Making the Most of a Public Accounting Internship

Imagine being a college student, barely an adult, stepping foot on a college campus for the first time and having to pick a career for the rest of your life. It may not be quite that dramatic, but these are the choices students are making, oftentimes with little to no exposure or experience to the actual career itself. This is where internships offer a great way to peek into one’s career field.

In the Q&A that follows, I’ll be sharing my experience interning in public accounting.  Regardless of the industry, you’re interested in, I hope sharing my experience will help you in your search for an internship or full-time job!

Before we get there, here’s a bit of background information. As a returning adult learner, I didn’t immediately go to college after high school. Our little family started early, so retail and sales offered the best opportunity at the time. Eventually, realizing that secondary education would best suit my skill set, I selected accounting as my major. People often ask why I chose accounting, but that may be a story for another time.

What Campus Internship and Employment Resources Are Available?

If you get involved, college campuses offer a plethora of resources to connect with future employers.  Take a hard look at the resources your school has available and use them!  I was very fortunate to be offered a tax internship opportunity with the certified public accounting firm Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Chtd.  As an accounting major, it was always a dream of mine to work for an accounting firm.

What Were Your First Few Days as an Adams Brown Tax Intern Like?

On my first day, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  A mixture of anxiousness, excitement, and fear flooded my emotions. Fear of failure, excitement in learning all that I can, and anxiousness to prove that I did belong. We were paired with an Intern-Site Coordinator who helped ensure a successful overall internship experience.  After the standard onboarding procedures and first day activities, I headed to Great Bend, Kansas for a two-day tax training seminar. This training really helped me learn the basics of tax work from the ground floor. In college you are taught the “what it is,” and working here taught me the “how to do it.”

There is a small lull of time before tax season truly ramps up in late January. This gap allowed me to get acclimated and gain experience with other areas of accounting like bank reconciliations, bookkeeping, payroll, and tax notices, and more. I wanted to learn as much as possible so I volunteered for anything that I could lend a hand with.  I would encourage the same approach in any internship you choose to pursue.

What is Tax Season Like as an Intern?

Once tax season comes around, there’s no shortage of tax work to do.  Through this internship, I was exposed to self-employed businesses, partnerships, S-corps, estates, and trusts in my very first tax season.  It was great! Day-to-day activities consisted of completing your own assignments and collectively working as a team to complete all the tax returns.  I appreciate the autonomy my internship offered.  Each return is reviewed by a senior member of the team to ensure accuracy and provide opportunities to learn through hands-on feedback.

What Was Most Unique About your Accounting Internship?

You truly learn something new each day in accounting, and it’s best not to be afraid to ask questions. One unique aspect of the experience was the principal’s open-door policy.  He was happy to meet with me any time I had questions. Here I was, an intern, learning from a principal. You grow at your own pace, so you are allotted more complex tasks should you show the capability of handling it. I am grateful to this day to be surrounded by co-workers that are happy to help whenever I have a question or need assistance.  With anything in life, you get out what you put in.

What Are Your Recommendations for Students Looking for Internships?

If you are taking classes and can fit an internship into your schedule, it can be beneficial and rewarding. Whether it’s accounting or another industry, be prepared to learn along the way and soak it all up. Don’t shy away from walking the extra mile or lending a hand to learn as much as you can. An internship is a way for you to see if you’re a good fit for a company and the company is a good fit for you.

Internships are a great chance to test out the company culture and mission and explore growth opportunities.  I have met some great people along the way and have some great memories to look back on. After my internship was over, I accepted a position with the firm and am an accountant full-time now. Everyone’s journey is different though; my path may not be the same as yours. It’s ultimately your decision to make do with your options and enjoy it along the way.  Learn more about Adams Brown’s Internship Program.