KPMG survey of accounting students discloses what students look for in jobs

Accounting students said career opportunities would be their primary consideration when choosing an employer while work/life balance would be their primary concern once they have entered the workforce, according to a recent survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm.

In the KPMG survey of 2,026 accounting students nationwide, 43 percent said career opportunities would be their top criteria when choosing an employer, followed by 20 percent who said an employer's reputation and culture. Salary and benefits, at 14 percent, was much lower among factors.

The survey also found that when it comes to entering the workforce, 48 percent of the accounting students expressed that work/life balance would be their primary concern, a significantly higher response than 20 percent who said job security and 20 percent who noted money matters (whether they would have enough money to pay their bills and support their lifestyle).

Even when reviewing the responses after the eruption of the financial crisis, work/life balance still remained high among concerns. Of the 939 accounting students who completed the survey after September 15, 2008, 44 percent said work/life balance was their primary concern when entering the workforce compared to 52 percent of the 1,083 accounting students who completed the survey before September 15.

"In choosing an employer, millennials are focused on whether their future employer offers a challenging and engaging career proposition," said Manny Fernandez, National Managing Partner – University Relations and Recruiting. "But once on board, they want the ability to balance their work obligations and personal commitments, and firms that have the right formula on flexibility have an edge."

In other KPMG survey findings, accounting students realize the importance of ethics and integrity. Though 82 percent of accounting students said professors and faculty at their universities stress the importance of maintaining strong ethics and integrity very often, 75 percent said these messages need to be stressed more on campus.

"There are no gray areas when it comes to matters of ethics and integrity and the survey findings reinforce the need for professors and business leaders to communicate more often on this topic," said KPMG's Fernandez.

When asked to what extent would the opportunity of a global assignment during their first few years on the job impact their decision to accept an offer from an employer, 44 percent said it would have some impact followed by 42 percent who said a significant impact. Fourteen percent said no impact.

The KPMG survey also shows most accounting students surveyed (82 percent) would consider working abroad in the first few years of their job. In fact, 94 percent believe international experience would have at least some impact on their career advancement.

Other findings:

  • 67 percent said conversations with current employees will most influence their decision to accept a job offer.
  • 68 percent of accounting students surveyed said they have reduced their spending significantly or somewhat, while 28 percent said they have not altered their spending at all.
  • Most accounting students use social networking sites to keep in contact with family and friends they rarely see (83 percent); only seven percent use these sites to find employment.

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