Accounting Student Earns Big Four Internship
East Stroudsburg University junior Michael Tomei was interviewed for a PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting internship on Oct. 30 and by the end of the day he was offered a position which starts in January.
That’s impressive, considering how selective PricewaterhouseCoopers — or PwC — can afford to be. The company is one of the Big Four accounting firms in the world, along with Ernst & Young, Deloitte, and KPMG. PwC’s offices worldwide grossed $42.4 billion in revenues in the past fiscal year.
Tomei, a native of Brodheadsville, Pa., who is vice president of ESU’s Accounting Society, expects to be working in the Center City Philadelphia office of PricewaterhouseCoopers full-time — and then some. During the height of the busy tax season in March workdays of 11- and 12-hours aren’t unusual.
“I’ll learn a lot because they deal with a lot of different industries, like health care, construction, and the military,” says Tomei. “So I’ll be able to learn a lot about how different types of accounting work. I feel it will give me a broad view in a small amount of time.”
Dr. Sylvester Williams, dean of ESU’s College of Business and Management, says such a prestigious internship will allow Tomei to get hands-on accounting experience at a very high level and give him a great advantage in the job market when he graduates.
“It’s a great process for the firm to vet the student for permanent employment after they graduate,” Dr. Williams says. “So to get an internship with a company like the one he’s going to be working with, that’s a big deal.”
Thom Elicker, a member of ESU’s Accounting Advisory Board and a retired employee of Ernst & Young, is quick to confirm the selectivity of the Big Four accounting firms. Elicker started at Ernst & Young as an auditor who was heavily involved in recruiting and after a stint in industry, returned to the firm. He eventually became director of human resources for its Philadelphia office before retiring in 2009.
Elicker said he used to go on college campuses that had large accounting programs and recruit students to fill full-time jobs. Today students are likely to do internships first but Elicker said the Big Four are also very selective with interns.
He recalls the recruiting process for jobs: “So maybe there’s 50 to 100 resumes that get dropped for a particular job. Then the recruiter culls those 50 to 100 resumes down to 20 students that they’d like to interview. Of the 20 students that are interviewed on campus, about six may be asked into the office for a further interview. Of the six who come into the office for a further interview, two may get an offer and because of multiple offers, you would expect one out of every two to say yes.”
The Big Four internship in public accounting will be valuable to Tomei for whatever he decides to do in the accounting field, Elicker says.
“It’s really the cream of the crop who go into the Big Four accounting roles,” he says. “The students who get into Big Four or any public accounting role can use that then as a springboard to other positions in industry.”
Williams says this is a great time to get into accounting because so many Baby Boomers are retiring.
“You’ve got to replace them,” he says. “That’s why there’s huge demand for accounting students.”
Based on recommendations from ESU’s Accounting Advisory Board, Williams says the College of Business and Management hopes to offer a new course called Accounting Information System in which students will learn computer software programs like QuickBooks and a higher-level class in Microsoft Excel.
“The students use a lot of Excel in accounting, so being conversant with it and comfortable with it and knowing how to use it at a very high level is going to give them a big leg up in the marketplace,” Williams says.
“We want to flip the curriculum a little bit to make sure we’re doing things that leaders in the industry are saying are important skills for the students to have.”
In hiring Tomei as an intern, PricewaterhouseCoopers likely took into account his summer internship with Chestnuthill Township in which he created a manual and online inventory system for the Monroe County municipality. But he thinks his Oct. 30 interviews “helped seal the deal” because firms emphasize not just technical ability but also social skills.
“I want to perform the best that I can because these internships are like basically tryouts to get a full-time offer,” he says.