How Important Are Internships for Aspiring Accountants?

Like other college majors, accounting students have probably heard a lot about internships. Some internships are paid, while others provide only college credits, but all are supposed to serve the purpose of giving students a chance to gain real-world experience during their education. If you’re working toward earning an accounting degree at the bachelor’s or master’s level of study, you might be wondering if an internship is really such an important part of your career preparation.

The Value of Internships

When it comes to accounting, employers are looking for more than grades, a degree, or statements about what you could do. Instead, they are often more interested in what you have done – that is, in your professional experience. As an accounting student, it’s understandable that you probably don’t have prior work experience in accounting. An internship can fill this gap, leading some experts to go so far as to consider it the most important part of your career preparation.

One reason internships are so important is because college degrees – and their accompanying good grades – have become more common, according to U.S. News & World Report. In a tough economy, new job candidates need to stand out from their peers, and while a college degree prepares students for their careers, it no longer gives them the competitive edge it once did. Possessing valuable internship experience working with a prestigious firm does provide that competitive edge. Students who have completed more than one internship experience are even more sought-after than those who undertake just one internship opportunity.

Making the Most of Your Internship Opportunity

As good as an internship is for your job marketability, don’t think of it as just another line on your résumé. An internship is an opportunity to learn your intended field or industry hands-on and network with established accounting professionals and firms. Many internships have the potential to lead to full-time employment after you finish school, as long as you prove your worth to the company during the course of your internship. To really make the most of your internship, start looking early so you can find an available accounting internship opportunity that fits your career goals and interests.

Schools believe so strongly in the value of internships that a lot of colleges work to help students find a summer or part-time internship opportunity where they can work for accounting firms or other businesses, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some schools now require that students participate in internships to graduate. Even if your school doesn’t require pre-professional experience, there’s a good chance that advisors, instructors, and department leaders can help you with your internship search.

For accounting students, an internship is an essential part of preparing for a professional career. It complements a resume, aids in networking, and adds a hands-on component to a student’s education. Completing an internship opportunity is a good choice for any aspiring accountant and can only improve their education and job prospects.

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