You’ve got to start somewhere so you can’t let those “experience required” lines in the accounting ads put you off. There are ways to overcome that obstacle if you’re new to the field. You’ve got to think outside the ledger book to find valid work and personal experience relevant to an entry-level accounting job. Then wow them at the interview and you can begin your new career.
Stay in school. A bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance certainly will open doors for you, but with a master’s level degree, those doors lose their locks. An advanced degree can put you miles ahead of other candidates, even those who do have the requisite “experience,” especially if you spend those last two years specializing in a finance arena such as internal auditing or public finance.
Do an internship while you’re in school. Many graduate programs require this, and it will give you the hands-on experience you may need to land the plum job you’re after. While you’re doing the internship, you also have loads of opportunities to network and make contacts for a real job. The company you’re interning at may even find a spot for you if you really shine.
Join a professional accounting association such as the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business. They have regional chapters all over the country. Even though you need to get some experience under your belt to apply for special certifications, you’re eligible for a ton of continuing education courses and will make a slew of contacts through the networking events they hold. Membership in a professional group also shows a potential employer you’re really serious about your new career.
- Be persistent without being a bore. According to the CPA Career Coach, only about 5 percent of accounting job applicants follow up with a phone call after sending out a resume. While accountants may not be known for their outgoing personalities, you need to break that stereotype to put yourself in that 5 percent category to get noticed. Passion often wins out over dry experience, even in the field of finance.
- Forget about getting a CPA when you’re in the entry-level phase. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you need at least a couple years on-the-job experience to be eligible to take the exam. Even after earning a master’s, you still need to work a few years before you can earn that designation, which can help you to skyrocket your career.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."