How Can I Gain Internship Experience in My Field with only an Associate Degree?

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Tasheka from Houston Community College asks:

“I’m currently pursuing an associate degree in Accounting and I’m trying to find an internship that does not require me to be in pursuit of a bachelor’s or master’s degree. My question is, how could I gain experience if no one accept a candidate pursuing an associate degree?  I do plan on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the future, but want to gain experience for a job now.  What can I do?”

Thanks for your question, Tasheka.  Today’s job market is ultra-competitive so I can appreciate the anxiety that you feel.  However, let’s take a step back and put your situation into perspective.  You only need one internship so set a goal of landing your internship in 90 days.

As with any plan, it will take your commitment to fuel your plan with lots of action each day.  Don’t stop campaigning for the internship until you have received the written offer.  If you don’t give up on your quest, you’ll accomplish your objective.

There are many things you can do to take steps forward towards accomplishing your goal.  Below are some specific suggestions that you can include in your efforts.

Diversify Your Internship Search Efforts

Most students targeting internships mistakenly assume employers post all internships online through various job boards and company sites.  Employers are competing for talent similar to the way you are competing for jobs with other candidates.  Current data shows that many employers find employee referrals as a great way to fill job openings.  Recruitment by referrals are utilized for over 25 percent of openings according to recent research.

Internships won’t always be posted online.  So, I suggest that you reverse this thinking by targeting employers.  Don’t wait for employers to post available internships.  Develop a list of 25-50 prospective employers in your area that may have accounting opportunity in line with your skills, experience, education, and interests.  Do some additional research and determine a decision maker to whom you’ll address your letter and resume.  This is a great way to get your value proposition into the hands of the person with the power to start a dialogue and ultimately hire you.  Companies are always hiring.  The downside is that they may not always be hiring on your timeline.  Introduce yourself to the employer before everyone else.

Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for internships to be posted.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.  Remember, you only need one job.

Target marketing and employee incentive referral programs as described above can be very powerful.  Consider adding other internship search methods including:

  • Networking – Engage your network to build your own marketing army filled with individuals who can potentially provide tips, leads, referrals, introductions, job placement, and more
  • Job Leads Via Job Boards Using Double-Hit – After applying online, most go into hope and pray mode as they hope and pray an employer calls them in for an interview. Be proactive with employers by following up on all your applications.  Additionally, target market your value proposition to the hiring manager as well.  Research to determine who the decision maker is and craft a strong message to this individual highlighting how you can help them.  This is a great way to get your resume into the hands of the person who is making the hiring decision.  The first step is to apply through HR, then target the decision maker / hiring manager – the double-hit.  Utilizing this strategy allows you to be proactive, rather than passively waiting for a response.  It can make all the difference in the world to landing an interview.
  • Staffing Agencies – Staffing agencies may have opportunity that is not posted online so research to find an agency specializing in accounting who work with local companies in your area. Robert Half and Associates, Accountemps, and Accounting Principals are a few for you to research and contact.

Network at an Accounting Professional Association Meeting

Contact a local accounting professional association to learn of networking events that they are hosting in the near future.  Sign-up to attend or see if you can attend as a guest to network with local accounting professionals.  These are individuals who may know of opportunity either with their company or firm or with others in the field.  Also, you might consider joining a professional association in the near future as well as this would be another way to build your network, reputation, and circle of influence.  This is a great way to connect with leaders in your industry and learn of employment opportunity.  Most professional organizations post their available positions, including internships through the association’s website or possibly through word of mouth at meetings.  A few local accounting professional associations including University of Houston Professional Accounting Society, American Accounting Association, and others.

Engage Your Personal Network

Make sure to start your search by letting your personal network (friends, family, existing connections – both in-person and online) know exactly the type of job you are targeting and how they can offer assistance to you.  Networking (or engaging the help of others) is, was, and will always be the best job search method – over 60 percent of individuals find their jobs utilizing the help of others.  Be sure to ask for assistance from your network with kindness and humility, while allowing them an easy “out” if they don’t have any leads for you.  If people like you and can help, then they’ll help.  Always offer help back to anyone from whom you are asking for help.  Reciprocate as often as you can as relationships are two-way streets.

Connect with Your Professors

Make sure to get to know your professors, especially those teaching your accounting classes.  Your accounting professors are likely to have significant experience working in accounting.  This is especially true at most community colleges as many adjuncts likely also still work other jobs too.  You likely won’t find any better individuals who can offer you meaningful guidance and assistance.  So, take advantage of their office hours by visiting occasionally as needed to ask for their advice and guidance.  If they get to know you, they might be willing to serve as a mentor, or at the very least, offer valuable insight and advice along with introductions that can be a springboard to landing an interview for the accounting internship you desire. In addition, they may be willing to also serve as a professional reference by receiving calls and / or emails from prospective employers as a part of a background check during the hiring process.

Use Accounting and Internship-Specific Job Boards

There are many job / internship boards out there from which to choose.  Spend most of your time using the aggregator websites like  Also, use websites that exclusively post accounting internships and jobs like Internships, Internship Programs, WayUp, and others.  Sites like these can alert you to accounting internships within the Houston, Texas metropolitan area.

Visit Your Career Center

Your community college offers a variety of career planning and preparation services to its students and recent alums.  Simply put, you should leverage your career center as it is a student resource.  College career centers, like yours, are staffed with knowledgeable, skilled, and credentialed professionals who can provide assistance in a variety of areas including resume review, interview skills training, job search strategy, and more.  Furthermore, they likely have a job site exclusively for current students and recent alums featuring jobs posted with the institution.  Contact your campus career center to up an appointment at your earliest convenience.

Putting It All Together

Make sure to put a full-time effort into your search for the right internship opportunity.  Don’t let your current degree pursuit stand in the way of your goal.  Fuel your search with consistent effort daily incorporating the action items detailed in the post.  As long as you don’t give up on your goal, you’ll land an accounting internship you want in the near future.  This will get your accounting career started, while you pursue your degrees.  Best wishes and good luck!

Here’s to your success,

Bob Nealon


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About the Author

Robert Nealon

For almost 10 years, Bob Nealon has been a South Florida-based career coach, focused on training and coaching college students and professional-level clients to achieve success in their employment search campaign and careers. He has trained over 5,000 clients with strategies on how to best compete in today’s ultra-competitive market to land the job and advance their career. Currently, he is a career coach at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management from Indiana University, a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Indiana State University and is a multi-credentialed career coach holding industry certifications as a Certified Professional Career Coach, Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Certified Empowerment and Motivational Coach, Global Career Development Facilitator, and Florida Certified Workforce Professional. He is an active member of Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, Center for Credentialing and Education, Florida Association of Colleges and Employers, National Association of Colleges and Employers, and National Career Development Association. Connect with Bob via LinkedIn and Twitter.

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