If you’re going to college to be an accountant, internships provide a way for you to get your feet wet in the field and find out if accounting is truly the career path for you. Internships are entry-level, temporary positions, usually with a certified public accounting firm. During your internship, you will perform real work, which will give you an understanding of an accountant’s duties and responsibilities. Your tasks may include helping with clerical work and audits, preparing financial reports and assisting with clients' taxes.
As a low man on the totem pole, you will likely have no shortage of menial office tasks to perform, including filing away documents and pulling up clients’ files for the accountants who will then meet with the clients. You may also perform data entry tasks, which will familiarize you with common accounting and bookkeeping software programs. Other clerical tasks you might do include photocopying documents, answering calls and keeping the office area organized.
Auditing involves going over clients’ financial documents to ensure that tabulated amounts are accurate. Depending on your level of experience, you may either perform audits on your 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 your communication and teamwork skills, and auditing work will test your eye for detail as you carefully examine records to spot errors.
Interns may be required to prepare a variety of financial reports using client data already available. Some examples of the data you may work with include payroll information budgets, accounts payable records and pricing lists. The accountants on staff will use the reports you create to provide financial advice to clients. Preparing financial reports will help you learn how to work with data from various sources to create a picture of a client’s overall financial health.
Staff accountants often enlist the help of accounting interns to do clients’ taxes. These may be personal or business taxes. You may gather required financial documents from clients, check facts and figures, and even perform complete tax preparation on your own, depending on your level of experience. Other tasks may include working with tax reports or tax exemption records. Because taxes are the bread and butter of many accounting practices, your internship work will provide key professional experience that will come in handy when you graduate and start looking for your first real accounting position.