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How does a student obtain an internship at an accounting firm?

The job market has become increasingly more competitive over the years. While I never applied for an accounting internship, I feel most firms have the same hiring process for potential intern and full-time candidates. From my experience interviewing for full-time positions, as well as from helping with recruiting at PwC, I offer the following suggestions:

1) Do well in school. Having a high GPA (3.5+) shows potential employers that you have the academic aptitude to add value to their firm.

2) Get involved! It's not enough to have a stellar GPA. Get involved with organizations that interest you on campus, and hold leadership position(s) in these organizations. Employers don't necessarily care about the quantity of extracurricular activities, but rather the quality. In our jobs, it is crucial to be able to balance multiple things at once - having a high GPA and holding leadership in activities show employers that you're able to prioritize and multitask.

3) Network, network, network. I cannot stress this point enough. Employers probably won't offer you an internship after your freshman year, but you could always try to do a job shadow in your early college career. I would recommend going to career fair as a freshman/sophomore to give you practice in speaking to employers, but also to help build relationships with people at firms that interest you.

For instance, my freshman year, prior to even declaring myself as an accounting major, I had the opportunity to meet with a partner at PwC. Over the years, we maintained a relationship, so that by senior year when I applied for a full-time job, he knew who I was and what I achieved throughout College. I truly do feel that network which started my freshman year made a difference.

4) Research the internship program. Prior to career fair and the various interview rounds, make sure you research the firm and the position you seek. By doing your research, you can ask meaningful questions and help set yourself apart from your peers.

5) Participate in a mock interview/go to a resume critique. To gain constructive feedback in how to improve your professional interaction skills, I strongly suggest signing up for a mock interview. Also, resume critiques will help you strengthen your resume and highlight the points that will matter to recruiters. Note that accounting firms conduct mock interviews and resume critiques - these opportunities could serve as another great way to network!

Good luck in your quest for an internship! It's a competitive and rigorous process, but the steps above should help make you a stronger candidate.

Internships & First Job, Public Accounting