I have been working as a staff accountant for three different companies in the past three years. All of them are in Southern California, Orange County, to be exact. From my experience, getting an accounting job in Southern California is not difficult as there are plenty of opportunities around. I think three main factors that determine the success of an accounting jobseeker in this region are education, experience, and job search channels. I will cover these factors in the following parts of this post.
Ideal Education Background to Become A Staff Accountant
Regarding education, the majority of accountants whom I have spoken to earn their degrees from either California State University Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton for short) or the University of Southern California (USC). Many Orange County firms recognize and appreciate degrees from these two universities. In my case, I got my master’s degree in accounting from Cal State Fullerton. I have always been feeling proud of this achievement. To people who are not from Southern California, Cal State Fullerton is not a well-known school. However, to all staff accountants or those who are interested in accounting in Orange County, Cal State Fullerton, along with USC, are the two most famous schools that offer the best accounting programs for both undergraduate and graduate levels. Top CPA firms usually recruit students from these two universities for their accounting and audit positions.
In terms of reputation, USC is more prestigious and popular. It is the number one institution in Southern California for accounting degrees. However, its tuition is high. The annual tuition was approximately sixty thousand dollars in 2019. For a foreigner like me who came to the U.S. as an international student, it is impossible to afford that kind of tuition fees. As a result, Cal State Fullerton is the only reliable option left for students who come from low-income families. Getting an accounting degree from either Cal State Fullerton or USC gives job candidates a big competitive advantage when applying for staff accountant positions.
Minimum Accounting Experience
Concerning experience, if a job seeker wants to get a decent accounting position in Southern California, that person should have at least one to two years of experience. Before I got my first staff accountant job, it was hard for me to land a job interview. I finished my program from Cal State Fullerton at the end of 2016. From December 2016 to when I started my first job in March 2017, I applied for over twenty positions. Nonetheless, I landed only two interviews. One was for an accounts payable position, and the other one was for a junior staff accountant position. I failed in both meetings. I remember in the interview for the staff accountant position, and the interviewers asked me to tell them what I knew about preparing journal entries for month-end closings. I learned about this stuff in one or two accounting classes. Nevertheless, I did not have any practical experience. Thus, I did not know what to answer. I improvised by coming up with a fake story. I was able to see that they could tell I was lying. Needless to say, I did not get the job.
Things got much more manageable after I got my first job. When I applied for my second and third staff accountant position, I got them easily. Because I already had about one year of experience, I knew what to put on my resume, what hiring managers looked for, and how to answer interview questions. One thing that I love about accounting is that staff accountant positions are abundant, regardless of economic conditions. I think this is the most significant benefit of an accounting career. As a staff accountant, I have the option to work for any organization or industry that I like. Whether it is for-profit or non-profit, all organizations and businesses need accountants. For me, I love the academic environment. I hope that I can be an accountant for a college or university in the future.
Another thing that I like is that accounting is mostly the same everywhere. Once you understand and work well in your job in one company, you can do well everywhere else. To sum up, it may be hard to get an accounting job if a person does not have any experience. However, once that person has at least one year of experience, everything becomes much more straightforward.
Job Search Channels for Staff Accountant Jobs
Lastly, about job search channels, it is a lot helpful if jobseekers use the right channels. In my opinion, there are three major channels that anyone should use when searching for new career opportunities. They are staffing agencies, career centers, and online job boards. I got my first job in Santa Ana, California, through an employment agency called Insight Global. After many failed attempts to get hired, I decided to turn to employment agencies for help. They are effective and free. These companies do not charge jobseekers anything. Instead, they charge the hiring companies for each successful job conversion.
In my case, after I submitted my resume to Insight Global, they got me an interview a week later. On the interview date, the manager of my case went there with me. She showed me around the office prior to my meeting and introduced me to the interviewers. She was accommodating. I had to say that the case manager boosted my confidence a bit. She also tried to say nice things about me to enhance my chance. Unfortunately, I did not do well during the interview. I felt like if I had some experience, I would have got the job. About two weeks after that interview, Insight Global contacted me again and referred me to a temporary (temp) position. Because I was jobless at that point in time, I accepted the temp job. It was my first job. I performed well. After three months, the company decided to convert me to a permanent employee and paid the recruiting agency $9,000. My tip is if you are having problems finding a job, please consider using staffing agencies.
The second job search channel that I wanted to mention in this post is the career center, which was how I got my second job in Irvine, California. Right after I graduated from Cal State Fullerton, I signed up to become a lifetime member of the alumni association, which gave me free access to the career center. Through the career center at Cal State Fullerton, I applied for my second staff accountant job. I went through three interviews and got the job without many challenges. The last channel that I wanted to talk about is online job boards. There are hundreds of job websites on the internet.
Nonetheless, I found that there are only two sites that work. They are Indeed and LinkedIn. I have not had much luck with LinkedIn. However, I got my third job through Indeed. To me, the other job sites are pure spam. I posted my resume on those sites and was contacted by spammers constantly to the point where I had to take my resume down from those sites.
Working as a staff accountant in Southern California is not difficult. You can get an accounting job here with little experience as long as you have an acceptable accounting background and know which job channels to submit your resume. If you are living in Orange County or relocating to this region and looking for an accounting job here, I hope my experience and tips are helpful to you. Happy reading!!!