Savvy students choose to pursue internships to help pay for their tuition fees and gain valuable work experience, and the internships available in accounting are especially useful to aspiring certified public accountants (CPAs). Before becoming a CPA in most states a business professional must have earned at least an undergraduate degree in business or accounting, taken at least 150 hours of formal training in the discipline and worked the equivalent of one year under the supervision of a licensed CPA. Many students begin gathering relevant work experience as early as their junior year as undergraduates through accounting internship opportunities. Here are several types of internships that are available to accounting students and recent graduates, according to the American Institute of CPAs.
A sign of a good accounting internship is a clearly defined job description that states the area of the discipline in which the student will work. Auditing is a popular accounting specialty that is offered as an academic concentration and as a type of internship. An example of a recent audit internship available to students at the multinational Nestle Purina company describes the duties of the intern within the Nestle Market Audit group. The intern for the group conducts audits of key control systems, evaluates audit procedures and makes recommendations based upon evaluation and audit results. The intern documents and reports findings to stakeholders, and they have the opportunity to work with actual Nestle clients. Since the Nestle Market Audit group works with all the company’s business units in North America, interns can work on a variety of projects, and most of them are offered full time employment with the company upon graduation.
Tax accounting is another popular specialization, and internships are available within this category year round. Demand for these professionals peaks in tax season, and accounting students can frequently find challenging work at large, established firms as well as small businesses during this time. Tax document preparation is the major activity of these accounting interns who also must exercise excellent communication skills with their company’s clients. Tax interns prepare financial statements relating to balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flow statements. They also conduct research on new laws that affect their location and industry. Depending on the opportunity, interns use their knowledge of tax accounting to consult with both domestic and international clients.
Accounting students who want to specialize in forensic accounting often seek internships with firms that involve litigation support. These interns couple their investigative skills and their knowledge of accounting principles to support attorneys in cases relating to financial investigations, theft and fraud, contract disputes and business valuation. Litigation support interns analyze, interpret and extrapolate factual information from complex business and individual financial data. Interns who provide litigation support help to ensure that lawyers quickly gain accurate information about potential financial crimes. The result of their work serves to reduce the occurrence of these white collar crimes in the long term.
Related Resource: Tax Compliance Officer
Obtaining accounting internships is critical to the career development of future accountants, and internships can be found at top accounting firms, small businesses and multinational corporations. The networking opportunities offered by participating in internships are almost as important as the real world, professional experience gained. However, the availability of university sponsored accounting internships varies by accounting degree program and is not guaranteed. Online resources like Intern Match allow students to search and apply on their own for paid and unpaid internships available in accounting.