How Do I Choose an Accounting School for the Current Job Market?

accounting2Choosing an accounting program and a school to get the best preparation for an accounting career is a good idea. However, while there is definitely a common resource in most accredited colleges and universities for a standard accounting training approach, different schools will have advantages or disadvantages for helping someone prepare for a local job market. As a result, understanding what a person wants from his own education as well what a given school offers is key to making the process work correctly.

Defining the Need

Most people going into accounting know they want to work as an accountant or perform similar work in some fashion. That said, specific functions don’t often come to mind before one gets into school. The best way to define a need as well whether to local job market wants that type of worker is to research it. Local business magazines often discuss the latest trends in various business aspects and what tends to be the front edge of skill set needs. For example, after the Dodd-Frank Act federal rules were put into place on transparency in 2010, many corporations suddenly had a big need for accountants who also understood computer programming and vice-versa. Looking for these kinds of trends often signals what a local job market really wants in the next few years versus generic marketing.

Know What You Want

There’s no point worrying about certain aspects of a job market if they don’t apply. For example, if a person is going to go out of an accounting program to being a certified public accountant and start his own accounting business right away, then there’s no point worrying about what an entry-level bookkeeper needs for a company. Instead, that student needs to focus on programs that provide the best training on passing the CPA exam and running an accounting or tax preparation business as a sole proprietor or small company.

Vetting the Schools

Once a person has a good idea where the job market criteria is, then he should start probing school class rosters and descriptions for details of what is taught. Using our compliance example above, schools that teach forensic accounting, computer database and financial systems management, auditing, and automated reporting reconciliation will likely meet the local need better than generic accounting. Matching up researched criteria with known school offerings is a great way to pick schools that will be useful for a job search.

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Take Advantage of Networks

Some schools have far better networks with local business communities and alumni than others. These aspects are both big resources for graduates looking for jobs. Focusing on accounting schools with a visible linkage to local businesses and alumni frequently provides opportunities for new graduates to be “helped” by former students already working and employed. Finding out the extent of such resources is an easy matter; just connect with the school’s alumni office and the local newspaper. If the school is heavily connected, it will be apparent by the size of the alumni body as well as frequent reference in the news with partnerships, alliances, and community goodwill.

In Summary

Finding the best accounting school for a job market depends on what a person wants to do, what the market needs in hires, and doing homework. While it may take some time, the research will be invaluable when a student picks the right school for his career.