Read this posting for a different perspective:
Firms Lavish Accounting Majors With Trips, Parties and Offers
By Kim Hart
Friday, July 6, 2007
Katie Piniuk got a lot of yawns from friends when she chose accounting
as her major at Virginia Tech.
But two weeks into her final year, she had lined up 15 interviews with
the biggest firms in the country. Recruiters treated her to trendy
happy hours and fancy steak dinners, wooing her with impressive
salaries, free Cancun vacations and irresistible sign-on bonuses. She
got three job offers in one afternoon.
"I had no idea it would be that easy to find a job," said Piniuk, 23,
who will start at Ernst & Young's McLean office in October.
Accounting isn't typically considered to be the most thrilling course
of study, but number-crunching students have become hot commodities on
college campuses as firms try to keep up with the exploding demand for
Increased scrutiny of public companies coupled with the impending
retirement of thousands of baby boomers have driven accounting firms
to snag the next generation of auditors, bookkeepers and tax experts
as early as possible with promises of plump paychecks and tempting
perks. Some firms are grooming potential interns as early as high
"These firms are so crunched for workers that they've become really
aggressive in their recruiting," said Lindsay Terry, who works in the
office of career management at the University of Maryland's Robert H.
Smith School of Business. "Students are getting serious internships by
the time they're sophomores. The top seniors have had jobs lined up
for years -- and that's after deciding between 12 offers."
The supply of accountants dropped off in the late 1990s as high-tech
professions grew more popular. Yet the need for people with a knack
for numbers has soared in recent years. In response to a raft of
corporate scandals, Congress enacted the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002,
requiring companies to keep much closer tabs on their books.
"Ever since Sarbanes-Oxley, the demand for accountants has exploded,
and it hasn't slowed down," said Charles Ingersoll, principal at Korn/
Ferry International, a recruiting and staffing firm. Nonprofit
organizations and government agencies have also been affected by the
shortage, making the Washington market especially tight, he added.
"Every single sector is struggling desperately to fill these slots."
In the Washington region, workers providing financial and business
services make up the largest professional talent pool, outnumbering
legal and information technology workers by nearly 3 to 1, according
to a recent Greater Washington Board of Trade report, sponsored in
part by The Washington Post Co.
But area universities are not churning out enough graduates to keep
pace with the growing demand. According to the report, about 1,060
local students graduated with a bachelor's or master's degree in
accounting in 2005, leaving about 700 jobs in the region unfilled. The
same year, the Washington area had 1,240 openings for employees with
an associate's degree in accounting, yet local community colleges
graduated only 100 people with the skills. Accountants and management
analysts make up half of the 58,000 business and financial workers the
region will need to hire over the next seven years.
As a result, recruiters often use extravagant perks to lure students
into the field -- and into their companies. Last semester,
PricewaterhouseCoopers threw a beach party on the University of
Maryland's College Park lawn, giving away embroidered lawn chairs,
beach balls with logos and $3,000 spring-break trips. Ernst & Young
threw an ice cream social, and KPMG held a lavish party at a Ruth's
Chris Steak House in downtown Washington for new recruits and their
professors. On the first day of the fall semester, Deloitte & Touche
plans to be on campus to welcome the new class of students.
In the Washington region, entry-level salaries have risen 10 to 20
percent a year for the past four years, to amounts 130 percent above
what is available elsewhere in the country, said John Owen, regional
vice president of Robert Half International, a staffing firm. An entry
level salary typically is $58,000 to $70,000 a year; people with
master's degrees generally start in the range of $63,000 to $80,000.
Last fall, days after starting his senior year at Maryland, Mark
Kaufman, 22, of Silver Spring got eight job offers. He decided on a
position at Beers & Cutler, an accounting and consulting firm in
Vienna where he had interned the previous summer. In addition to a
$5,000 signing bonus, the firm is paying part of his tuition for
graduate school, which he will start in the fall. (Many states,
including Maryland and Virginia, require a fifth year of school or a
graduate degree before students are eligible to become certified
"When I was a freshman, all the seniors told me how great the market
was for accountants," said Kaufman, who graduated in May. He was
president of the school's accounting and business association, which
held meetings that became a popular venue for recruiters looking to
promote their firms to top students. Slots filled up within the first
month of the semester.
"Companies are on a year-long waiting list to get in front of students
at those meetings," he said. "It got to the point where we had to
schedule a career fair just for accounting students."
To reach students like Kaufman, firms have tried to figure out what
today's college students, dubbed the millennial generation, are
looking for in a career. The Big Four -- Ernst & Young, Deloitte &
Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers and KPMG -- have nearly tripled the
size of their recruiting teams and budgets over the last three years,
partly to finance youth-oriented seminars, campus leadership programs
and edgy marketing campaigns. Some firms have posted jobs on Facebook,
a social networking Internet site popular among college students.
Beers & Cutler hired a consultant to get inside students' heads. Last
year the firm gave $250,000 to the University of Maryland and George
Mason University to provide scholarships to accounting students.
Partners at PWC now spend part of their week on college campuses to
teach classes and chat up students. Argy, Wiltse & Robinson, with
headquarters in McLean, promotes a generous reward system, including
20-percent bonuses and rapid promotions. Grant Thornton, a firm with a
major office in Tysons Corner, offers sign-on bonuses to interns and
sends welcome letters to their parents.
Jean Wyer, head of PWC's recruiting, said the firm hires about 3,500
students, or about 80 percent of its workforce, directly from 200
colleges every year. Connecting with students as early as possible is
key to successful hiring, she said.
"If you don't reach them by their sophomore year, you've kind of
missed out," she said, adding that the firm is considering starting
recruiting efforts at the high school level. "We'll probably be in
fifth- and sixth-grade classes soon."