Jump Starting Your Accounting Career: For the Community College/Transfer Student


Guest author Professor Tchaikovsky, CPA, is an Associate Professor of Accounting at Irvine Valley College. A few weeks ago, he shared an article regarding how students can jump start their accounting career by learning everything they need to know about the hiring process as well as 3 different types of positions students can be interviewed for.

In part two of this topic, as he talks about what steps you need to take to become recognized and obtain an interview from recruiters before graduating. 

Today, Professor Tchaikovsky discusses the different ways community college and transfer students can jump start their careers. 

What school should I transfer to?

If you are at a community college or at a four year school and planning on transferring to another school for your junior year, where should you transfer to?
Santiago Bernal, the Assistant Director at UCLA/Center for Community College Partnerships, shared with my students some very good advice: when you are choosing a four-year school to transfer to, you should not attend the college/university solely based on national rankings. Rather, attend the college/university where you will be the most involved outside of the classroom. As mentioned in the previous posts, social involvement and development is one of the most important qualities firms are looking for.

However, transfer to a school where firms actively recruit accounting students. If you transfer to a four-year school that has been recently established (within 15 years), your recruiting process will be that much more challenging as the school may not have fully developed its relationships with firms and the accounting alumni base may not be as robust as more established schools. I have had many conversations with students who have not realized how important this was until they began looking for full time employment.

Financially ahead, catching up with recruiting 

Community College students have possibly one of the greatest advantages of all: less debt. At $46/unit for California residents, Irvine Valley College (“IVC”) and other community colleges are the best deals in education. However, given that the recruitment process starts as early as the Freshman year, transfer students have to work that much harder so that upon transfer they are able to obtain an internship and/or full time position at an accounting firm. 

As a transfer student am I automatically shut out of the process for obtaining an SLP/ internship / full time position? 

The answer is no. Students have gone onto obtain internship positions as well as full time positions at large and small accounting firms from community colleges. However, when evaluating their success paths, there are certain commonalities each share in terms of their obtaining an internship. 

If you are going to participate in a Summer Leadership Program (“SLP”), you need to make sure that you will have an additional summer prior to graduation so that you can participate in an internship. SLP ‘s are for students with at least 3 additional semesters/four quarters remaining after the SLP. 

Consider taking a class at the school prior to the start of the semester

When entering the Fall recruiting season for internships, you have no grades for the school you just transferred into. Firms will acknowledge your community college transcript for course credits, but want to see your academic accomplishments at the four year school. 

One of my students took an intermediate level accounting course over the summer and received the highest grade in the class. My student had also joined the accounting society, the honors society, and became socially involved. My student was given an internship offer at a Big 4 accounting firm. I do not believe that the grade was the sole factor; however, the grade proved their ability to handle the academic rigor at a four year school.

Become socially involved if you are able to do so

Social involvement is even more important for the transfer student as you likely will not have any student and/or professor relationships at the school you are transferring into. 

Another former student of mine transferred and immediately became very involved in a co-ed business fraternity taking a leadership position. They were able to obtain an internship at a local business and the following summer, an internship at a Big 4 accounting firm where they are now working full-time. 

New Avenues for Transfer Students

Four-year schools are collaborating with community colleges and becoming creative in establishing programs to meet the labor demands of the accounting profession while shortening the length of time it takes for students to graduate. For example, one goal of California State University, Fullerton’s “Graduation Initiative 2025” is for 44% of transfer students to graduate in two years.

GAP4+1 – the unique CSUF community college collaboration

As part of this this initiative, California State University, Fullerton Mihaylo College of Business and Economics  (“CSUF”) created a Guaranteed Accounting Program offering high school students the ability to attend Irvine Valley College (“IVC”) for the first two years, CSUF for following two years, and an ability to earn a Master’s of Science in Accountancy (collectively “GAP4+1”). All classes are guaranteed. Fall 2017 will mark the second year of the GAP4+1 program and interest is strong for the Fall 2018 class.

Articles about the GAP4+1 program in the Orange County Register can be found here:

Morteza Rahmatian: Boosting students’ career prospects, graduation rate
CSUF Student Success Initiative boosting graduation rate, cutting achievement gap

What is unique about the GAP4+1 program is participants are invited by CSUF students to Accounting Society events. By volunteering for and attending CSUF Accounting Society events, the GAP4+1 participants are able to build relationships with CSUF Accounting Society members that could come back to later and recruit the GAP 4+1 participants for SLP’s, internships and/or full-time employment.

Closing thoughts

Prior to transferring, have a game plan. Build your resume, cover letter, and know exactly what courses you will need in order to satisfy your state board’s educational requirements. You want to be very prepared as you may be interviewing for a potential internship and attending events within a month after the start of your first semester. 

Other articles in this series

The Structure of Accounting Firms & What They’re Looking For in Candidates 
Jump Starting Your Accounting Career: The Interview Process: Part I 
Jump Starting Your Accounting Career: The Interview Process: Part II 

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