How can I get a job in my career field with a degree but no experience?

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accounting-careersKymeiko from DeVry University asked:

I will be graduating with my Master’s in Accounting in the next eight weeks, however, I have no experience that can get me in the door of any company. I also have a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management, but again, I have never worked in the field. I am not sure how to market myself in order to get into my career field. How do I write an effective resume that can get me a running start in my field?

Hi Kymeiko –

First, congratulations on the near completion of your Master’s in Accounting!  Earning a graduate degree is quite an accomplishment!

Now – what are you going to do with that degree? One of the statements in your question to me was very important:

I am not sure how to market myself in order to get into my career field.

How you address that issue will be key to how you answer your primary question.

Basically – what is your career field?

You are completing a graduate degree in accounting.  Do you wish to be an accountant?  If so, are you preparing to take the CPA exam?  If so, when?  If not, why not and what do you wish to do in accounting without a CPA?

You have an undergraduate degree in business with a focus on human resources.  Do you wish to work in human resources? If so, in what area(s)?

While both of your degrees are in business, they are both in different fields.

The Good News

A degree in accounting is a very tangible and professionally relevant degree, and there is nearly always a need for accountants and accounting support everywhere.  Accounting is a field with very clear and universally accepted standards and credentials, and most accounting curricula translate very well to the work place.  That is, the courses you took at the university probably prepared you well to enter the workplace.

The Bad News

Candidates with some experience nearly always have an advantage over those with no experience. Understand that your lack of direct experience is probably going to impact the level and types of positions for which you will be competitive and the level of compensation you can expect.

What kind of resume should you prepare?

First, talk to the advisers in your University’s career services office. They will have advice and may have some examples for you to consider.

Next, check out my Resume Writing Guide and the sample resumes in my Resume Gallery.

Your resume should be a targeted documents that focuses on the aspects of your education, experience, skills and qualities that are important to prospective employers.  So, if you are interested in pursuing a career in accounting, you should focus on your accounting qualifications in your resume.

What about your lack of experience?

You have two degrees, so the question of experience is going to come up in interviews.  You have to be prepared for it.  Your answer has to be truthful, authentic and relevant, which means your answer is unique to you.  There is not a stock answer you can offer.

So, what is your story?

Did you complete your degrees while working full-time or part-time in other fields to pay your way through school, thus preventing you from being able to do an internship or gain other kinds of directly relevant experience?

Did you choose to focus only on classwork and consciously decide not to to internships or get other directly relevant work experience  while completing your degree?

I will bet that your response is somewhere in between those two extremes.  I’ll further bet that you do have some experience, and that some of that experience is directly relevant to one or both of your degrees.

Accounting is a very hands-on curriculum.  You don’t just study the practice of accounting, you learn how to do it, ao you probably have taken some very hands-on classes that have given you direct experience in the field.  Experience that will help qualify you for entry-level positions in accounting.  If you have held jobs in other fields, you do have workplace experience; and workplace experience of any kind is better than no experience at all.

I’ve responded to a similar question in the past:

What is the best way for a “first timer” to look for a job?

I recommend you review that post also, as it offers some good advice relevant to your situation.

Hope this helps.

Good Luck!


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4 responses to “How can I get a job in my career field with a degree but no experience?”

  1. Kymeiko Thompson says:

    Thank you for your advice, and yes I am one of the students who had to work full-time to pay for school as well as take care of my children. This kept me from being able to work internships as I had hoped to do. I do want to pursue my career in accounting with the hopes of getting my certification as a CFE. I did do a management internship with Walgreen when I was completing my Bachelors degree in Business Administration. You also mentioned real world experience through my course work. I did learn how to do journal entries, post to the ledger, running trial balances, etc. Does that actually count as real world experience even though I did it for my class? Also does it really matter whether I get my certification as a CFE or CPA?


    • mattberndt says:

      Hi Kymeiko –

      First, a disclaimer – I am not an expert in all things related to accountancy to take my advice as one piece of advice to consider and not the end-all be-all answer!

      Now – a great big YES! Everything that you have actually done (not just studied) counts on some level as experience, so don’t discount it altogether. The fact that you have worked, interned and raised a family shows reliability, dependability, maturity, workplace savvy and knowledge, familiarity with some business environments, etc. But no one will consider it as relevant experience unless you consider it relevant yourself and are able to tell them why your experience is relevant. You have to be convinced of the relevance of what you offer. Now, is all (or even most) of it going to be directly relevant to accounting; no – but you are trying to get your foot in the door at an entry-level. At the entry-level employers are hiring largely on your potential to do the job, not your proven track-record (as they do in recruiting experienced candidates),

      It will be important for you to think about what kinds/types of work environments you want to target: Small business, large business, public sector, private sector, non-profit, etc.? The dynamics are different in all of these environments, and you want to keep that in mind as you look at potential opportunities.

      Lastly, CPA vs. CFE vs. CIA – Certified Public Accountant vs. Certified Fraud Examiner vs. Certified Internal Auditor? Does it matter? In one word – Yes, it matters because each offer a different type of expertise. If you want to focus on auditing in general, the CIA might make the most sense. Auditing for Fraud? the CFE. General Accounting? The CPA. And, people get multiple certifications.

      The best advice I can give you is to gather as much information as you can and make informed decisions.

      Want more info on the CFE? Go to
      Want more info on the CPA? Check out the resources on
      Want more info on the CIA? Go to

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