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What can I do with my degrees in architecture and accounting?

which-way-to-goRandy from Ball State University asked:

What can I do with my degrees in architecture and accounting?

Hi Randy

You can do a variety of things with your two degrees.  They key question you need to answer is “what do you want to do?”

Do you want to focus on architecture and use your accounting skills in a secondary manner, supporting your career in architecture; or do you want to focus on accounting and do so in architecture-related fields?

Or, do you want to do something altogether different?

Whatever you do, you have to make YOU make sense to potential employers via your resume, professional correspondence an professional networking.

No employer want to hire you to allow you to figure out what you want to do with your degrees.  Employers expect you to be able to tell them why you want to work for them, in their industry, and in the job for which you are applying.

You have some very important decisions to make.  Do you pursue certification in Architecture (NCARB), Accounting (CPA, etc.) or both?  Your question is easy to pose, but complicated to answer fully.

I recommend you review two of my earlier blogs for some additional information:

I love my job as an Architect!

Getting your Foot in the Door at Ernst & Young

These blogs will give you some insight into architecture and accounting career paths, respectively.

I also recommend you review the Professional Association links on my blog for Accounting and Architecture. The resources you will find on these pages will help you better understand your o

Good Luck



Should I sit for my CPA right after I graduate or focus on getting a job first?

Cpa-e1361011053445Vanessa at Fresno State asked:

I am an accounting major and will be graduating next spring.  Should I go for my CPA right after I graduate  – since I will have a lot of free time to study – or focus on getting a job first?

Hi Vanessa

There is not one correct answer to your question that suits everyone equally.  As with most decisions, there are many factors to consider, including:

Competition in the Job Market

Accounting graduates with a CPA have more opportunities available to them than do accounting graduates without a CPA.  A CPA is a well-known and valuable certification.  It literally defines your level of expertise in the field of accounting.  Not all accounting jobs require a CPA, but f you don’t have your CPA, you will not be a qualified candidate for those jobs that do require one. The market for accountants is stronger than it is in many other fields, but the more qualifications you have, the more competitive a candidate you will be.

The Cost of the Opportunity Taken

Can you afford to take the CPA right now? You have the time, but do you have the money? When you factor in examination and application fees, review/prep course fees, the Ethics exam and licensing fees, getting your CPA can cost up to $3000.  Can you afford that expense right now, or will you be better off working for a while  and saving up to pay for the exam.  It’s a great investment, but you you have the money to invest?

The Cost of Opportunity Passed

Can you afford to NOT take the CPA upon graduation?  Do you have the self-discipline to come back to it later?  Are there job opportunities that you will miss out on if you do not pursue your CPA immediately?  All things equal, is there a compelling reason for you to wait?

Personal Priorities not related to your Job

What else is going on in your life right now?  Do any of these things impact your career decision-making at the present time?  Your spouse/partner may be in career transition.  You may have a parent or child dependent upon you for support, care or assistance.  Are you tied to  a specific geographic location or willing to move for work?  What student loans and/or other financial obligations do you need to meet?

There are many factors to consider in making career decisions.  Do your best to make informed decisions that factor in all of your personal and professional needs, priorities and wants.

Good luck,


What can I do with a degree in Accounting and Information Systems?

accounting (1)Tracy from the University of Maryland University College asked: 

What can I do with a Master of Science in Accounting and Information Systems?

Hi Tracy

Considering you are pursuing a Master’s degree in Accounting, is it safe to assume you intent to pursue a career in accounting?

That is the assumption I will make in responding.

Given your degree, you have a lot of options to consider.  Accounting and Information Systems are very compatible skills/experience sets.

Consider the Big Accounting/Consulting Firms

Ernst & Young, Deloitte, PriceWaterhouseCoopers KPMG and a whole lot more.  They may not all recruit on your campus, but they do all recruit college graduates.  And, they focus on students in accounting and, often, information systems.  I recently interviewed Dan Black with Ernst & Young about Getting Your Foot in the Door with Ernst & Young.  Read this article and you will learn a lot about E&Y and the world of multinational accounting and consulting firms.  It’s a a great world but it is certainly not for everyone.  Study it carefully to see if it might be a good fit for you.

Find employers through your campus career center

The Career Center at UMUC has some valuable resources, including online  lists of Industry Specific Websites, an on-campus interviewing program, and virtual career fairs.  Accounting firms – big and small – frequently use college career centers  as the hub for their campus recruiting activities.  Other big companies that recruit information systems and accounting graduates also recruit on college campuses – companies like Northrop Grumman and General Mills.

There may some potential job opportunities right under your nose; in your campus career center.

Connect with accounting professionals through professional associations

Professional networking is a key to success in the job search.  The best way to connect with accounting professionals is to meet them where they gather – at professional association meetings and activities.  Most professional associations also have online job boards or career resources as part of their websites.  Check out the following:

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
American Society of Women Accountants
Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering International
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
National Association of Black Accountants (NABA)
National Society of Accountants
The Institute of Internal Auditors
The Institute of Management Accountants
Wisconsin Institute of Certified Public Accountants

Use the niche job boards that focus on your areas of expertise

You are in Maryland. Did you know that there is an online job board for accounting jobs in the Washington DC area?

Have you heard of – claiming the largest collection of accounting jobs on earth.

Explore all your options, where ever they might be.

Think Small

Small business, that is!  Just about every business, governmental agency, church, school and non-profit needs accounting support.  Small businesses don’t recruit the same way big ones do.  They look to the local talent pool first.  They depend on word-of-mouth referrals from their friends, clients and colleagues to find candidates.  Just because a company doesn’t recruit on a regular basis doesn’t mean they don’t have periodic needs.  If you want to work in your local community.  Look locally, and often that means looking “small.”

Let your priorities be your guide

What are you looking for in a job?  Money, power, schedule flexibility, proximity to home, opportunity for growth, good benefits, prestige, etc. Sometimes your goals are compatible; sometimes they conflict with each other.  You need to negotiate these conflicts with yourself!

What you are looking for in a job will help you decide where to look and what kinds of jobs and industries to pursue.  Accountants are needed just about everywhere.  Your challenge will be narrowing down your options enough to make your job search manageable.

I hope these tips help get you started,


Getting Your Foot in the Door at Ernst & Young

EY Logo BlackAbout Ernst & Young

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transactions and advisory services, employing over 167,000 people in 140 countries around the world.  Ernst & Young recruits highly skilled professionals who embody its core values:

  • People who demonstrate integrity, respect and teaming.
  • People with energy, enthusiasm and the courage to lead.
  • People who build relationships based on doing the right thing.

Detailed information about career opportunities for students, experienced candidates and executives can be found on the Ernst & Young Career Page.

Dan BlackAbout Dan

Dan Black is the Americas Director of Campus Recruiting at Ernst & Young. He has been recruiting on college campuses for Ernst & Young LLP for more than 15 years. Dan began his career with Ernst & Young LLP in 1994 as an Auditor, and he has never looked back! A licensed CPA with direct experience serving clients, Dan is passionate about building the future of business by providing opportunities to the best and brightest young talent and leveraging their considerable skills.  Dan earned a master’s degree in human resources from Fordham University in 2002 and a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Binghamton in 1994.  He currently services on the Board of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE); in July, he will begin his term as the 2013-14 NACE President. team spoke with Dan to learn more about Ernst & Young. Here are some insights he shared during his interview.

Tell me a little about your company

I like to say: “Ernst & Young is not your father’s accounting firm!”

Very often, big accounting and professional services firms like Ernst & Young are stereotyped as being old school, people wearing visors, punching away on calculators.

In reality, Ernst & Young does a lot more than that!  In addition to having a thriving Assurance practice and a leading Tax practice, we have dynamic Transactions and Advisory practices and consulting clients on matters such as Risk, Performance Improvement and IT, among others.  A lot of students don’t know that until Ernst & Young’s recruiters tell them

As a result, Ernst & Young recruits students from a variety of disciples in addition to Accounting, such as Finance, MIS, IT, Economics and Law, just to name a few. These are the qualifications and competencies our clients expect of us, so they are also the qualifications and competencies we look for in new hires.

So, no more green visors and arm garters?

Green-Visor-AccountantYou might still find a few old school professionals with visors and garters tucked away somewhere, but Ernst & Young is a 21st-century company.

What kinds of opportunities do you recruit on-campus to fill?

We hire from campus for opportunities in all of our client-serving practices: Assurance (Audit), Tax, Transactions, and Advisory Services.

The candidates we hire get the chance to explore a variety of opportunities within their practice.

How important is a student’s specific college major for these opportunities?

Our industry is strictly regulated, so we need to be very specific in the majors we recruit.  Over 95% of our hires are Business majors, and the majority of those are in Accounting-related fields, with the balance in Finance, MIS, Business Law, Economics and other Business-related majors.

How do students interested in working in other areas of your company apply/express their interest?

All positions outside of our campus recruiting efforts — from support to management to executive positions — require more experience. To apply as an experienced hire, candidates should start with the online application process on our website.

The Careers section of the Ernst & Young website is a great resource.  It’s not a “black hole” for applications; every application that comes in via our website goes directly to the desktop of the recruiter linked to the requisition and tasked with finding candidates to fill the position.

You can also find us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.

Most importantly — use your network!

Nearly half of our non-campus hires come from employee referrals, so if you have any kind of connection to someone who works for or has worked for Ernst & Young, see if they will refer you.  It doesn’t have to be someone you’ve known your whole life; it just has to be someone who knows enough about you to be willing to help you get your foot in the door.

Face time doesn’t hurt either.  If you can connect personally with someone in a local office, go ahead and do so; just don’t neglect the online application part of the process.

What do you look for in candidates?

Degree aside, we look for the following key competencies:

First, Academic success is key.  While academic performance (your GPA) is not an end all be all, your academic performance does show us how well you are doing your current “job” (being a student).

Communication skills are also critical.  The success of our entire business is based on our ability to communicate effectively with our clients and with each other, verbally and in writing.  We look for this from the get-go.  We even require writing samples from candidates for some of our positions; it’s that important!

Finally, Teamwork is essential.  Ernst & Young is known for being a very diverse and inclusive organization, so you must be able to work well with people with different skills, backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, sexual preferences, etc.  We evaluate candidates thoroughly for this competency.

How does Ernst & Young create a welcoming culture for a diverse workforce?

First, through customization — We give our people options in methodology (how they get their work done), technology (what tools they use to get their work done) and work style (when and where they get their work done).  When you can give people options in customizing their work life, you are creating a welcoming environment.  When you say, “This is the way we do things around here,” you are not.

Second, through affinity groups — It is easier to succeed in and assimilate into a new environment when you can work with people with whom you share something in common.  And, we don’t just mean gender and ethnicity. We consider educational background, geography, alma mater, etc.  We offer a wide variety of informal and formal affinity groups, which we call Professional Networks, so our people can join them to help make transitions during their time with us easier.  Some really great mentoring relationships develop out of these Professional Networks.

Third, through listening and adapting — We offer people a lot of ways to express their opinions and suggestions regarding how we can improve what we do and how we do it.  For example, we have a People Advisory Forum comprised of staff from all levels of the organization and chaired by our Americas Managing Partner Steve Howe, our highest-ranking leader.  These folks get the direct ear of Steve and can share what they hear from their perspective.  This open culture and willingness to listen help us adapt our practices to meet the needs of our clients and our employees.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to work for your company?

Find something you are passionate about and be truly engaged in it—whether it is your community, your fraternity or sorority, your job, your internships, or something else. It’s not just about being involved, it’s about being deeply engaged and passionate about what you are doing, taking on a leadership role, and making a difference.

In addition to their coursework, what do you recommend students do while they are in college to prepare to enter the workforce?

Prepare for the change that is coming.  If you wait until you start working to begin that adjustment process, you’ll be in for a rude awakening.  How are you going to change your overall time management approach overnight?  You’re not!  Trust me, a “full schedule” takes on a whole new meaning once you hit the workforce.

Make connections.  Don’t wait until you get into the workforce to build and cultivate professional relationships.  Networking is a skill you need to nurture, so start early and build relationships.  It will pay off.

Don’t make any decisions about your first job in a vacuum.  Where should you live? What should you wear? What are your commute options? What should you read to stay aware of current world and industry events?  Take the guesswork out of it.  Ask recruiters and future peers for their advice on your workplace.  They will be happy to help and will recognize your initiative in asking for their help.

What are some of the classic mistakes you have seen students make when interviewing with you?

Talking too much —There IS such a thing as a comfortable silence.

Talking too little — Don’t make the recruiter pull teeth to learn about you.

Bad mouthing other organizations or people — Focus on your positives not someone else’s negatives.

Know the company — Show your interest and motivation to work for that company, not just any company.

What are some of the most impressive things you have seen students do when interviewing with you?

Answering the “Why Ernst &Young?” question well — Particularly comparing us favorably to our direct competitors.

Staying positive — It’s easier said than done, I know, but don’t be nervous and stay positive.

Giving thorough but concise answers —Say enough to answer the question, and then stop talking.

Remember, be specific, be recent, and show what you accomplished and how you contributed.

Also, you should smile! Show you are happy to be there.  It’s okay to show some personality and emotion.

If you knew then what you know now: What advice do you have for college students as they plan for life after college and getting that first job?

Life is a marathon, not a sprint!

Much of what you will do after you graduate will be nothing you would have predicted.  That’s okay.  Don’t be too specific about what you want too early on because you might miss out on something great.

Kick the tires on careers and companies.  Get past the happy talk and brochures and really find out for yourself whether or not a college, company or job is a good fit for you.

Get help.  Seek the advice of others, including parents, mentors and teachers. Make your own assessments, but don’t neglect the wisdom of others when making your decisions.

What should I highlight on my resume – my unrelated work experience or my related classroom experience?

accountingWenjing from Seattle University asked:

I earned my Bachelor’s in Accounting last year. I have two years experience as office assistant, five years as retail clerk and three months as tax preparer. What is your advice if I want to pursue an accounting-related position? Should I add more classroom experience on my resume since it is more related to the career I want to pursue, or it is better to focus on my work experience over my classroom experience?

Hi Wenjing –

If you have a degree in accounting and you wish to pursue a career in accounting, your resume should highlight those aspects of your qualifications (education, skills, and characteristics) that illustrate your ability to work in accounting.  It’s really that simple.

Your resume is a one page advertisement for YOU.  How you use the space on your resume tells the reader what you think is important for them to know about you.  If you use a lot of space emphasizing your unrelated work experience and you minimize the space you use emphasizing your related experience, you are telling the reader that your related experience is less important than your unrelated experience.

Your coursework in accounting (particularly the applied – non theoretical – coursework) is what will make you a strong candidate to work in accountancy. Highlight that information.  Tell that story.

Your unrelated work experience shows that you are dependable, show up for work, understand the difference between the college world and the work world, are disciplined, have good time management skills, and a variety of other things about your character, work ethic an experience.  These are all important qualities, characteristics and experiences, but they don’t have anything directly to do with accounting.

This is not an “either/or” situation, it’s a “both, but in proper proportion to your objectives” situation.

Remember, your resume is a marketing document, not an informational document. You must be intentional in what you include/leave out and emphasize/de-emphasize.

Good Luck!


How can I get a job in my career field with a degree but no experience?

accounting-careersKymeiko from DeVry University asked:

I will be graduating with my Master’s in Accounting in the next eight weeks, however, I have no experience that can get me in the door of any company. I also have a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management, but again, I have never worked in the field. I am not sure how to market myself in order to get into my career field. How do I write an effective resume that can get me a running start in my field?

Hi Kymeiko –

First, congratulations on the near completion of your Master’s in Accounting!  Earning a graduate degree is quite an accomplishment!

Now – what are you going to do with that degree? One of the statements in your question to me was very important:

I am not sure how to market myself in order to get into my career field.

How you address that issue will be key to how you answer your primary question.

Basically – what is your career field?

You are completing a graduate degree in accounting.  Do you wish to be an accountant?  If so, are you preparing to take the CPA exam?  If so, when?  If not, why not and what do you wish to do in accounting without a CPA?

You have an undergraduate degree in business with a focus on human resources.  Do you wish to work in human resources? If so, in what area(s)?

While both of your degrees are in business, they are both in different fields.

The Good News

A degree in accounting is a very tangible and professionally relevant degree, and there is nearly always a need for accountants and accounting support everywhere.  Accounting is a field with very clear and universally accepted standards and credentials, and most accounting curricula translate very well to the work place.  That is, the courses you took at the university probably prepared you well to enter the workplace.

The Bad News

Candidates with some experience nearly always have an advantage over those with no experience. Understand that your lack of direct experience is probably going to impact the level and types of positions for which you will be competitive and the level of compensation you can expect.

What kind of resume should you prepare?

First, talk to the advisers in your University’s career services office. They will have advice and may have some examples for you to consider.

Next, check out my Resume Writing Guide and the sample resumes in my Resume Gallery.

Your resume should be a targeted documents that focuses on the aspects of your education, experience, skills and qualities that are important to prospective employers.  So, if you are interested in pursuing a career in accounting, you should focus on your accounting qualifications in your resume.

What about your lack of experience?

You have two degrees, so the question of experience is going to come up in interviews.  You have to be prepared for it.  Your answer has to be truthful, authentic and relevant, which means your answer is unique to you.  There is not a stock answer you can offer.

So, what is your story?

Did you complete your degrees while working full-time or part-time in other fields to pay your way through school, thus preventing you from being able to do an internship or gain other kinds of directly relevant experience?

Did you choose to focus only on classwork and consciously decide not to to internships or get other directly relevant work experience  while completing your degree?

I will bet that your response is somewhere in between those two extremes.  I’ll further bet that you do have some experience, and that some of that experience is directly relevant to one or both of your degrees.

Accounting is a very hands-on curriculum.  You don’t just study the practice of accounting, you learn how to do it, ao you probably have taken some very hands-on classes that have given you direct experience in the field.  Experience that will help qualify you for entry-level positions in accounting.  If you have held jobs in other fields, you do have workplace experience; and workplace experience of any kind is better than no experience at all.

I’ve responded to a similar question in the past:

What is the best way for a “first timer” to look for a job?

I recommend you review that post also, as it offers some good advice relevant to your situation.

Hope this helps.

Good Luck!