AccountingWEB scholarship winners embark on life after college

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Since graduating college in the past year, the three students who won $500 scholarships from AccountingWEB in 2009 are finding their niche in the accounting profession. Jason Bramwell reports.

Two of the students, Molly Klusek and Hannah Weisner, were recently hired by Big Four tax, audit, and advisory services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (pwc), while Jill Kershaw is participating in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and working to become a CPA while seeking employment.

Molly Klusek, 23, who resides in Queens, N.Y., graduated from the University of Scranton, Scranton, PA, in May with a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting and a Master of Business Administration degree. She credits her professors for getting her prepared for a career in accounting.

"My accounting classes in college were great. I was lucky to have some very intelligent and dedicated professors who guided me through the more advanced courses and even through the process of searching for a job to start my career", Klusek told AccountingWEB.

The Philadelphia native was hired by pwc in September as an auditor in alternative investments. Klusek considers working for a Big Four firm a test of toughness, offering both challenges and opportunities.

"While demanding, [a] Big Four [firm] offers you the chance to gain experience and to advance in different areas of accounting while learning from some of the best in the field, as well as to network within the firm and with outside clients", she said. "I would expect that my experiences will help me in achieving my long-term career goals. I think my career has gotten off to a good start, and I hope I continue to be so fortunate."

One of Klusek’s long-term career goals is working for the FBI in the area of forensics or fraud investigation; however, she’s not against having a lengthy career in accounting.

"While [working for the FBI] is in my mind, my goals could very likely change or even be deterred in the course of the next 10 years", Klusek said. "Of course, I would not be opposed to working in an accounting firm over the long term depending on whether I happen to fall into the right niche and enjoy what I am doing."

Klusek’s fellow pwc employee, Hannah Weisner, graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in May with bachelor’s degrees in accounting and kinesiology.

The 22-year-old resident of East Boston, MA, interned at pwc for three months in early 2009, which was beneficial to her landing a job at the Big Four firm as an assurance associate in August.

"Internships are extremely important because they allow accounting students to get experience in the working world while allowing you to build relationships", said Weisner, who also interned as an internal auditor at Rogers Corp. during the summer of 2009. "I chose pwc for the great opportunities working there and the assistance in obtaining my CPA license."

Besides becoming a CPA, Weisner also hopes to have her Master of Business Administration degree and Ph.D. in the next 10 years.

"I ultimately hope to be an accounting professor at a university in the U.S.", she told AccountingWEB.

Jill Kershaw graduated from Saint Martin’s University, Lacey, WA, in December 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Despite the university’s small accounting department, Kershaw had academic success learning under one instructor who had an unorthodox method of teaching.

"We basically taught ourselves, and we would discuss assignments in class", Kershaw told AccountingWEB. "While I thought at the time it was a terrible way to teach, the study habits I learned and that style of teaching have helped me tremendously in studying for the CPA exam. As a result, studying for the exam is like being in school."

The 44-year-old Kershaw, who resides in Tenino, WA, with her husband and four of her five children, became interested in accounting after helping her extended family with their taxes.

"I really enjoy doing taxes. Getting to decipher tax code and getting a tax return correct really appeal to me", she said. "I needed a career, and my interest in taxes pointed me to accounting."

Kershaw said she is currently looking for employment in the area of Thurston and Lewis counties in Washington State and is hoping to find a job helping people with their taxes or as a fraud examiner.

"One of my favorite classes in college was fraud examination, and I really excelled in that class. My instructor was wonderful and made auditing financial statements come alive", she said. "I also can see myself working in taxation. I volunteered last year for the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and plan on volunteering again this year.

"Truly, my main career goal is to do well for my employer and be an asset to the organization that hires me", Kershaw added.

While looking for a job in the accounting industry, Kershaw is well on her way to receiving her CPA license. "I passed REG in August, am waiting for my FAR score, and will take AUD in November", she said.

All three 2009 scholarship winners said they enjoy the accounting profession because it is both rewarding and challenging for many reasons.

"I think the most rewarding part of the profession is the people you meet, including colleagues and clients. It is great to have people to reach out to for career advice, for on-the-job suggestions, or even to grab a coffee break with", Klusek said. "I think the most challenging part is working on the computer for long hours."

Weisner said the most rewarding part for her is being able to constantly learn and grow. "The most challenging part is balancing work and life in a fast-paced profession", she said.

Kershaw said doing taxes and helping clients get refunds is very fulfilling. "I also love it when everything balances. I think the most challenging aspect is using my judgment and having the confidence to stand by my decision. I don’t want to make mistakes with other people’s money."

They also were thankful and proud of receiving the $500 scholarship from AccountingWEB. Entrants were required to write a 500-word essay on the topic of "Green Accounting Firms." Essays were judged in a variety of areas, including creativity, innovation, quality of writing, structure, logic, and sources/research.

"People typically hold the perception that accountants are only busy filing taxes and counting numbers all day. Thus, I was happy to have my article published by AccountingWEB and, in a way, break out of this mold through writing", Klusek said.

"Getting my education has been one of the best decisions I have ever made", Kershaw added. "[Marathon runner] John 'The Penguin' Bingham said, 'The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.' Earning my bachelor’s degree has helped me set a good example for my kids and will enable me to provide for my family. AccountingWEB was instrumental in that, and I am deeply grateful."

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