Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Smart Guy With Useless Masters Wants to Know How to Break Into Public

This is a good one. A really good one. If you have a good question for us (none of this crap we’ve answered before nonsense), please get in touch.

The lesson we learn here is that: A) not all Masters degrees are created equal and B) appreciate those networking and recruiting events you get at school because not everyone is so fortunate.

Hi GC,

Just need some advice and suggestions on how I should approach my accounting future. I finished my MBA – Accounting from Keller (Graduate division of Devry) about 2 years ago. I have a really good GPA (3.72), and I have some years of experience of accounting in private industries under my belt (3 years of being staff accountant). I also got a job recently as an Senior Accountant in a non profit organization. However, my true goal has been to get into public accounting, and I have tried and tried to breakthrough with no avail. Even before my recent job, I have applied to many entry level positions at any and every accounting firms (small, big 4, and in between) and no response. NONE… Networking and job assistance at Keller/DeVry is a joke… I sometimes regret going there…

As for the CPA exam, I am working on them right now. None passed so far, but I am really aiming for finishing it by the end of this year.

Something that piqued my interest recently is that CSUN is offering a Master’s in Accounting program this fall. I have already applied, and I have a good chance of getting in. However, I don’t know if its a worthwhile endeavor.

My question is, should I go back and get another master’s for the whole chance of getting networking and interning opportunities? It feels like it might be a waste of $20000 just for that… but then again, I spent about $50000 at Keller/DeVry for hopes of getting into public accounting with no result… and just because I’ll be attending an MSA program doesn’t mean that it’s a lock in getting into public accounting either…

Another thing that interested me is a MST program, possibly from Cal State Fullerton, or again, CSUN. However, time is an issue for me. I’m in my early 30’s already, and waiting another year seems like a death knell to my already slim window of opportunity in getting into public accounting.
Does anyone have advice on how I can get my foot in the door into public accounting?

Any feedback will be appreciated!



Hopelessly Frustrated

Dear Hopelessly Frustrated,

If I spent $50,000 on a degree that won’t help me get a job, I’d be Incredibly Pissed Off so congrats on taking this so well. Your frustration is warranted, however, I have seen that Keller complaint before – did you do your due diligence before you forked over that kind of cash or was this a case of you getting suckered into their Masters/CPA review package without reading the fine print? Either way, I am really not going to tell you to go get another Masters just to bump into a few recruiters on campus, that’s a dumb idea and you don’t seem like a dumb guy. I mean if you’d do that just to get a Big 4 job, why not just bring a suitcase stuffed with $100 bills to your nearest Big 4 office and tell them you’ll work for free in exchange for work experience?

You’re right that at 30-something your chances of breaking into public are slipping by the day, old man. My thought on this is that at 30, you have pretty much formulated your opinions on the world, lost the idealism of your youth and settled into who you are pretty comfortably. Of course, the Big 4 don’t like hiring people with solid opinions about how the world works, it’s much easier to take on an army of starry-eyed 22-year-olds eager to be told how they feel and what they think.

That being said, sounds like you have a lot to offer, especially if you knock out the CPA exam. I have difficulty believing you cannot get in with any firm; when you say you’ve been trying, what exactly have you been trying? Lingering outside of recruiting events pretending that you attend that school? Waiting outside in the parking lot to pounce on HR people?

If you haven’t already, I would get your ass on the good old Internets and start networking like a motherfucker. There are tons of recruiters lurking on Twitter and LinkedIn, and the better your professional presence on these sites, the higher your chances of bumping into one. It can’t hurt.

Firms do troll the schools you mentioned (both CSUN and Cal State Fullerton have – believe it or not – decent accounting programs, at least by California standards) but do you really want to be elbowing 25-year-olds out of the way at awkward recruiting events? Instead, I would advise getting active with CalCPA and hitting any other professional networking events (like AICPA conferences) you can afford. It’s all about who you know, and if you know enough people, eventually one of them is going to know where you can get in and be so impressed with your decent GPA, previous experience and communication skills that they will put in a good word for you. It can’t hurt. Another $20,000 on a second degree, however, sounds pretty painful.

Good luck!