By Kara Sherrer
Doing a paid internship at a Big 4 firm during busy season might seem too good to be true — but thanks to Vanderbilt Business’ mod system, Master of Accountancy students spend 10 weeks at the beginning of each calendar year getting hands-on experience in public accounting.
The internship is a very formative part of the Vanderbilt Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program, so every spring we survey students about their experiences after they return to campus. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s reflections:
The word “internship” may call to mind thankless chores like coffee runs and making copies, but MAcc students are tasked with substantial work from the very beginning. Students help prepare financial statements, complete valuation models, perform analytics procedures, interview clients, and much more. “On day one of working on the client site I was treated like a full-fledged member of the audit team,” says Matthew LaPenta, who interned with KPMG in Nashville.
“You could not just stay at intern level tasks; there was always more to do,” confirms Emily Campell, who worked at PwC’s Raleigh, NC, office.
Because students intern from January to early March, during busy season, they get a real taste of working in public accounting that simply can’t be matched by a slower summer internship. While interning during busy season can be stressful, students say that the MAcc program prepared them well for their time at the firms.
“(MAcc’s) fast-paced environment and the demanding curriculum helped me prepare for the demanding and fast-paced environment at the client site. It allowed me to stay calm and collected during stressful times,” explains Kengo Kawahara, who interned at PwC’s New York City office.
Students also say that the curriculum itself gives them the foundation in accounting topics that’s necessary to succeed at the firms. “I felt like what I was learning in the MAcc program actually applied to the work that I was doing every day (and it) was a great feeling to see that all of my studies were worth it,” says Arianna Shapiro, who interned with Deloitte, also in New York City.
“The MAcc program gave me a solid foundation of an understanding of audit, and it gave me an idea of what was going to be expected of me as an intern at a Big 4 firm during busy season,” seconds Duncan Fletcher, who worked at EY’s Nashville office. “The program also prepared me by teaching me how to ask questions and develop relationships through networking.”
Networking and collaborating with their teams is just as important as the accounting work itself, and students said that getting to know their coworkers was often the best part of the internship. “Even if you were having a rough day, your team would be there to make you laugh and stay positive” says Evan Jager, who also interned at EY in Nashville.
Sometimes the coworkers weren’t even present in the office, and still did their part to make the students feel as welcome as possible. “My career coach was on a personal vacation for two weeks, yet she continuously kept in touch with me to make sure I was having the best experience throughout my internship,” recalls Kawahara.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to prepare interns for their full-time jobs upon graduating, and students say it did just that. “I feel really confident going into my full-time offer having had the 10-week internship during busy season. I believe that I will be able to hit the ground running once I start full time in the fall,” LaPenta says. “The Vanderbilt MAcc program really sets itself apart by allowing all of the students to gain working experience during the program.”