Whether you’d like to believe it or not, senior year means that you’re rounding the final lap of your four-year degree program, and will soon be making your entrance into the real world. This time can be particularly overwhelming for accounting students; between keeping up your grades, looking for a full-time job, and reconciling the fact that your time doing an undergraduate degree is almost over, it’s can be an emotional rollercoaster. Luckily, we’ve created this checklist for the second semester of your Senior year to help you come out feeling good at graduation.
1. Get Good Grades in Your Classes
Senioritis is especially strong in the second semester of Senior year, but keeping your grades up will help your GPA shine on a resume. Don’t assume getting an interview (or even a job at an accounting firm) means your GPA doesn’t matter anymore; you may make lateral or slightly upward moves in your career, and you want each future employer to be impressed with your grades. Continue to get good grades in your accounting classes so it stands out on your resume…in a good way.
2. Decide How You’re Going to Fulfill CPA License Requirements
There are four E’s that need to be satisfied before you can become a licensed Certified Public Accountant: education, exam, experience, and ethics. The requirements for each state are different, so you should check your State Board of Accountancy’s website for more information.
As far as education, some states require the candidate to attend graduate school (some students choose to pursue a graduate level accounting program, like a Masters of Accountancy) and some simply require a certain number of hours to become a licensed CPA. However, according to the AICPA, the only jurisdiction that doesn’t require 150 semester hours of education to be licensed in the U.S. Virgin Islands. A typical Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting is 120 hours, which means you need to decide how you’re going to obtain those 30 hours to become licensed.
The one constant between all states is the exam, which you need to pass to become a licensed CPA. Both experience and ethics requirements vary by state.
3. Check Off Your CPA Exam Requirements
Whether you’re planning on taking the CPA exam over the summer before you jump into your full-time accounting career, or you’re looking to go to graduate school, now is the time to start looking at pre-exam requirements. Believe it or not, there are certain criteria you have to meet before you can even sit for the CPA exam.
Again, each state is different so be sure to get in contact with your State Board of Accountancy to determine your state’s requirements. As far as pre-exam education, most states have different requirements to sit for the exam versus licensure; be sure to check with the state where you hope to obtain your license to confirm your eligibility. Knowing the criteria needed to sit for the CPA exam in your state will dictate how soon you can take it, and we all know it’s beneficial for your future career development.
4. Explore Different Study Materials
If you’ve decided to take the CPA exam as soon as you can, it’s time to start looking at study materials. There are several different companies offering CPA exam materials; we’ve created a quick overview to give you an idea of pricing and how different companies compare.
5. Get in Touch with Your College’s Career Center
Many college students will have job offers in the fall of their Senior year, but many others will still be looking for the perfect employer in the spring. If you haven’t already, you need to be developing your resume, getting on LinkedIn and networking with potential employers.
All of this on top of studying for your classes can get very overwhelming. Luckily, your college likely has a career center that can help you out. Advisors in Career Centers are professionals at helping students explore various career paths, hone their resumes, get their social media in order and get in touch with employers. Career Centers also host on-campus interviews where employers come to your college and interview several students at a time. Get in touch with your Career Center early in the spring semester, and use their expertise to efficiently get your name out into the accountancy world.
6. Go to a Career Fair
Career fairs are a great opportunity for students and can illuminate the variety of career paths requiring accounting degrees. Your college or specific school likely has a career fair in the spring, and you can bet the employers there are looking for Seniors about to graduate. You should also look for local career fairs in your area; they may not be through your school, but they’ll likely provide great employment opportunities.
7. Look for a Mentor
One of the best ways to get a leg up in the accounting profession is to find someone who can help mentor you through the CPA exam, your job search, and your career development. There are plenty of professionals out there who would love to help you find your perfect fit in a public accounting or finance career. Start by considering where you want to go on your career path, and reach out to professionals who are on a similar career track. They can give you first-hand advice on starting out in the accounting profession, and a cultivated relationship could lead to both knowledge and advancement in your own career.
8. Start Reaching Out
Don’t panic if you don’t have a job offer in the spring. Keep reaching out to various employers in your area to see if they’re hiring, and make sure you look at firms of all sizes. Remember, accountants can work in a variety of areas, from internal audit to public accounting to industry accounting – and all start with an accounting major.
There are a variety of online resources you can use to explore local employers. Check out company websites, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and other company reviews. You can also get first-hand experience with an employer by reaching out and requesting an informational interview with one of the staff. Ask them out for coffee and bring your questions. If it seems like a good fit, ask if they’re hiring, or see if they’d be open to having you come in and job shadow for a few days.
9. Have Fun and Enjoy the Ride
This checklist encompasses necessary steps you need to take to advance your career, but don’t be afraid to step back a couple times in your Senior year to have fun and explore as much as you can about yourself. This is the last semester you’ll be an undergraduate student, and you need to celebrate the end of your undergraduate degree by developing relationships with friends, participating in social or school-related activities, and cultivating a strong sense of who you are and what you want in life. Although it feels like the close of a chapter, it’s just the beginning of a new part of your life!
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Megan Bierwirth graduated from the University of Kentucky in 2013 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Accounting and passed the CPA exam within 6 months of graduation. She worked in both public accounting and industry while becoming a CPA and now runs a virtual bookkeeping company focused on preventive, integrative and complementary medicine professionals.