Landing Your First Accounting Job

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Recent college graduates in finance or accounting can usually land a job at a large firm. If you graduated from Harvard, Wharton or other Ivy League school, you’ll have a chance at getting into one of the “Big 4” accounting firms--Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers. They usually recruit right out of college and prefer someone with a few years of experience—literally the best of both worlds.  That said, you should be aware that some big firms will let new hires go after a busy season. 


If you’re in your mid to late 30s and you simply have a business or finance degree from an accredited college or university, you’ll have to settle for a smaller, local accounting firm. You’ll need to pass the CPA exam, which demonstrates that you’re committed to an accounting career.


If you can’t afford the time and money to attend a traditional university, you can go the online degree route. If you do, make sure your online university is fully accredited, and that your State Board of Accountancy accepts the credits from your school. Fail to do this and all your hard work and money will be for nothing. 


Not surprisingly, every firm you approach for a job will want you to have some experience in addition to a degree. If you’re caught in this catch 22—no experience, but can’t get it without a job—consider volunteering your skills to non-profit organizations and community businesses. You can also set yourself apart from the pack by taking courses in IT, computer programming or advanced mathematics, things that can prove very useful in today’s high tech economy. 


There are a number of career paths you can take in accounting. It simply depends on your personal preferences. Some options to choose from include: 

Tax Accountant. You’ll need a background in tax and legal accounting to do this job. And you’ll be expected to keep up with ever-changing tax laws. Much of this work is seasonal. So make sure the company hires you for the long haul. 
Auditing Work. Just about every business and government entity needs auditing work. You’ll need to immerse yourself in the operations of the company and its many divisions. That means how products and services are sold and how income flows into the company. You’ll have to maintain ledgers and accounts and comply with state and federal laws.

Budget Analyst. You’ll develop financial plans for businesses, and you’ll need to be a skilled negotiator if you choose this career path.

Management Accounting. You’ll be the go-to person when it comes to the financial aspects of restructuring a company or merging your company with another enterprise. Your efforts will dovetail with the company’s marketing and finance divisions to help implement new business strategies. This field will become increasingly popular as the tight economy forces more companies to merge or restructure to survive.

Certified Public Accountant. Many experienced accountants choose the CPA route. It gives them the independence of being their own boss and lets them establish a more personal business relationship with their clients. 

Getting your first accounting job won’t be easy. But once in, there are many career options to choose from. If you have comments, include them below.



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  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Tanya, job seekers in their late 50s and 60s may have a problem, but being in your 30s shouldn't hold you back. Consider joining some of the many professional accounting organizations. Like:American Accounting Association or American Society of Women Accountants of luck in your career search.
  • Debra D
    Debra D
    After going back to school for my Masters in accounting, after being in banking with the same company starting with my Bachelors in accounting as well for twenty years, I am still hitting a brick wall.  I went into debt thinking that it would make me more marketable going back to school for this degree.  Now, I'm in my fifties and have no experience and I'm thinking that it was all in vain to think someone would give me an opportunity like they were given.   I may have missed my window of opportunity being a baby boomer.
  • Usha P
    Usha P
    am trying to get  first accounting job.  Already have an AA in Accounting this seems to be a waste of time and just a advertisement to sign up for college.  Needing a job not a waste of time.
  • Tanya F
    Tanya F
    In 2005, I was laid off from my job after ten years of service. Afterwards, I decided to go back to school full time. In 2010, I earned a BS degree in Accounting and began searching for entry level accounting opportunities. I couldn't get over the hurdle so I accepted a customer service position in March 2011 so I could pay bills. For the past nine months I have been aggressively seeking entry level accounting jobs but have been unsuccessful in landing a position. I can't afford to pay for a masters degree or extra classes to sit for the CPA exam at this time because I have a daughter in college that I am paying for. It is extremely frustrating and I don't know what to do. Is it because I am in my thirties?
  • P K J
    P K J
    Alex, Thank you for the very straight forward and honest depiction of the accounting job market.  Yours is the first useful (and candid) advise I have received about getting hired in this profession since I graduated and started job hunting with no direct accounting experience.  I am interning without pay for a small accounting firm in the hope that I will soon be viewed as a serious candidate for an entry-level position.  Good luck to all.  
  • Natasha M
    Natasha M
    I think it would be tricky to get the first job in. The its NOT WHO YOU KNOW its WHO KNOWS YOU" how much experience do I need say just getting out of school. How many years would one look at??
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Thanks for your comments. For those who are struggling to land a job in this field, you might consider joining some of the many professional accounting organizations. Like:American Accounting Association Society of Women Accountants of luck in your career search.
  • Robert S
    Robert S
    This article still does not tell me how to find employers that will hire me as an accountant.
  • Fatima T
    Fatima T
    I completed my accounting degree in August 2012 and recently started on my bachelors in finance and business administration. However, even with prior and recent accouting experience, some of which is self-employment, it is still very hard to find work in accounting. Thanks for the article, it really was an eye opener.
  • Kenechukwu N
    Kenechukwu N
    I just started an MBA in accounting i have only taken 2 classes for now non of which are accounting courses. But i was wondering if it is possible to do something in IT for accountants. I will ask my school as well but i wanted to see what other people think.
  • Latrice B
    Latrice B
    Yes, this is the crisis I'm facing today, not landing a career in my field due to my experience. I recently graduated from Atlanta Technical College with an Associate’s Degree in Accounting and have yet to find a career in my profession. Any ideas on where I should start?
  • Sandra t
    Sandra t
    This information is very helpful.  It gave me direction and insight on what field to pursue in my effort to enter the financial world.  Now I can build my resume using the criteria as a guideline..Thanks
  • Brian G
    Brian G
    I am a recent Bachelor's of Science-Magna Cum Laude- graduate from a small WV College.  I have a 3.92 in my accounting degree and a 4.0 in my business management degree.  All of my life, I have made the extra effort to be courteous to others, yet the accounting firms, to which I have applied, will not even show the courtesy of a rejection letter.  I am seriously thinking that the last four years were a waste of time.  Be careful of the hype.  A person obtaining a degree later in life (my 40s) will surely suffer age discrimination by those firms seeking employees.
  • Terry P
    Terry P
    I am trying to get my foot in the door for my first accounting job.  Already have an AA in Accounting this seems to be a waste of time and just a advertisement to sign up for college.  Needing a job not a waste of time.
  • Brandon L
    Brandon L
    Ive been trying to long to get in this business I have a BA in accounting and working on my MS from Southern New Hampshire University. I'm 28 any suggestions?
  • Alex Kecskes
    Alex Kecskes
    Jane:  Check with your college career office. Join local accounting organizations and clubs. Attend seminars, conferences as a student.  Talk to people at these events. Tell them you're eager to intern with them.
  • Jane F
    Jane F
    How do you get into these firms to work for free?

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