So you’re good with figures and your industry is doing well, with projected estimates saying there will be at least 4% more jobs for accountants in the decade to 2029.
But you want to increase your personal income figures with a new public accounting job. How do you get the attention of employers or recruiters who are deciding who to hire next?
The secret is in a couple of pieces of paper. Your resume. We’re going to show you how it can work for you.
Resume objective for public accounting
Traditionally, a resume objective stated your aim and purpose of getting a particular job. But many people today believe they are outdated and unnecessary.
The argument, generally, is that applicants tend to repeat the job description, stating, for instance, that they are seeking a job in public accounting that will allow them to do exactly what the job description states.
There is no point in that kind of objective because it says nothing about you, your skills, or even your true objectives.
What you need to do, if you opt to write a resume objective, is to use it to make a commanding opening statement that says, Look at me! See how I can help you!
The recruitment company Monster concedes that many people opt to exclude resume objectives but acknowledge that they can help with accounting job searches.
The key, their experts say, is to ensure that you tailor the objective to satisfy the requirement of the job. Use it to show hiring managers that you have what it takes to succeed in the position and how you will make a difference.
Just keep it short and relevant. If you’re a certified public accountant (CPA), mention it here, and later on, because it can make a big difference.
Certified public accountant with excellent analytical and computer skills and an eye for errors. Keen to impact employer growth.
Resume skills for public accounting
You know you are skilled, but you need to show potential employers what your skills are and how they will impact you positively when you work for them.
According to the U.S. Western Governors University, which has an online business college, it’s vital to differentiate between the different types of skills required for different public accounting careers.
Additionally, there are hard skills that enable you to perform your job functions and soft skills that make a difference in the way you interact and communicate, but which aren’t necessarily accounting related.
Hard skills will enable you to perform vital accounts payable and receivable functions, manage vendor accounts, forecast budgets, and handle payrolls.
They will also give you the capacity to work with bankers, solicitors, and insurers and manage the financial situation of the company while you do so.
Your hard skills will also give you the training to understand and undertake financial reporting using generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). And they will ensure you get it right when you handle tax issues.
Soft skills relate to communication, customer service, critical thinking, leadership, and so on.
Also, throw in some of the skills or competencies mentioned in the job description. These keywords can make a difference.
Analysis | Communication | Critical thinking | Math | Organization | Integrity | Technical competence | Reliability | Tax | Financial reporting
Public accounting work experience
The work experience you have garnered will depend on the length of time you have been in the business. If you recently graduated, you might not have any work experience other than an internship or two.
We scoured through scores of job adverts for accounting posts and noticed that interns were commonly offered positions assisting with tax returns for about three months during the busy season every year.
So, if you’ve opted to specialize in tax, it will be relatively easy to get work experience in that field right from the start.
Ideally, you want your resume to show that you have the experience that relates directly to the type of job you are applying for. If you’ve done different types of jobs, identify skills and duties that are common to the job you hope to get.
Also mention computer skills that you have and software you have mastered.
When we sampled job postings to see the minimum qualifications required for public accounting jobs, we noticed that they tended not to headline them Public Accounting, even when a CPA was required.
Rather, what distinguishes a public accounting job from a private accounting one is that it requires accountants who provide tax, auditing, advisory, and consulting services. Clients include corporations, governments, and nonprofits.
The Big Four public accounting firms are Deloitte, Ernst and Young, KPMG, and PWC.
Sample Work Experience
Intermountain Healthcare, UT
Accountant II, 2019 – 2020
As a CPA, safeguarded the company’s assets through monthly accounting operations and internal controls, ensuring all financial reporting was accurate and 100% compliant.
- Prepared journal entries and reviewed accounting classifications.
- Reviewed financial statements at month-end and was responsible for the month-end close of a business unit.
- Reconciled, analyzed, and reviewed complex revenues, expenses, and balance sheet accounts.
- Acted as an accounting technical resource to others, frequently coordinating and reviewing other accountants’ work.
U.S. Department of the Air Force, FL
Accountant, 2017 – 2018
Served as a public accountant in a developmental capacity performing assignments designed to develop analytical and evaluative skills and techniques.
- Participated in 23 special initiatives, studies, and projects. Prepared all the written correspondence and other documentation.
- Independently reviewed and audited records and reports to determine the extent and nature of deviations from established procedures.
- Resolved technical accounting problems and developed new ways and methods to accomplish office tasks and objectives.
- Obtained and maintained a secret security clearance.
Lands’ End Inc., WI
Internal Audit Internship, 2016
Worked as a paid intern for 12 weeks during the summer vacation. Heavily involved in the audit testing required under the new Sarbanes/Oxley law to protect investors from fraudulent financial reporting by corporations.
- Received one-on-one mentorship from top professionals.
- Assisted in planning, performing, and reporting on financial and operational audits under the direction of the internal audit manager.
- Exposed to all levels of company management, the daily operations of the company, and to the company’s Big Four accountants.
Public accounting education
A public accountant needs at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field like finance or business.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers sometimes prefer hiring accountants who have a master’s degree in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting. Many also prefer hiring public accountants who are certified, see Certifications below.
Some colleges and universities have specialized programs that combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree and allow accountants to specialize in internal auditing, tax, or forensic accounting.
There are also associate’s degrees for accountants, but they will generally start out in junior positions, working their way up by advancing their skills on the job.
Internships play a great role in accounting education, and even though they aren’t compulsory, most universities encourage students to work as interns while they are studying.
In fact, internships have become an integral part of the education process and can help entry-level public accountants get jobs because of the work experience they offer.
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting, 2016 – 2019
The most common reason for public accountants to take courses after they have graduated is to become certified or recertified as a CPA.
Many universities and colleges offer certification programs as well as continuing education courses.
Since a bachelor’s degree generally requires between 120 and 128 credits to pass, and the requirement for sitting the CPA exam is 150 credits, graduates have to make these up either in a CPA program or by studying for a master’s degree.
While the programs differ in terms of detail, various institutions offer the opportunity to gain credits that count towards the CPA exam both ways.
As an example, the University of Washington’s Professional & Continuing Education department includes a CPA program that includes 26 quarter credits of upper-level accounting study, which when combined with financial and managerial accounting credits provides the 36 quarter credits required to sit the CPA exam in Washington State.
Most other colleges and universities offer similar programs as well as continuing education courses.
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) offers CPA candidates taking the CPA exam a free six-month subscription to online access of the authoritative literature used on the exam.
Lorman Education Services, which offers on-demand training including continuing education credits, offers a range of finance and accounting courses designed to help all those in accounting fields stay current, compliant, and up-to-date.
- CPA Core Courses include:
- Introductory Financial Accounting
- Introductory Management Accounting
- Intermediate & Advanced Financial Reporting
- Corporate Finance
- Audit and Assurance
- Performance management
- Advanced Accounting Rules & Regulations
- Finance Administration & Compliance
- Accounting and Finance Policies & Laws
One of the most important decisions a PA is going to have to make after graduating with a bachelor’s degree is whether or not to follow through with certification.
Becoming a certified public accountant takes time and commitment. But as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook states in the chapter on accountants and auditors, becoming a licensed CPA, could improve your job prospects substantially.
While the requirements for a CPA (commonly referred to as a chartered accountant in many parts of the world outside of the U.S.) are pretty standard throughout the U.S. details do differ from state-to-state.
But what doesn’t vary is the need to complete a total of 150 semester hours of college coursework. And that is 30 hours more than the hours required to get a bachelor’s degree!
In reality, that means that PAs will need to continue studying for a further year or so to become certified.
After graduating, and earning the title of Public Accountant, the choice is to continue studying or to enter the workforce and start earning money.
Some graduates opt for a Master’s degree that gives them the extra college hours plus the additional experience and prestige – and the opportunity to earn more. Others are happy to work as a PA.
Complete public accounting resume sample
While researching this article we sampled a wide variety of job postings for public accounting positions. We decided to use the one below for a sample resume, to help you tailor your resume to meet the requirements of the job you decide to apply for.
You will see that the company advertising for a financial management associate is KPMG, one of the Big Four public accounting firms. The successful applicant will join their consulting practice and will take part in large-scale financial transformation efforts aimed at specific markets.
They are very specific in terms of the experience and qualifications they want their new associate to have. Proficiency in specific computer software is important and they want a graduate, preferably a CPA.
Certified Public Accounting
Certified U.S. public accountant with five years of experience inspired to consult and be a part of financial transformations. Excellent computer and communication skills. A people person who is good with numbers.
Financial management | Collaboration | Teamwork | Marketing | Project office management | Written and verbal communication | Software and computer skills
Pinellas County Government, FL
Internal Auditor, 2019 – 2020
Conducted audits, investigations, reviews, and consulting projects following the strict standards set by the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing and the Principles and Standards for Offices of Inspector General.
- Performed 100s of interviews, collected supporting documentation and reviewed facts to substantiate conclusions in investigations.
- Evaluated internal accounting and administrative controls in relation to cost benefits and effectiveness.
- Assisted in providing counsel and advice to county officials on matters relating to audit and investigative reports, special studies, and various documents making recommendations.
- Assisted the State of Florida, federal, and independent auditors and investigators.
FCCI Services Inc., FL
Internal Auditor, 2017 – 2019
Assisted in the development, support, and execution of the company’s annual risk-based Internal Audit Plan that included financial, operational, information systems, and compliance areas.
- Participated in various operationally focused projects and activities related to the company’s internal control program.
- Managed 15 of these projects with different teams.
- Developed scops and comprehensive work programs.
- Evaluated risks and determined appropriate, effective testing techniques, and performed control tests.
Hancock Askew & Co., LLP, FL
Audit Intern, 2016
Spent four months working for the company performing detailed audit procedures on financial statement account balances, preparing and adjusting work papers from trial balances supplied by clients.
- Recognized potential problem areas in specific engagements and discussed them with the engagement supervisor.
- Prepared, compiled, and reviewed financial statements.
- Drafted annual financial statements including footnote disclosures.
- Became proficient at preparing financial statements using the company’s software programs.
- Named Hancock Askew Intern of the Year for 2016.
- CPA since 2017
University of Florida, Warrington College of Business
Master of Accounting, 2017
- 3/2 Program
University of Florida, Warrington College of Business
Bachelor of Science in Accounting, 2013 – 2016
- Professional continuing education courses for CPA
Public accounting is a popular field for entry-level and more experienced accountants, some of whom choose certification and therefore study longer and harder. Those who do will vouch for the fact that it is worth the effort in terms of responsibility, interest, and income.
Whatever your decision:
- It is not necessary to include an objective in your resume but if structured as a short introductory statement that catches the attention of recruitment managers, it can be very effective.
- Match the skills you have with the skills described in the job description and include both hard, learned skills and soft skills that illustrate the kind of person and the abilities you want to share.
- Work experience is a vital part of any resume. If you don’t have much, include internships or even university projects or volunteer work, if you’ve done any.
Tips from Experts
“When considering what should be included in your Big Four Public Accounting resume ask yourself what is the key sell that you have for the company. What is the thing that you are pushing? I want that to be close to the top of your resume. Also, say where you are in the CPA process. CPA is everything – the flagship certification in the industry. Even if you haven’t started it, what is your plan to complete all four sections, and by when?“ – Andrew Argue, the Bean Counter LLC, Guide to a Successful Accounting Career
“I normally object to objective statements being on a resume, but there are some key situations where, if you use an objective statement, it can seriously prevent you from being rejected. The objective statement can be the antidote to avoid the two-second trash. It can quickly debunk the reason they are going to reject you. Use an objective statement to explain irregularities in your resume – you’re shifting industries, changing your career – so they don’t just toss out your resume.“ – Madeline Mann, Self Made Millennial on YouTube
“The most important piece of information for an experienced hire candidate to include on his or her resume is their accomplishments! Some examples (try to quantify if possible) are:
- Earned the highest performance rating every year by exceeding goals
- Surpassed sales goals by 25% year over year
- Designed and implemented a new process that resulted in an overall firm cost savings of 20%“ – Deloitte
To sum up. When you apply for a new job as a public accountant, you need to show what value you will add to the company. You also need to show how your skills and abilities meet the job description.
Study the tips and ideas we have given you and use what you can to write a compelling resume. Keep it short, interesting, and meaningful.