No relevant work experience: Should I get a Master's degree, experience, or both?



WARNING: this ended up being ...well, a GOOD bit longer than I first
imagined it being! I guess that's what studying negotiable instruments
can do to you -- make you want to write about something else forever.

I'm 24 and just graduated this past May with an accounting degree. I
am scheduled to take a few sections of the CPA within the next few
weeks and months. Thus, I have been spending my time since graduation
studying for CPA sections. My plan was to pass all sections within 6
months, but I haven't even taken one yet due to some bad
time-management decisions that are now straightened out for the most
part, but the parents are getting somewhat annoyed (as am I) that I'm
actually *STILL* here. I guess I just found it difficult to
concentrate sometimes when it was (still is though) just me and CPA
review material and all this time until I test. It's just hard to get
the motivation to prepare for a test when the test always seems to be
months away (thankfully that's no longer true, as I take Regulation Feb
28th, which I should be studying for now). I know some may say I have
it easy living at home, but I'd rather be working, as I think it'd
motivate me more. But, regardless of whether or not I pass exam
sections, I will fairly soon be forced to pick up at least a part time
job doing just about anything I can. I've sent resumes out to a couple
of local places, but no response. My overall college GPA was 3.1, with
150 hours, even though I'm still lacking two classes (advanced cost and
advanced financial) to meet the education requirement for licensing in
my state. Of course, licensing is (obviously) not even close to being
the most relevant thing to me right now.

However, I still have a couple of problems. First, for anyone who
actually looks at my transcript, my grades have quite a large
variation. To make a long story short, I did really well my first two
years of college, but I had 2 or 3 fairly poor semesters my last three
years in college, and the rest of my semesters during my last three
years were average, unless you count summer school or my very last
semester (in which I made Dean's list...end with a bang ya know).
However, I did very well in some key classes, such as Intermediate
Corporate Finance for finance majors and Financial Accounting 2 (A's in
both). I'm probably best with financial accounting, as it seems to
come somewhat naturally to me, at least when I give a somewhat decent
effort. However, on a side not, I had an incredibly difficult time
with my systems class. Financial Accounting 2 was so very easy to me
compared to systems. I guess I should have spent more time trying to
learn it, but my flowcharts and data-flow diagrams never seemed to come
out quite right. I hope to improve myself in this area, as I think
it's important, but it just seems so hard to do without being in the
real world. Anyway, after all this procrastination, I guess this brings
us to the first question: do accounting firms always look at college
transcripts? Also, assuming the answer to that is yes, I assume a 3.1
is generally not good enough for a middle-tier firm (and obviously not
for large ones I would think), especially with the variation in my

Another problem is that my only work experience has been work as a
summer hire for the federal government 3 different summers during high
school and college. It wasn't related to accounting. I would have
worked somewhere doing accounting work during other summers, but I had
to take classes. And, yes, I suppose I was a lazy undergraduate. But
just because I was lazy then, doesn't mean I always will be. However,
I realize an accounting firm is most likely NOT going to be wanting to
interview me with a 3.1 and no work experience. Also, I realize that I
did not go through the proper channels. I was actually invited to a
Beta Alpha Psi meeting (even after one of my horrible semesters) and I
realize that most people who get jobs with accounting firms do so
through that or through people they know. I didn't really know
anybody, and I think the professors actually didn't like me too much
(if they even knew who I was or cared) because I really sometimes would
not try very hard.

Anyway, let's get to the point.

There are two plans I have devised. Which one would do you think is
better based on your knowledge of how the accounting world works?

1) Start working doing whatever I can find, accounting or not
accounting, take my CPA sections, and also study for and take the GMAT.
My school uses a formula (based on GPA and GMAT) for an unconditional
acceptance into its graduate program, and, with my GPA, I would need a
580 on the GMAT in order to get an acceptance into its program. I've
taken a practice GMAT before (one from the official site), and 580 is
not out of my range, especially if I study for the math part. I could
enroll this fall, and save up tuition money by working through the
summer. Of course, the problem is I would definitely need to have a
part time job in graduate school, as I doubt the loan money would get
me far enough (although perhaps it could, as I am incredibly low
maintenance in most areas, except food). Ironically, I think my verbal
section came in at a much higher percentile, but that's probably
because I haven't seen geometry or dealt with permutations, factoring,
prime numbers, sequences, etc. in YEARS.

OR I could

2) Forget graduate school, keep sending my resume to places --all
kinds of places all over the country, not just here in my city-- and
keep trying to pass my CPA exam sections, all the while finding work in
whatever I can find as in section 1.

3) Ditch the accounting profession (I don't plan on this option).

Ok, back to negotiable instruments.




I'm going to top post since the OP is so long.

When I was an undergrad, I was advised to find work in the field right
away and work on graduate studies as I worked/gained experience. I
was told that it would be more difficult getting entry level positions
with a higher degree because pay based upon experience versus pay
based upon education would never mesh. So that is what I am doing
and, thus far, it has been to my benefit as my employer is paying for
my classes and will probably also pay for my CPA exam. Besides that,
it is quite helpful to have some practical experience when in
graduate classes.

A 3.1 GPA is not incredibly bad and I have never had a potential
employer ask me for my transcript, only my GPA. If I were you, my
resume would present the GPA, but also present how you excelled in the
courses in which you did. Be sure to include talents you have that
could be related to business, but aren't necessarily related to
accounting as well. I got my current position partially because I was
the editor for my college newspaper for a year and I had designed a
few web sites. Guess what? I work on our web site and edit all
important documents in addition to my accounting duties.

Don't underestimate working before you shell out the dollars for all
of the CPA exam and for graduate studies. A good employer may pay for
these for you. Don't just take a job, any job, unless it is needed
for survival. Work hard to get your foot in the door in accounting.
If lack of experience is causing closed doors, consider volunteering
to do some accounting (the VITA program, local churches, etc...) to
gain a little experience.



Preston Singleton

You mean to tell me you've been doing nothing but studying for the
CPA exam 9 months? Or at least supposed to be studying. You need to
get a job in the accounting profession right away. How are you going
to explain the past 9 months in a job interview? Passing the CPA exam
and getting a Master's degree are important things, but you should be
taking care of those things after hours. Getting experience right now
is the best thing you can do for yourself.


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