As a college student, you have a lot of navigating to do when entering the workforce. That’s why the partners at Marshall Jones want to offer you some tips as an accounting major! Since beginning their own accounting careers, our partners have gained valuable knowledge, and they want to bestow their wisdom upon you. Consider these tips as you continue your accounting education and career.
1. Study, Study, Study
As a student, you’re probably no stranger to studying. However, much of the studying mentality revolves around studying material to pass a test. Our partners at Marshall Jones want to suggest that you should study to learn, not just to pass your exams. One of our audit partners, Nathan, admitted, “The thing I realized after I graduated was that the material actually mattered in the field I was pursuing. I had to research things I should have known because of that test mentality that I had [in college].”
Studying to learn the material will benefit you in the future and make you more knowledgeable after your exams end. It also allows you to hone highly sought-after accounting skills before entering the field. Rather than spend time relearning these skills later, you should take the free time you have now to ensure you’re ready for the accounting world.
2. Know Which Degree You’re Getting
Some schools have more than one version of an accounting degree. To become a certified public accountant (CPA), you need a certain amount of credit hours. While a few states allow accounting majors to take the CPA exam after completing the standard 120 credit hours of a bachelor’s program, most states require 150 hours through a master’s program. Make sure you know what degree you need.
Either way, try to complete all your schooling at once so you’ll be eligible to get your CPA license right away.
3. Network With Professionals
Randy, another audit partner at Marshall Jones, emphasizes that “relationships are everything.” Join honors fraternities, attend expo events and take advantage of professional gatherings. These are all great ways to network and meet new people who could potentially help you with job or advancement opportunities. Nathan also suggests, “Make sure to focus your attention on networking events that will benefit you in the search for your accounting position,” instead of attending just any networking event.
4. Embrace Speech Classes
We know public speaking classes are among the least popular courses. However, having confidence when speaking with peers, coworkers and clients is an important skill to have. Kristen, a partner of firm administration, shares, “Clients are the backbone of everything that you do. So, you want to be able to talk with them, build relationships, build the trust with them. A lot of that comes from just how you explain things or discuss things with them.”
You’ll do a lot of speaking as a public accountant, so use speech classes as a beneficial tool to help build skills early.
5. Know Mistakes Can Lead to Future Success
We think this tip is important because of its versatility. Randy reminds accounting students, “Realize that mistakes are often steps to future success. Everybody makes mistakes, but the key is to learn from them so that they’re not repeated.” Embrace the possibility of making mistakes, as they’re meant to teach you valuable lessons, even if they don’t always seem like it in the moment.
6. Be Involved and Build Your Resume
During your time in college, be sure to join clubs and become a leader in that club if possible. Susan, one of our tax partners, tells students that “belonging to clubs demonstrates personal skills, [so] if you are an officer of the club it demonstrates leadership skills, [and] charitable activities show character.” These are all great ways to build your resume, which Susan suggests is something accounting students should begin to think about during their first couple years of college.
7. Get Internships
One of the most important tips the partners at Marshall Jones have for accounting students is to get internships — more than one if possible. These opportunities can be valuable for several reasons. Susan encourages students to get more than one internship because you’ll have “more information to determine the precise area of accounting you would prefer.”
Kristen also suggests getting an internship because “you’re going to get a firsthand feel for how CPA firms work, especially if you’re interested in working in public accounting.” More importantly, internships provide you with valuable work experience, and you can apply the things you’re learning in school.
These positions allow you to understand the nature of the business and what you should expect from this field.
8. Understand the Accounting Industry
Get to know the accounting industry. Understand the different divisions of accounting — auditing, tax and consulting — to determine which might be most interesting to you. Think about what you want in your career. After five years with a CPA firm at the beginning of his career, Charlie, one of our founding partners, realized that real estate development was something he was interested in, so he made the change. Therefore, he suggests that if there’s a specific industry you know you’re passionate about, pursue it.
Greg, a managing partner, encourages accounting students to understand the types of firms because they’re all different. “CPA firms often take on the personalities of their leading partners, and this leads to a great variety between CPA firms and their cultures.” Because of how different every firm can be, it’s also essential to understand yourself so you can find a firm that will be the best fit for you as you build your accounting career.
9. Realize There’s No Rush to Figure It All Out
If you’re struggling to determine what aspect of accounting you’re passionate about or feel unsure about which firm you want to join, we’re here to assure you there’s no rush to have your whole career figured out. Greg emphasized this idea: “…The answers about what kind of firm you want to join and what kind of accountant you want to be cannot always be known until after you start your career.” It’s important to remember many people don’t have the answers at first — and that’s OK!
Start Your Career at Marshall Jones
As you approach the end of your college career, consider starting your accounting career at Marshall Jones. Our team of CPAs and advisors creates a supportive environment for you to find what you’re passionate about. Learn more about our team to discover why we’re the right move for your career.