As you pursue your career path in public accounting, it is important to understand the proper steps of entry into the field. While not all stops on the path are necessary, most are either required or are generally expected by employers, including fulfilling the educational requirements mandated by your particular state for CPA licensure as well as the all-important internship. Internships are not only a means by which prospective employers can get to know you, they are also a great way to determine if you could see yourself working at a particular firm.
When most students think of internships, they generally assume it would entail a summer internship. While summer internships are invaluable, they can be misleading as to the workload for a particular employer, particularly in auditing.
Fortunately, I was able to follow the suggestion of one of my professors by participating in a winter audit internship with Deloitte in New York City. Winter internships provide you a realistic look at “busy season,” in what will likely be the most difficult three to four months of your job. As most of the partners and staff at the firm told us many times throughout the eight-week program, the winter internship paints a far more accurate picture of what life is like at a public accounting firm.
Commencing my Big Four internship with about 30 other students, it was interesting to note their different educational backgrounds. Coming from a school that is on trimesters and encourages accounting students to take the middle trimester off to intern, I was curious to learn about programs at other schools. What I found out was that most students were either enrolled in a Masters of Accounting (MAcc) program or a Co-Op program through their business schools. In fact, Rutgers-Newark and Rutgers-New Brunswick Masters of Accountancy Co-Op students were among the most well-represented of my internship class. Regardless of your program or method of obtaining the required 150 credits, using the winter to intern could be the most beneficial thing you can do in your quest for CPA certification and employment. Besides, you can always make up the class time with summer sessions.
After completing our first week of training, we entered the chaotic world of year-end audits known as busy season. Due to certain extenuating circumstances, my eight-week program was divided into three different engagements, whereas most interns were with the same client for their entire internship. My first week after training was spent auditing several mutual funds for a medium-sized engagement consisting of approximately eight to ten Deloitte employees in Jersey City. It’s worth noting, internships also indoctrinate you with the culture and hierarchy that exists within audit firms, which is intern, assistant, senior, manager, senior manager, principal, director, partner. In most cases, your senior is the staff member who will provide you with most of your instruction. My first audit engagement was extremely enjoyable. Most of my team, including my two seniors (one from the NYC office and one from the Parsippany office), was stationed within a single room in the client’s office, which created a fun and close atmosphere. Everyone on the team was very personable, which made my transition into the audit world an easy one. This transition was brief, however, as I had to move on to my next client in week three.
For the next several weeks, which constituted the majority of my internship, I was on an audit team of two individuals, including myself, for three small hedge funds. Being that it was such a small team, I really had the opportunity to do a lot of interesting work normally reserved for first-or second-year audit assistants. One important thing that I learned during those five weeks, perhaps equally as important as any of the technical skills that I learned, was the value of liking the people with whom you work. If I had not gotten along with my senior, it would have been difficult working 55-60 hour weeks together. Time seemed to fly by when working with someone, rather than working on an assignment by yourself.
In my final two weeks, I was assigned to another small client, which meant another small audit team. There was, however, a significant difference in this experience. For this engagement, my senior manager worked on another very large client concurrent to my engagement, so I was able to work alongside a much larger audit team of about 30 people. Although I did not do any work for this particular large client, I did note some of the similarities and differences of working for different size engagements, including the “teams within the teams” that existed on large-scale assignments. Again, whether it’s a large or small client, the people you work with make the experience worthwhile.
Looking back, my internship experience was very enjoyable, and I received an offer for employment starting in fall 2013 with one of the most prestigious accounting firms in the world. I can now safely suggest to all prospective students planning to enter a career in public accounting that a winter internship is truly a worthwhile experience. The experience gained and connections made will ultimately make you a better person.