What to do while trying to become a CPA/Accountant

Comments (8)

Jason in Asheville, North Carolina

57 months ago

I'm 26 and studying to become an accountant. I went to college right out of HS and screwed up really bad (1.63 GPA on 78 credit hours) and am now persuing an Assoc of the Arts degree at my local community college. My grades have been fantastic since i've returned to school (5 A's anda B) and at the end of this semester i will be transfering to UNCC's accounting program. I will have approximately 30 credit hours left for my bachelor's at that point. And plan on completing the degree in a year, attending spring, spring and fall semesters. Also, my credit sucks. I have about $15k in unpaid CC debt from my first round of college.

My question: What do I do for a job while in school?

I'm on pace to make 50k this year waiting tables and realize that a significant paycut is pretty likely if I leave the industry. I have 2.5yrs salaried management in a high end restaurant under my belt (we served Obama in 4 months ago) as well as numerous related certifications. I assume I can make similar (if slightly less) in that industry in charlotte, but I hate it.

Is there anything I could be doing to build experience working full time in the accounting industry with an associates and management experience or should I just serve or bartend for the next year, fix my credit, and maintain my lifestyle while hoping my management experience will be enough?

Or is there another option I'm missing?

Rodger in San Gabriel, California

57 months ago

Anything accounting related would help build your experience into a career path for accounting. Most staff positions I see require at least a year of experience in accounting (and sometimes a specific industry). You can try doing A/P, A/R, or other tasks that involves handling some sort of transactions (dealing w/ money/numbers). Basically look for something entry-level along the lines of accounting, then build your way up from there. Show these companies how you can apply the skills you received while serving/bartending (such as being quick on your feet and having great interpersonal skills) to a job in accounting.
You can also look for temporary/contract assignments through agencies if you can't find any FT or PT positions.
Just a quick general overview, but enough to get my point across.
Good luck.

Jason in Asheville, North Carolina

57 months ago

So go for a A/R or A/P position? I'll see what I can get. Is it stupid of me to hope for $30k+ in one of these positions? Would it be worth 25-25k in lost annual income for a year of experience on my resume?

Rodger in Los Angeles, California

57 months ago

I don't know anything about salary in those positions, but that sounds just about right. You'd have to check salary websites under your location for the salary range.
I also don't know your financial situation. If you can afford losing 25k a year, then possibly it is worth the effort in order to build up your resume with accounting experience. You can possibly work as a bartender at night at the same time.
All I'm trying to say is, if you're sure of wanting to get into accounting, then start getting experience in accounting- simple as that. It's like any other career.
Start networking, join school business clubs, talk to your accounting professors, etc. School is actually the best time to network. I don't recall any companies ever asking for H.S. GPA or if they ever look that up, so I wouldn't worry too much about that. College GPA they are probably interested in.

Jason in Asheville, North Carolina

57 months ago

The GPA listed was my GPA in my first college run, but since i've transfered out, itshouldn't affect me assuming i get into UNCC, which i should. As far as finances, I can afford to live on 30k, but its obviously not preferable. The goal here is to go big 4 or major regional and do this right. I'm worried about how job experience will affect job prospects. I've worked through my personal issues and am fully capable of getting a 4.0 at UNCC.

Ann in Los Angeles, California

56 months ago

Hi Jason!

If you're aiming for the Big 4, you shouldn't worry too much about getting prior job experience. That's what they have leadership programs and internships for. What you should do is prepare to apply to those opportunities by networking with their professionals and getting your name out to the firm and letting them know that you really want to work for them. That's what worked for me and a couple of my friends who've never had accounting outside of school. Be part of BAY or Accounting Society for starters. You can also become a student member for professional CPA organizations and network from there.

CrunchingMan in San Gabriel, California

55 months ago

What all companies like to see when they hire somebody is at least some experience in accounting. Especially in a bad economy, you are in competition with more people and with people with experience. If you don't have any accounting experience, try to get any if you can't get into an entry level accountant position. Stuff like AP, AR, bank recs, fixed assets positions are good areas to get experience in from the start. The thing you want to do is get those key words on your resume so then others will start searching for those key words. It's hard for your resume to be searched for if you don't have any acctg experience. Maybe you can temp handling AR or AP first to get that on your resume, etc.
Passing the CPA is another plus. But then again, companies do prefer experienced people first.
I don't know how it is in VA, but this is my perspective out here in Los Angeles.

Gluck to you.

Erik Smith in San Francisco, California

45 months ago

If you work in a high end restaurant, you must be good with people and be sociable. Don't go from 50K to 30K! Go from 50K to 55K!

Study accounting and get good grades in your accounting classes. Meanwhile, keep working in the restaurant and pay down your debt. At the same time you do this, network with Big 4 people. You've got to know SOME Big 4 people. Ask around, go down your Facebook friends list, ask around, and they will emerge from the woodwork. Network and hang out with them, kiss their ass.

Then, when you've finished enough units to sit for the CPA, and you have a decent GPA in your accounting classes, pull some strings and ask your Big 4 friends/acquaintances how to get your foot in the door.

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