So, you need to design an accounting internship program or manage an intern assigned to you. Whether you work for an industry leader like Deloitte and Ernst & Young or for a boutique or mid-sized firm like Grant Thornton LLP and Sierra Forensic Group (SFG), it’s important to put thought into the framework and details of your internship program.
By crafting a skills-centered internship program, you not only attract the best talent, but you also ensure that students and recent grads get the most out of the program. This in turn builds a robust workforce that can drive innovation and propel the success of your company and the people who work for it.
If you’re looking for ideas on what to include in your accounting internship program, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a list of six vital tasks business owners and managers should assign to an accounting intern. Read on to learn more about the vital tasks and jobs you should include in your accounting internship plan.
6 Tasks To Assign To Accounting Interns
When setting up an accounting internship, it’s important to consider both what the company needs and how your internship program can help students build a solid foundation for their careers. Approaching the program with this dual mindset enables your company and the student to get the most out of the program.
The college students or recent graduates you hire for your company’s accounting internship program know that their first job as an accountant begins long before they graduate. Accounting coursework and general accounting experience help lay the foundation of a successful career for those interested in this industry. Plus, entry-level positions are much easier to secure if they have prior experience in the accounting field — especially in the form of an internship.
While the goal of any accounting internship is to help interns learn more about daily accounting tasks and activities, it could also include more in-depth responsibilities like shadowing accounting department staff members, assisting with the financial report preparation process, and learning to track and analyze financial information.
When writing your accounting internship job description, you must ensure that applicants understand the accounting intern duties and responsibilities at your organization. In addition to emphasizing the qualifications you’re looking for — like a master’s degree, specific accounting courses, or prior experience — your applicants will want to know exactly what is expected of them during the part-time or full-time internship program. Below is a list of six tasks you can give your accounting intern that will benefit both you and the applicant.
1. Performing General Clerical Work
Interns know that they are the lowest on the totem pole, which is why they will expect to do some menial office tasks and general accounting work. Don’t be afraid to delegate these.
Accounting interns need to know how an office runs if they are ever going to thrive within this field. You can ask that they file away documents or pull client files for other accountants on your teams. You could teach them data entry, as it will familiarize them with common accounting and bookkeeping software programs — like Intuit QuickBooks and Excel. Think about also assigning them tasks like photocopying documents, answering phone calls, and keeping the office area clean, functional, and organized.
In addition, it’s a good idea to go over the basics of general accounting principles early in the internship. This helps to reinforce standard practices when it comes to business administration and accounting. It can also help interns learn about the importance of legal and ethical procedures in a fast-paced environment.
2. Undertaking Audit Work
Auditing involves going over clients’ financial documents to ensure that tabulated amounts are accurate. Depending on your intern’s level of experience, you could ask them to perform audits on their own and then report the findings or aid a staff accountant in performing the audits.
This task can involve traveling to a client’s business or office. This will help hone their teamwork and communication skills. Auditing work will also test their eye for detail as they carefully examine records to spot errors. Be sure to add this task to your accounting intern job description.
3. Preparing Financial Reports
You could also ask your intern to conduct a variety of financial reporting tasks using available client data, such as payroll information budgets, general ledgers, journal entries, month-end close process reports, accounts payable records, accounts receivable data, and pricing lists. Preparing financial reports will help the intern learn how to work with data from various sources to create a picture of a client’s overall financial health.
4. Preparing Tax Returns
Definitely get your accounting or tax intern involved in tax preparation as it will be an extremely beneficial learning experience for them. You could enlist their help to do clients’ personal or business taxes.
Have your interns gather required financial documents from clients, check facts and figures, work with tax reports or tax exemption records, and even perform complete tax preparation on their own if you feel they are able to handle it.
Because taxes are the bread and butter of many financial accounting practices, delegating these types of tasks will provide key professional experience that will come in handy when your
5. Learning the Company Culture
One of the most important tasks for a new accounting intern is to learn the specifics of company culture. Interns are expected to observe how employees interact, learn the expectations of entry-level associates, and figure out the norms of company behavior.
For example, even though an intern may not have developed the skills needed to complete many of the tasks required of an accountant, they still may be asked to attempt some work assignments and interact with the accounting firm team as if they had that knowledge. If an intern learns these behaviors, it will be easier for them to make the transition to a full-time position if they are invited back after their internship.
6. Conducting Industry-Specific Tasks
In a business segment such as investment banking, accounting, and finance, interns may assist teams working on special projects with the mergers and acquisitions department. Performing research, running financial models for analysis, and collaborating with account managers to create presentation materials are viable intern assignments.
According to Chron.com, “at a CPA firm, interns work in the audit or tax department. Interns often provide support by preparing balance sheets, income statements, and financial statements. Assisting in the client services department gives an intern the opportunity to work with a senior auditor. In this role, you might accompany a CPA to client companies to help perform ongoing audits.”
This is an opportunity with dual benefits. Interns get a first-hand look at the role of an auditor in addition to exposure to the client’s industry. If you are part of a specific segment of accounting, be sure to add industry-specific tasks to your accounting intern job description.
Remember, you can never be too detailed when it comes to writing your internship description. Not only will it help you attract the best talent for the position, but it will also allow you to share this information with your accounting team members so that everyone is on the same page as to what tasks they will be delegating once the intern is hired.
Get Guidance on Internships
Whether you’re a student looking for a year-long paid internship or an employer wanting to know more about setting up a summer internship program, we’re here to help. At Scholars, we work hard to provide both employers and students with valuable information on a wide range of internship opportunities. On our blog, you’ll find more information on how to create successful internship programs.
In addition, our podcast features discussions with industry leaders from consulting firms and finance & accounting companies to gaming design companies who share how they built productive internship programs and how students can successfully apply. Students and hiring managers can also learn what companies look for when hiring interns and get ideas for working within or creating a company culture that helps interns and employees thrive.