If you’re considering working in accounting in the future, a summer internship can provide you with an idea of what to expect and also open doors for you when the time comes to look for a graduate job.

All major accounting firms use their internship programmes as an opportunity to discover future candidates for graduate roles, so it’s important that you make a good impression. 

When to apply for an accounting internship

You should apply for accounting internships in the penultimate year of your degree, at the earliest available opportunity.

Places are allocated on a rolling basis at the vast majority of firms so it’s important not to wait too long before getting your form in.

Structure of an accounting internship

Accounting internships usually last for 6-8 weeks and you can expect to work a 9am-8pm day on average, with some late finishes to be expected.

Internships usually begin with a week of induction and training, designed to familiarise you with the basics of the accounting industry. Following this, you’ll gain exposure to work in a couple of different departments of the firm (assuming you’re at a Big Four firm or similar).

Your experience is likely to differ greatly if you’re at a high street accounting firm or working as an in-house accountant.

5 things to know before your first day as an accounting intern

Be prepared for long hours

Your working hours for an internship will almost entirely depend on the type of firm you’re at, but it’s probably wise to assume that your working days will be longer than the average.

Make an effort to turn up slightly early each day to give yourself a bit more time to settle in, and only leave once it’s made clear there’s no more work for you to do that day. Don’t assume you can go just because it’s getting near dinner time.

Talk to people

Take every opportunity you get to talk to people who already work at the firm.

Some students on accounting internships can be a bit shy and withdrawn, so being talkative, bright and agreeable will help you make a lasting impression. Talking to people frequently could also help you learn about the industry, which brings us on to...

Ask plenty of questions (and take notes!)

There are lots of terms and jargon to get to grips with on an accounting internship, particularly as many firms will treat you in the same way as a new graduate hire. If something goes over your head or doesn’t seem to make sense, people will always be more than happy to answer your questions.

It’s also a good idea to keep a notebook on you at all times and to write their answers down. If you need to keep asking for the same point to be explained, their patience is likely to wear thin after a while.

Don’t assume you know everything

Don’t get complacent after you’ve settled in and start to assume that you know everything you need to.

There’s a vast amount to learn in this industry, so if you feel like you’ve stopped learning new things, it’s probably a sign you need to be more proactive and gain some exposure to different kinds of work.

You may travel to meet clients

Whether you do so will depend on the firm you’re at and the type of work you’re doing, but at some point during your internship you may be expected to travel and meet clients as part of your work.

Although you’ll always be a junior member of the team and won’t be expected to be heavily involved in any high-profile interactions, it’s important you look the part. Keep a particularly smart outfit on standby in your wardrobe at all times just in case it’s needed.