Accounting Internship Frequently Asked Questions

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Planning Your Internship

Before Your Internship- Housing & Employment Matters

During Your Internship 

After Your Internship 

Planning Your Internship 

How do I decide the number of firms, and which firms, to interview with?
You are encouraged to obtain 6-8 interviews in order to get exposure to a variety of firms. This will allow you to interview with a number of firms without becoming overwhelmed, and this will also help you to hone your overall interviewing skills. If a firm has more than one schedule available, for example an audit and tax schedule, or schedules for offices in different locations, sign up for only one schedule. You can convey your willingness to try other areas or other offices during your interview; however, most interviewers would like you to have made a choice prior to entering the interview. While you may view your willingness as being flexible, recruiters may view it as being indecisive. Think through these decisions prior to the interview.

In order to figure out which firms to interview with, you should consider your own career aspirations. Factors include locations of the firms, size of the operations (e.g. Big Four, regional, local), area of interest (e.g. tax, audit, industry.) Doing research on the firms that come to campus will be helpful. Visit the companies' website, read prior interns' papers or talk with current employees. There are a number of venues to find out about the firms, so take advantage of them.

If you don't know which area interests you the most, you're not alone. Many students don't know which path to take. That is one of the advantages of doing an internship. It allows you to work in an area on a trial basis to see if it's an area you would like to pursue once you graduate. In this case, pick a number of different firms and areas to interview with. This will give you a broad base of opportunities from which to choose.

How do I make the decision of which firms to choose and how to rank them?
There are a number of factors that go into the decision of how to choose and rank the firms. Important factors in making these decisions are both professional and personal in nature. You should consider your professional development and explore issues such as client industries and scope, work challenges, unique career opportunities, "Big Four," regional firm, or corporate employment, size of office, travel, etc. Lifestyle, housing, transportation and so on are personal issues that will impact your decision.

Most importantly, the internship is the first step in your career and it can provide critical information about the staff and the office with which you are most interested in establishing a longer-term commitment. Base your decision on where you want to begin your career and consider your choices thoroughly. However, remember that the interview for the internship is not the same as the interview for your career after graduation. While many companies do extend offers of full-time employment after graduation to their interns, it is not a guarantee. We encourage you to learn from the internship and keep your options open.

Before Your Internship - Housing and Employment Matters

How can a student find housing in the city in which he or she wants to do their internship?
Most students contact the human resource departments of the firms. They can help you find a nice location near the office for a reasonable price. Also, city newspapers and local area colleges can help direct you into a reasonable short-term lease. In addition to local college websites, can be a useful on-line site, offering search options to find a sublet in different areas. Many students are able to find an apartment with monthly leases. However, immediate cash outflows are needed to rent these apartments. Most leases require a deposit and first month's rent. Be sure to save this money before entering into a contract

What kind of contact should a student have with the firm between the time a student is chosen by them and the first day of work?
Many students will be contacted in October shortly after the internship "match" is announced. By November, a student should receive information about the firm, the contract, and the start and end dates. If the firm does not provide you with details about the first day of work or your training session before December, please call the human resource department to obtain information on these various events.

During Your Internship 

How can students manage their cash flow?
Most students receive direct depositing into a checking or savings account by opening an account in a nearby bank. If you do not have a bank located in the area in which you work, it is highly recommended that you open a temporary account. This way you will have easy access to your money. Most firms help you find a number of banks in your area.

NOTE:  As an intern, you will be making an average salary amount per month. If spent wisely, you can save enough money for next year's tuition or segregated fees. It is extremely easy to lose track of your spending habits. Please proceed with caution if your intent is to save for next year's outflows.

Is a car necessary during the internship?
It depends on the type of internship. If you are a public auditor, it is imperative for you to have a car since most of your clients are located out of the downtown areas. Many times there are carpools, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you are a tax intern, internal auditor or work in industry, it may not be necessary to have a car if your housing is located near a public mode of transportation or the office building itself. Otherwise, a car may be needed.

What is the appropriate dress code required during the internship?
It depends on the particular client. A suggestion would be to ask the senior or manager on the engagement before your first day. If formal attire is mandatory, a suit with simple collared shirt with a tie is required for men. For women, a nice pant or skirt suit with a collared shirt is appropriate. It is not a fashion taboo to wear two suits throughout the engagement. If business casual is appropriate, men can wear khakis and a collared shirt while women can wear slacks and a sweater set.

NOTE:  Most firms provide interns with a guideline as to what the firm deems as appropriate casual wear. If in doubt, always dress in business wear the first day. Also, it is helpful when shopping to ask customer service representatives at department stores for ideas. They have the most experience and up-to-date information on the latest business trends.

What should I expect when I arrive to begin the internship?
The firms do not expect you to know everything. The firms train you on how to perform an audit or tax project based on their procedures. In-house trainings are provided during the first week or two of your employment. You will also receive guidance by your supervisors on a daily basis throughout the internship. REMEMBER: You are not just there to work. It is a hands-on learning experience to becoming a competent professional accountant. You must be active in pursuing knowledge. Always ask if you do not fully understand something.

If I work at a public accounting firm, how should I work with their seniors?
The senior or manager is different for each client. A basic approach to each senior is to express your particular interests and to ask questions when appropriate. Do not be afraid to ask questions. However, before asking the question, spend a reasonable amount of time on formulating the question and testing to see if you know the answers. This helps you understand the task at hand, and saves some of your senior's time.

NOTE:  Seniors would prefer if you ask questions before spending too much time trying to figure out something that you will need to ask about eventually. Prepare a list of the questions to ask, in order to save some of your senior's time.

If you are having problems with the senior, talk to the senior and try to understand the situation. If no solution is feasible, please seek advice from your mentor.

How does an intern deal with his or her first client and job assignment?
A student should have the senior/supervisor introduce you to all the main contacts or people you will be working intimately with for the duration of the assignment. Introductions usually consist of a handshake and job titles. It is extremely important for you to learn the names of these contacts and what he or she does in the company. As soon as you come back from the introduction, write down the names with a brief description of the person. Next, the senior/supervisor usually describes the tasks that need to be completed by you and the audit or tax team, as appropriate. Make sure you understand what is expected of you. Ask as many questions as you need at the beginning. This way you save hours of work not consistent with your senior's/supervisor's expectations and his or her time from explaining the same detail over again. Helpful tip: Reiterate, in your own words, what you think is expected of you. This will allow you to understand what your tasks are and any confusion or miscommunication that may arise from your interpretation of the senior's expectations.

If I work in public accounting, are there additional steps I should take to prepare for my jobs?
In addition to talking with your senior or your manager about the work assignment, you should spend an hour or two reading through the planning material. Use the internet and firm resources to research the industry and gather general information about the business. You will be in a better position to contribute to your audit team.

How should a student prepare questions for their supervisors (clients)?
It is a good idea to quickly research questions before asking them to supervisors. This allows you to have a better grasp of the issues and saves time if the supervisor only has to explain the answer once. It also saves time if you prepare several questions at once, and if you make notes to yourself during the explanation.

If I work in public accounting, what should I do if I am not scheduled to a client at any point during the internship?
This is a question for the scheduling supervisor. In most cases, the firm would like to have you in the office just in case something comes up. The most important thing is to look for things that could add value to the firm and to you. Volunteer for activities, show initiative, and seek out new knowledge about clients or accounting issues.

What do I do if I am uncomfortable with an accounting treatment used by the firm?
Ultimately, you have to be satisfied with the accounting treatment. We suggest the following:

  • Research the topic, including reviewing the professional literature,
  • Make sure you understand the accounting issue, outline the general economics of the transaction and the journal entries,
  • Understand the client's position and the thinking of the audit management,
  • Be confident that you know all the facts.
  • Raise the issue with the audit senior and audit manager. 
  • Consider their response.
  • Reach your own independent conclusion. If your conclusion differs from their conclusion, justify and document your reasoning (Required by the professional literature).

How many hours a week will I be working?
Your employer can give you a reasonable estimate. Given that you are interning during "busy season," you should expect long hours, possibly working as many as 60 hours per week. This often includes Saturdays. The good news: lots of work experience and internship employers pay overtime. To cope with the long hours and the stress of "busy season," be especially smart about using your free time wisely. Exercise tends to be a more effective stress reliever than other quicker, more easily accessible, forms of "decompression."

After Your Internship

How are students evaluated during the internship? How can students evaluate their experience?
Students are evaluated on their overall performance and suggested areas of improvements, as noted by the firm. Specific areas emphasized are the student's technical and communication skills, initiative, and the firm's overall impression of the student. These evaluations are submitted to the accounting department by the firm and are used, in conjunction with the assigned papers, to determine the overall grade.

In turn, students can evaluate their internship experience. A student survey will be provided for evaluation and feedback purposes after the internship is completed. Students are also encouraged to contact Bill Tatman and offer feedback at any time.

After the internship, if a student is given an offer for full-time employment, are they required to sign their offers? Will a student be rejected if they do not sign their contract right away?
Students are not required to sign their offers nor are they obligated to sign. It is strongly suggested for students to seek out other opportunities before making a final decision. Most firms allot a time period in which a student is welcomed to sign. Thus, it is not detrimental to sign right away.

NOTE:  Your ultimate objective is to find a firm and a career that represents the best fit for you. Sometimes it will be the firm with which you have done the internship. Other times, they may not represent such a good fit. If you are not totally convinced, we recommend you consider interviewing with other firms in the fall. You might risk losing a signing bonus or your offer altogether, but it is more important for your career to find the best fit. If you do not sign and wish to interview during the fall semester of graduate school, be sure to plan for the interviewing process and the registration deadlines of Career & Leadership Development.

How should students exit the internship?
Students should provide the firms with current telephone, residential and email information. This way they can contact you in the future. Also, students should seek out an exit meeting and evaluation from the firm, if one is not provided already. Be prepared to discuss your personal experience with the firm and your overall evaluation. A thank-you letter may be appropriate upon leaving, but it is not required.

What about other internships, e.g. an internship the summer after my spring internship?
Some industry firms offer summer "internships." The term "internship" is broadly used; generally it is a summer work experience. Bill Tatman also serves as the contact for these types of opportunities. You should also consult the HawkJobs [] website, as most employers will post any summer internship opportunities on that site.