate. Therefore, when I’ve been looking for jobs, I have applied for companies that I believe I would be a good fit at. These are usually smaller private companies who need help internally performing their accounting duties.
This is not necessarily a traditional route for college graduates to take, but it is something that fits me and I believe I am a fit for these companies. Also, knowing that I would not be on the same level as some of my peers, I worked especially hard to make sure I had a high GPA and could distinguish myself from other candidates in other ways. Thus, when I am going on job interviews now, I have other legs to stand on due to my diligence in the classroom.
I also made sure to attend as many job fairs as possible. It is easy to apply to hundreds of places online, but I have noticed it really does make a difference if you establish those face-to-face connections and really make an effort to connect with the company on a personal level.
Not Being a CPA Immediately Does Not Mean You Are Useless
Getting your CPA license is an important step for any accountant to take. It showcases your knowledge and provides many additional opportunities for promotions and expanded responsibility in the workplace. That being said, my career is just getting started and although I want to find success early on, it is not a race to get licensed or a race to try to get my MBA. These are steps that I shouldn’t feel obligated to take until I am absolutely ready.
In the meantime, there are many other useful certifications that can be obtained such as QuickBooks certification or getting a CMA license. These both show mastery of a subject. At the end of the day, the best advice I can give is to not feel forced to take the traditional path of an accounting grad. Each person has a different story and circumstances and should go along at their own pace.