What Type of Work Experience Would be Most Beneficial While Obtaining an Online Accounting Degree?

For accounting majors, gaining work experience while obtaining an online accounting degree is a serious advantage when seeking employment. Such experience is invaluable to employers in the financial sector, who are looking for new hires with established work experiences. The question becomes, however, if employers want only experienced workers, how do those just starting out in accounting gain work experience? 

Why Work Experience Matters

An accountant is expected to demonstrate a high level of knowledge and expertise when dealing with the legal, ethical and financial requirements of individuals or businesses. Important responsibilities include: managing and preparing taxes, keeping track of inventories, calculating payrolls, monitoring company expenditures and income, and overseeing the legitimacy of financial programs. For these reasons, having some form of work experience demonstrates to an employer that a new hire has practiced the necessary skills to contend with real world situations.

Educational Requirements and Their Impact on Work Experience

Due to increasing scrutiny of financial transactions during recent economic downturns, the accounting field has tightened up its practices with regard to hiring employees without accounting degrees. In the not too distant past, finding work experience as a payroll clerk, for example, may have been possible with only a high school diploma and a good accounting class, but that is not typically the case today. Even holding an associate’s degree may not suffice for many accounting positions. Most business employers today desire their accounting departments to be staffed with credentialed employees, which means having at least a bachelor’s degree. For those working in higher level management positions, a master’s degree is recommended. As a result, obtaining work experience in accounting is markedly harder than in the past, making it difficult for those trying to gain experience in the field.

Options to Gain Accounting Experience while Obtaining an Online Accounting Degree

Online accounting degree programs are gaining in popularity as alternatives to traditional on-campus programs. But how do students enrolled in these programs gain work experience in the accounting field? Here are some options for consideration.

  • Internships: While generally not paid experiences, the benefits of participating in an internship can greatly influence the chances of landing a job. As an integral part of most degree programs, internships provide opportunities for learning the scope of responsibilities expected in a real-time job setting under supervision. Recommendations from internships can weigh heavily in the hiring process. Students considering online accounting degrees should check to see if internships are part of the program requirements.
  • Temp Agency Jobs: If you live in a larger metropolitan area, temp agencies are a great way to obtain varied work experiences. Applicants can indicate a desire to focus jobs in areas of interest or expertise, in this case, the financial business sector. Temp jobs can last from a few days to several weeks, so opportunities for meaningful work experiences are diversified.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering is a valuable way to gain work experience. Many non-profit agencies or organizations may not be able to hire accountants, so having someone with an accounting background to assist with fund-raising or other financial activities is useful. Their recommendations can also be significant additions to a portfolio.

Lastly, remember that a good portfolio of work experiences will attract a potential employer’s eye. Recognized industry leaders, like the American Accounting Association, can offer advice to build a strong resume. Following up on these options will increase chances to gain work experience while obtaining an online accounting degree.

Related Resource: Accounting Majors Specializing in Payroll and Bookkeeping