It All Adds Up: Simpson Accounting Majors Find Success

By Michelle Hartmann ‘16

Accountants are people who deal with numbers, so here’s one: 35 percent of accounting majors who graduated in May of 2015 from Simpson landed a job at one of the “Big Four” accounting firms.

The so-called “Big Four” are the largest international professional service firms who handle everything from auditing to tax preparation. They consist of Deloitte, pwc, EY and KPMG, and all have branches in nearby Des Moines.

“I’ve heard from employers that they like our program because we stress the degree plus the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) license and strongly recommend considering public accounting,” said Shane Cox, assistant professor of accounting. “Our accounting program has a vision, a focus and guidance.”

A unique benefit of Simpson’s accounting program is the ability to attract representatives of the “Big Four” firms to visit campus. While visits to larger schools are common, Cox said, they only rarely schedule stops at smaller schools.

They come to Simpson because of the College’s track record of preparing students well for the accounting life, and for taking the CPA exam, he said.

Junior Kelli Greiner knew from the moment she stepped foot on the Simpson campus that she wanted to attend college there. An accounting major from Boone, she not only fell in love with the feel of the campus, but she also found professors who are passionate about the subjects they teach.

That led her into the world of accounting.

“The accounting major is very difficult and really makes you work hard and makes you really decide if you want to do accounting or not,” Greiner said. “But the professors make it interesting, know what they are talking about and push you to your limits without going overboard.”

Greiner is one of many students who have been able to secure a semester-long internship at one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms while at Simpson.

Such internships are prized, and many go to high-performing students from the larger state universities. But Simpson students have found a way to stand out to the firms. After attending a leadership conference in Des Moines at EY, Greiner reflected on how Simpson helped her.

“Looking back at it now, I was proud to be the only person from a small school and knowing I can represent small schools,” she said. “We are just as good as the big ones. It made me stand out because I did go to a small school and no one else had that experience.”

Despite the challenges, Simpson accounting majors are enjoying great success landing full-time jobs at one of the four firms.

Simpson’s accounting department prepares students to take the CPA exam the summer after graduation. This means students are able to gain the 150 credit hours necessary for the Iowa CPA Exam in four years, rather than five, which is a benefit of the program.

Cameron Lunsford ’15 now works at KPMG in Des Moines. He believes Simpson’s professors, classes and required credit hours produce graduates who are attracting to the accounting firms.

“They knew I would have my 150 hours for the CPA in four years,” he said. Simpson has been producing above-average accountants for some years now and we are invading all of the big four in Des Moines.”

Rachel Wollschlager ’15 also graduated from Simpson with an accounting degree. She secured a job with EY and knew that her internships and recommendations were a large part of her success.

On average, three accounting students are able to secure a semester-long internship at one of the ‘Big Four’ firms every spring.

“I think ‘Big Four’ firms find Simpson students marketable because many of us have great internship experience and recommendations from professors who were in the field,” Wollschlager said. “Professionals in the field know and trust our professors.”

Professors in Simpson’s accounting department have had corporate experience. They have relationships to people in the field, they stay involved in accounting organizations and they use those connections to help their students.

“The faculty in our department, we don’t come here just to teach and then move on,” Cox said. “We’re student-focused. If we’re not going to bat for our students, going that extra step, then I think that’s a disservice to our students.”

As recent and current accounting majors can tell you, the numbers tell the story. A Simpson education makes a difference.

 

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1 Comment

  1. Carrie Steffen on October 22, 2015

    Kudos to Simpson for recognizing this high-growth profession and creating a winning curriculum to support it. As a Simpson graduate and someone who has worked with hundreds of CPA firms around the country — both large and small — I would encourage Simpson’s accounting grads to look at ALL the firm options. While the Big 4 certainly offer a mystique, there are very interesting, challenging and rewarding careers to be had at next tier firms. A number of the top 200 CPA firms in the country are based in or have a presence in Iowa. Often all the things you love about your small college education (personal relationship with professors/mentors, hands-on experiences, interactions with classmates, opportunities to make a significant contribution, etc) translate directly to the experience you’ll have at a local or regional firm. The Big 4 have lots to offer, no doubt. But don’t overlook opportunities with other firms as well. Be selective accounting grads–you’re in demand!