Located in 'The Big Easy' Tulane University ranks as one of the Top 50 colleges in the country. Fortunately for us, we were able to track down one of their accounting students and ask him a few questions about his experience. For the next installment in our Future of Accountants series, we spoke with Neil Huntsman. Neil is a masters student studying accounting at Tulane and is scheduled to graduate in May of 2015.
What influenced you to pursue a major/career in accounting?
I am the weird kid that knew I wanted to be an accountant since I was a little kid. I remember my kindergarten teacher asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was "office work." Not your typical answer from a kindergartner. I enjoy puzzles and accounting is really one giant puzzle. Any transaction can potentially affect multiple accounts and the behavior of many decision makers in an organization. Accounting is not only recording what has happened but also analyzing the potential impact of those decisions.
Why should other students major in accounting?
While the potential job stability is a definite draw to studying accounting, I strongly encourage students to have a reason beyond a consistent paycheck. I chose accounting because I knew I would never be bored while I was studying or working on projects because accounting requires continuous learning and skill development. The fact that I will always encounter new problems and unique situations is what excites me the most about accounting. Students should pick a major that will make them excited to get out of bed in the morning. I knew I had chosen the right major when I would dream about specific accounting problems I had recently studied. I can attest to the fact that you will enjoy studying so much more if you have a personal interest in your major and do not choose your major based on what everyone else suggests for you.
What has your experience in accounting been like at Tulane University?
The MACCT program at Tulane has been the most challenging part of my academic career, and I love every minute of it. I completed my undergrad at a large public institution and transferred to Tulane for the MACCT program. I am so glad I made the switch to Tulane! The environment at Tulane is perfect for professional education. I can already tell there has been a change in the way I think and process information. My classes are not basic accounting courses where a student learns to book specific entries. My classes stress analytical thinking and problem solving. The class size facilitates discussion with my peers and professors. It was strange to transition to a school where not only do all my professors know my name, but they want to know more about me. That level of personal engagement with professors is what I love most about Tulane. I have already developed many relationships at Tulane that will continue to benefit me throughout my career.
Have you participated in any internships? If so, how many and how were they?
Yes, I have been fortunate enough to complete two internships.
My first internship was for one and a half years during my time in undergrad. I was a tax intern at a small accounting firm near my university. That is where I decided I wanted to specialize in tax accounting. I know the skills I learned there will serve me for the rest of my accounting career. So many things are impossible to learn in a classroom setting. For example, I learned how to discuss tax returns with people that cringe at the thought of calculating taxes. In addition, this tax internship taught me how to work with others. I always want to learn more from those who are more knowledgeable. My tax internship taught me how to receive constructive criticism from others and help the group in any way possible.
My second internship was at a global oil and gas services company in Houston, Texas. Even though the internship only lasted ten weeks, this internship tremendously improved my accounting and professional communication skills. During this internship, I had to give numerous presentations about my work. Although I love accounting, there are many more interesting things on this earth than an accounting presentation. I learned how to speak confidently about my work and try to make it interesting to the audience. The most difficult part was giving presentations to executives and upper management. I do not know who decided it would be hilarious to make the interns present to the executives, but I am so glad they did. These presentation skills will continue to be an important part of my career.
What’s an interesting fact you have learned about accounting?
Accountants have the reputation of being the most boring people on the planet. Whenever I tell people I am an accountant, I can see them equating me with the character from Office Space asking for his stapler. I am sure there are some dull accountants out there, but the ones I have worked with are some of the most fun people I know. I was surprised on my first office visit interview because I had so much fun. I thought the office was going to be some dark and gloomy place where everyone was feverishly working at their desks while avoiding eye contact. Students should not give up on accounting because they think they will turn into a mindless worker that never has any fun. This has certainly not been my experience. Many different types of people enjoy a career in accounting. This diversity creates an enjoyable and exciting work environment.
What are your future career plans and aspirations?
Tulane has given me many opportunities to meet employers. This recruiting season has opened so many doors for me, and it was tough to make the adult decisions that will affect the rest of my career. I am going to start my career with one of the Big Four accounting firms in their expatriate tax group. I will get to continue doing individual tax returns and communicating with clients. I am excited to step into this new area of international tax returns. In addition, my team will assist companies in developing benefit plans based on these individual tax returns. Luckily, a degree in accounting offers many possibilities. As for later in my career, I am open to anything. As I said before, there is always something new to learn in accounting, so I am eager to see where my accounting career will lead me.
Anything else you would like to share?
Most universities have a five-year accounting program or make it extremely easy for recent graduates to stay at their alma mater for the Masters in Accounting program. I want to give advice for anyone who is in the position I was last year and is thinking about transferring to another school. Transferring to a small private university from a large public university is one of the best decisions I have ever made. In all my interviews, the firm has mentioned that these different experiences set me apart from the other potential hires. At my undergrad university, I had classes with people I had known since middle school. At Tulane, I have classes from people all over the world. While I received a solid foundation during undergrad, I know that the new experiences that Tulane has provided will benefit me throughout my accounting career.