By Kara Sherrer
Every spring, students in the Vanderbilt Master of Accountancy (MAcc) program spend two months completing a paid internship with Big 4 accounting firms. The internship is a chance to apply their newfound accounting knowledge while getting a taste of full-time work.
The internship is a very formative part of the MAcc program; every spring, we survey students about their experiences after they return to campus. Here are some of the highlights from this year’s reflections:
While students occasionally grab coffee or pick up dinner for their teams, for the most part, they do the same work as a full-time employee. “The most surprising aspect was how much responsibility my team was willing to give an intern. As long as you show a willingness to learn and improve, you will get the opportunity to gain a lot of experience in a short time,” said Lucian Wiest, who interned with EY in New York City.
There’s plenty of work to go around, since students intern during busy season, a.k.a. the beginning of the year ahead of April tax-filing deadlines. “Busy season internships are a great way to get dropped right into the deep end of auditing. It gives you a good notion of how difficult the profession can be at times, so if you enjoy the internship, it’s a good indication that public accounting is a good fit for you,” advised John Runyon-Hass, who interned with Deloitte in Denver.
Beyond the work itself, the internship also allows students to network with the firm at large and build relationships within their specific team. “I was under the impression that I would really only talk to a lot of staff around my age and the senior managers, but the partners and directors on my team really made an effort to get to know me and pull me into some of their meetings. Creating those relationships definitely made me feel valued even as an intern,” said Hannah Miller, who interned with PwC in Charlotte, NC.
In hindsight, students say that the MAcc program prepared them well for both the internship and for their eventual full-time jobs. “The Vanderbilt MAcc program helped me prepare for my internship by giving me great confidence in my understanding of both audit and accounting,” said Alex Boone, who interned with KPMG in Dallas. “Despite only attending a one-year program without an undergraduate accounting degree, I felt on par in terms of my accounting knowledge and superior in terms of my audit knowledge compared to strong interns who majored in undergraduate accounting.”
“The (MAcc) social events also help me how to network with people at the firm and start building relationships with the people that I was about to work with. This made the initiation process at the firm hassle-free and allowed me to further expand my network and build new relationships easier than ever before,” added Sally Fridstrom, who interned in the same office as Boone.
Looking forward to their full-time jobs, the students feel like their internship gave them a solid foundation to enter the working world. “What the internship showed me most is that I am prepared for the professional world. Even though I was an intern, I felt I was treated as a peer by many in normal interactions, which really put me at ease,” said Jackson Garey, who interned with Deloitte in Chicago. “I felt that I belonged, refined my technical skills, and built a network during this internship, all of which make me feel more prepared to start my career.”