Becoming an Accountant through Online Classes

One Student’s Journey

We recently posted a blog article about how to complete CPA requirements through online classes.  Here we will go deeper into this topic with an interview of Brian Roberts, a recent graduate of Linfield DCE’s Post-Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate, about his experience taking online accounting classes to pursue a career as an accountant.

Q: What are your reasons for choosing a career as an accountant?

A: I chose a career in accounting because of the opportunities, flexibility and compensation.

Q: What steps have you taken to find out about career opportunities in the field of accounting that you would recommend to others?Accountant Brian Roberts

A: I met with recruiters, joined the Oregon Society of Certified Public Accountants, attended luncheons and talked with people in the industry.  Talking with recruiters was particularly helpful.  They told me what to expect as an accountant and put me in contact with other accountants.  I found that people were eager to help and talk about their careers.

Q: You earned a bachelor’s degree in another field some years ago, and as a working adult you returned to college to achieve a post baccalaureate accounting certificate. Would you recommend this approach to other adults?

A: I would recommend this approach for adults who are trying to  open new doors for their career.  In my situation there were very few opportunities for growth at my work and obtaining a post baccalaureate accounting certificate was one way for me to set my career on a new path.

Q: You have completed your accounting certificate through online courses, and while working full-time. What advice do you have for how to succeed in online accounting courses? What skills made the difference in your achievement in class?

A: Working full-time and taking courses is difficult.  To succeed you must be motivated and disciplined.  I developed a study schedule which meant reading and doing homework on certain nights of the week.

Q: In the online classroom, were you able to establish communication and rapport with the instructor and with other students?

A: Online classrooms encourage students to share personal experiences that help bring the information out of the textbook and into the real world.  I believe that sharing these experiences with the rest of the class helps build communication and rapport with others in the class.

Q:  How did the instructors in your online courses provide materials and assistance that aided you in mastering the knowledge of the courses?

A: The instructors posted links to their favorite websites, they guided the discussion by posing questions and elaborated on topics from the book.

Q: What is the funniest thing that happened in class? The best moments?

A: The best moments from my classes were the times when I could relate the material from the book to something I was experiencing in my job.  I enjoyed sharing these experiences with others and enjoyed it when they could share personal stories that related to our material.

Q: What have you learned from your experience that accounting firms are looking for when they hire staff accountants, as far as education and experience goes?

A: Accounting firms are looking for students who are self-motivated, life-long learners, with communication skills and can manage their time wisely.  These characteristics relate directly to those of us who have returned to school to pursue additional certification.   Also, for better or worse, firms rely heavily on your grades and expect a GPA of at least 3.0.

Q: What steps did you take when looking for employment in the accounting field?

A: Refined my resume, met with career counselors, met with recruiters of accounting firms to determine what they were looking for, asked them about their recruiting events and attended as many as I could.

Q: When would you recommend beginning to make contact with accounting firms?

A: It is important to connect with accounting firms as soon as possible because they typically recruit students one year ahead of time.  Many firms do their recruiting in the fall so if you are midway through the Post Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate you should be applying for positions in the fall before you graduate in spring or summer.  If you are taking 300 and 400 level courses in a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, it’s time to make contact with accounting firms. Some accounting firms have internships, and depending on your present employment situation, you  may want to look into internship possibilities as well.

Q: What professional organizations would you recommend joining for an adult student with plans to become an accountant?

A: I recommend joining the society of CPAs in your state.  In addition many firms have social profiles which you can join to learn more about the company and the industry.  Try searching for a firm you are interested in on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Q: How well do you think that your Linfield accounting courses have prepared you with the knowledge that you will need to pass the CPA Exam and to enter the profession?

A: I believe that my courses have provided me with a strong foundation from which to build upon when I begin to study for the CPA exams and enter the industry.

Q: Now that you’ve achieved the Post Baccalaureate Accounting Certificate, how do you plan to prepare for the CPA Exam?

A: One thing that I have heard from a number of newly Certified Public Accountants is that a review course is very helpful.  I plan to take this advice and enroll in a CPA review course prior to taking any of the CPA exams.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share from your experience?

A: People are eager to help but it is up to you to make the connection.  Recruiters, counselors, advisors, accountants are all available to help you get to where you want to be but it’s up to you to communicate with them and make the most of what they have to offer.

About Brian:

Brian Roberts is a 27-year old father, husband and full-time employee living and working in Portland, OR.  In 2005 he obtained his Bachelors degree in Economics from Portland State University and began working at Linfield College – Portland Campus.  In the fall of 2008 he returned to school through Linfield’s Division of Continuing Education to pursue a post-baccalaureate certificate in accounting.  Brian is looking forward to September 2010 when he will begin a new career at a local public accounting firm.

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