Cox Career Management Center

Accounting

Career Paths

Accounting majors study the identification, measurement, and communication of financial information. Traditionally they begin their careers in public accounting or industrial accounting and earn their CPA certificates. In addition to public and industrial accounting, students can pursue careers in consulting, government, and many other fields.

For an overview of accounting job options, visit Careers in Accounting at www.careers-in-accounting.com/acoptions.htm.

View Destination CPA  (http://go.tscpa.org/ ) produced by the Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants.

Employment Outlook

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) annual salary survey, the average 2010 starting salary for a new college graduate in accounting was $48, 378.

Accountants and auditors are expected to experience much faster than average employment growth from 2008-18.  For more information, review the job outlook issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos001.htm ).

Skills Employers Seek

The Occupational Information Network (ONET) suggests that the accounting profession requires the following skills and abilities:

  • Using mathematics to solve problems
  • Listening actively (give full attention to what others are saying, take time to understand points being made, ask appropriate questions)
  • Comprehending written communications
  • Writing effectively and appropriately to the target audience
  • Using logic and reasoning to identify strengths and weaknesses of various solutions or approaches to problem-solving
  • Speaking effectively to convey information

More information is available at online.onetcenter.org/link/summary/13-2011.01#Tasks

Resume-Building Activities

The Cox Accounting Academic Internship Program

Academic Requirements

The following courses must be completed with a minimum 3.0 GPA prior to the beginning of the internship:  ACCT 3311 (Intermediate Accounting), ACCT 3312 (Intermediate Accounting II), and ACCT 4315 (Federal Income Tax I).

To receive academic credit for the internship that count toward Uniform CPA Examination eligibility, participants must complete 12 hours of upper level accounting coursework prior to the beginning of the internship.  The Texas State Board of Public Accountancy does not have a minimum GPA requirement to be eligible to write the Uniform CPA Examination under the laws of the State of Texas.

All participants will have only two semesters remaining prior to the internship.

No academic coursework is taken during the internship period.  All interns are considered to be full-time employees of the entity.

Participants may register for 3 or 6 hours of internship credit.  There are academic requirements (evaluations by employer, a completed journal, etc.) that must be met to receive academic credit.  In addition, the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy will accept 3 hours of internship credit toward eligibility for the Uniform CPA Examination.

Each participant is responsible for any personal requirements for being classified as a full-time student during the internship semester for insurance, scholarship, and similar purposes.
 

Internship FAQs for Participants

1. What is the purpose of the formal internship program?
Internships are designed to provide professional training not available in a traditional classroom setting.  An internship program provides you with an opportunity to develop both your technical and interpersonal skills.  It also allows you to gain relevant work experience and become acquainted with the accounting profession.

2. Why should a firm hire me as an intern?
You will bring a strong work ethic to the firm and be motivated to learn from your experience.  Interning helps make you attractive to employers, good references from your internship will be invaluable as you begin your careers, and, of course, your first full-time position may be at your internship firm, provided you perform admirably during the internship period.  You should have the skills to assist the firm's needs and the eagerness to learn and grow into your duties.

3.  Do I need to know if I am primarily interested in an audit or a tax positions?
The answer to this question is "yes."  It is inappropriate to inform a firm that you are interested in "either."  If you do not know, the most appropriate response is "audit."

4.  What are the requirements for me to receive academic credit for the internship?
Per the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy, an accounting internship must meet the following requirements:

  • The accounting knowledge gained by the student is equal to or greater than the knowledge gained in a traditional accounting classroom setting;
  • The employing firm provides the Internship Coordinator and the student with the objectives to be met during the internship;
  • The internship plan is approved in advance by the Internship Coordinator;
  • The employing firm provides a significant accounting work experience with adequate training and supervision of the work performed by the student;
  • The employing firm provides an evaluation of the student at the conclusion of the internship, provides a letter describing the duties performed and the supervision to the student, and provides a copy of the documentation to the Internship Coordinator;
  • The student keeps a diary comprising a chronological list of all work experience gained in the internship
  • The student writes a paper demonstrating the knowledge gained in the internship.
  • The student must have completed twelve (12) upper level accounting course hours prior to the internship period.

5. How are the objectives of the internship documented?
The Internship Coordinator will provide your firm with a standardized electronic form that will be completed and returned to the Internship Coordinator within two weeks of the start of the internship

6.  How is the internship evaluation documented?
The Internship Coordinator will provide each firm with a standardized electronic form that will be completed and returned to the Internship Coordinator within two weeks of the completion of the internship.

7. Do I receive a traditional "letter" grades for the internship course?
You will receive academic credit on a "pass/fail" basis.  Professor Bryan is the instructor-of-record for the internship course.

8.  I am interested in a location other than Dallas.  Is it possible for me to request a referral to another office/city?
You may request a referral to an office other than Dallas.  However, each office operates independently in regards to the human resource function.  Hiring needs are determined by each individual office and referrals may or may not be accepted at the location you desire.  In addition, each office has primary recruiting schools that are located in the immediate geographic area.  Your opportunities for referrals are often directly correlated to your academic performance and interview skills.  The interviewer will have these expectations of you:  that you have done your research and are aware of whether or not the firm has a practice office in the city you have selected and that you have a legitimate reason for selecting that city. 

9.  Will the firm provide housing for me if I intern outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth market?
Firms do not provide housing to you during the internship.  Housing is your responsibility.  It is possible, however that local offices may refer you to possible roommates, but this is a firm/office specific activity.

10. When are on-campus interviews held?
On-campus interviews for internships are held approximately one year prior to the internship.  On-campus interviews for Spring 2012 interns will be held in March and April 2011.  If you are pre-selected to interview with a particular firm, you should be well-prepared for the campus interview by doing research on the firm and developing good questions to ask during the interview.  It is often appropriate for you to bring a copy of your transcript to the campus interview.  Do not offer this document to the interviewer unless is it requested.  The on-campus interview is approximately thirty minutes in length. Professional attire is expected for all on-campus interviews.

11.  When are office visits scheduled?
Upon completion of the on-campus interviews by each firm, selected candidates will be invited to visit the firm's office.  Office visits are scheduled following the end of the spring semester final examination period.  Office visits for Spring 2012 interns will be held in May 2011.  As with the on-campus interview, you should be well-prepared for the office visit.  During this visit, you will be meeting several employees of the firm over a one to three day period.  It is critical that you are prompt, courteous, and professional in responding to all communication with the firms you interview with.  Should you cancel a scheduled office visit, you are to notify the firm at least one week prior to the scheduled office visit.  Do not accept office visits from firms that you know you are not interested in.  You are responsible for learning the appropriate dress code for the office visit and related activities.

12.  What types of questions should I ask in the on-campus interviews and office visits?
"Good questions" are usually those that are specific to the firm and individual you are speaking with.  For example, ask about the firm's (and specifically the local office's) culture, how the individual you are speaking with chose that firm as his/her employer, what he/she enjoys most about working with the firm, what has been his/her best experience with the firm, what it takes for you to be successful at the firm, what will be expected of you during the internship period, etc. 

13.  What types of questions should I avoid in the on-campus interviews and office visits?
"Bad questions" are those that reflect negatively upon your work ethic.  For example, do not ask about overtime or travel until you have been offered a position with the firm.  Questions regarding the firm's clients and training programs are considered cliché.  This type of information is readily available on the firm's website, etc.  In addition, do not ask how long it will be before you are promoted!

14.   I need professional guidance to help develop my interviewing skills.  Is this available to me?
The Cox Career Services office offers workshops for your benefit in developing your interviewing skills.   Your participation in these workshops is mandatory.  Your primary contact in Cox Career Services is Ms. Joy Schwartz.  She can be contacted at jschwartz@mail.cox.smu.edu.

15. Will firms hold formal information sessions and recruiting functions?
Most firms will conduct a formal information session approximately two weeks prior to the beginning of on-campus interviews.  In addition, many firms will hold recruiting functions in accordance with Department of Accounting guidelines.  The recruiting functions will generally be held in the evening at a location specified by the firm.  As always, you are to respond to invitations in a prompt, courteous, professional manner.  You are encouraged to attend all firm-sponsored recruiting events, even if it is for a short period of time.  In addition, it is your responsibility to inquire as to appropriate attire for these events.  Remember, though, that your primary academic commitment during the recruiting period is your classroom performance.

16.  What happens at recruiting events?
It is not uncommon for all candidates who are chosen for on-campus interviews to be invited to a firm –sponsored dinner the evening before the interview.  Once office visits have been offered to selected candidates, the recruiting events range from formal dinners to scavenger hunts to Ranger baseball games to golf outings to a variety of other social functions.  These are designed as "fun" events where firm personnel can spend time getting to know you in order to learn whether or not your personality will "fit" into the office culture.  No alcohol will be served at any recruiting event.  It is important for you to remember that the recruiting events are part of the formal internship interview process.  You are to conduct yourself in a professional manner at all times.

17.  I am nervous about attending a formal interview dinner.  Can I get help on "dinner" etiquette?
As previously noted, Cox Career Services offers workshops on developing these skills.

18. What are the beginning and ending dates of the internship period?
It is expected that you will begin your internship near January 1, 2012.  The last day of the formal internship will be March 9, 2012.  Any additional employment time with the firm may be negotiated at the firm's discretion, with the understanding that you will return to campus for accelerated coursework that will begin on March 19, 2012.

19. Do I take courses that will prohibit me from work responsibilities, including travel, during the internship period?
During the internship period, you are a full-time employee of the firm.  You do not take courses during this period, therefore overtime, travel, etc., are at the discretion of the employer.

20. When will I know that I have received a formal offer of employment as an intern from the firm?
Each firm is required to respond to all candidates who participated in office visits no later than Friday, June 3.

21. What rate of pay should I expect?
The market rate for interns has historically been an hourly rate equivalent to the hourly rate based on new employees' annual salary.  For Spring 2011, this rate is approximately $25 per hour.

22.  Should I negotiate my pay rate with the firm?
The answer to this question is "no."  Differences in compensation between firms will be immaterial.  The people/work environment/professional opportunities with the firm should drive your decision.  In addition, offers are confidential.

23.  What if my GPA drops below a 3.0 before the firm offers me a position?
Each firm will have the right to withdraw an offer due to academic performance.  It is important to remember that your GPA is a factor not only in the internship recruiting process, but in the graduate school admission process.

24. Will I return to SMU to complete my fifth year requirements to be eligible to write the Uniform CPA Exam in the State of Texas?
If you are interested in pursuing the fifth year of coursework, you are required to apply to the Master of Science program, with no guarantee of admission.  It is expected, though, that those of you who are participating in the internship program are of high caliber.  Therefore, the Cox Accounting faculty will encourage you to remain at SMU to pursue the graduate degree.  It is our expectation that firms will also encourage you to remain in school on a full-time basis for the fifth year, and to give strong consideration to SMU's program for your fifth year of study.  Any questions on the Master of Science in Accounting Program may be addressed to Dr. Gregory Sommers, Director of the MSA Program, at gsommers@mail.cox.smu.edu.

25.  Is it common for firms to offer full-time positions to interns at the end of the internship period?
It is common practice that firms will make full-time offers to interns who have performed admirably during the internship period.  It is also common that matriculation on a full-time basis is contingent upon the intern being eligible to write the Uniform CPA Exam in the State of Texas.

26.  Are full-time signing bonuses paid by firms at the end of the internship period?
This is a policy set by each individual firm.  Many firms do offer reimbursement or discounts for exam preparation courses.

27.  How should I communicate my acceptance or decline of an offer of employment?
It is expected professional behavior that you will communicate via live telephone conversation or in person regarding your acceptance or decline of an offer.  E-mail, voice mail, etc. are in appropriate.  In addition, you are to notify all firms that have offered you a position as quickly as possible once you have made your final decision.  Keep in mind that the professional community of CPAs is somewhat small.  Once professional relationships are damaged, they can be difficult to repair.  The individual you tell that you are not accepting an offer may be an individual who will make you another offer at some point in your professional future, or they may become your client at the firm you will be working for.

28.  What happens if I don't get an offer?
The Department of Accounting does not guarantee that every candidate who is interested in an internship will receive an offer.  You should have a "back-up" plan for scheduling your coursework in the event that this situation occurs.  At the end of the recruiting period, each candidate will notify the Internship Coordinator of his/her status.  For those students who did not receive offers and are interested in continuing a search, resumes will be collected and circulated to additional employers who may contact you directly regarding a potential internship opportunity. 

29.  Am I required to intern with a public accounting firm, or can I work in industry, government, not-for-profit, or any other type of business?
You may complete the formal internship in any venue of your choosing provided it meets the academic requirements of the program.  The Internship Coordinator will be responsible for this decision.

30.  Who do I "go to" when I need professional advice on the process or have any general questions?
Professor Barry Bryan is the contact faculty member for internships.
 

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