Accounting is a very promising field to pursue with high wages, opportunities to advance, and stability. When it is time for college students to choose which firm they want to do an internship it can be very stressful with all the firms they can choose from. There are many options like: public, private, or governmental accounting; small, mid-size, or large firms; as well as what they want to focus on like audit, tax, or consulting. Many college students do not take the time to think about what type of company they want to intern for because they are not knowledgeable in what each category has to offer. Choosing an internship is very important because most likely that internship will land you a job right out of college.
As tax season and summer are approaching, accounting firms are in the process of reviewing and interviewing for tax internships and summer internships. With that being said, it is important for college students to know the advantages and disadvantages in public and private accounting as well as deciding what size firm would work best for them. Every college student is different and depending on their personality, knowledge, and work ethics their decision will be different. This article contains information that is helpful when choosing an accounting firm that is right for you.
The first major decision is the one between public and private accounting. Public accounting is accounting work that a company performs for another company. Private accounting is accounting work that is done for your own company. Public accounting is the most popular field for many college students to enter. There are many advantages for working for a public accounting company such as: high salaries, great experience, and a greater chance for advancement. According to the 2008 Salary Guide, recent college graduates can expect to make anywhere from 41,500-51,000 dollars a year at a mid-sized public accounting firm. The experience you receive at public accounting firms is a great resume enhancer and highly respected by many types of employers. With that being said, it is very common for young employees with less experience to get a more qualified job elsewhere with experience in a public accounting firm as opposed to a more qualified applicant who does not have that type of experience. Working for a public accounting firm gives employees the opportunity to advance and grow in their department. There are many opportunities for promotions and within six to eight years a college graduate could be a partner within the company. Disadvantages of public accounting include long hours, hard work, and a lot of stress (especially around tax season!).
The accounting field also offers the chance to work for a private accounting firm. The major advantage of private accounting is not experiencing the “public accounting burnout” and the ability to balance your work life and home life. Private accounting also gives many opportunities for new employees to experience different career paths. Less travel is an advantage also considered by many recent grads due to not having cliental from all over the work. Disadvantages of private accounting include: less pay, less networking, and less experience.
After college graduates have decided if they want to work for a public or private accounting firm, they need to decide what size company they would like to work for. Large accounting firms, such as “The Big 4”, include: PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte and Touche, KPMG, and Ernst & Young. Small accounting firms are the mom and pop companies that are found locally. The advantages of interning and working at a small accounting firm are: better relationships with customers, more hands on experience, and a more personalized setting. Having a smaller cliental base gives the employees a chance to get to know their customers more, be more compantionate, build a better relationship on top of just business, and make each customer’s request special. If an employee is a full time recent graduate or part-time intern a smaller firm allows more opportunities for hands on experience with more challenging work beyond entry-level. This is because employers have more time to devote to looking after employees, educating them, and correcting any mistakes. Smaller firms also offer a more personalized experience because they are not as many employees so employers can really take the time to get to know everyone and build a relationship with each and every employee. Disadvantages to working at smaller firms include: little room to grow, less opportunities to network, and lower salaries. Large accounting firms have many advantages including: the fame, the excellent training, and all of the networking opportunities. Because large accounting firms have the time and money, they can afford in-house courses for training. Networking is another big advantage to working for a large accounting firm because these companies have clients from around the world. One of the last advantages of working for a large firm is the reputation and respect that employees receive from the outside world when they say they are working for a Big 4 company as well as the respect they will get from other companies when they see that experience on their resume. Disadvantages of working for alarge firm include: feeling like a small fish in a big sea, little respect for entry-level or internship employees, and the stressfull work envionment.
In the next couple of months, college students will be making a decision for which accounting firm they would like to do their internship or work for. There is a type and size of firm for all types of personalities, knowledge, and work ethic whether it is public or private accounting or a small or large firm. There is no right or wrong decision when choosing a firm, it is all about preference and what feels right to you. The most important thing about making a decision is that you need to be happy.