By Alyssa Reed, TSCPA Student Ambassador for East Tennessee State University
Internships are said to be the climax of a college career, the application of educational knowledge, where the “rubber meets the road”. And they are all of those things, but internships are much more than just a mini-job before your first real accounting job.
I had known I wanted to pursue sports accounting since my first day at East Tennessee State University. I researched this particular accounting sector, attended events and spoke with sports accountants. I received a paid internship offer at a public accounting firm (a big deal for a student with no paycheck) and turned it down for an un-paid internship at the ETSU Athletic Department. This made no sense to most people, but I thought getting my start in sports accounting while still in school would be noticed by employers.
The first couple days were orientation. Not only do you need to follow GAAP, there are NCAA rules, and because ETSU is a public institution, there are state mandated rules. I didn’t even break the iceberg in knowing how all the rules are intertwined, but I did leave my internship with a great appreciation for all the “back-stage” work it takes the administration to have athletes. Through this internship, I learned about accounting for scholarships, reimbursing travel expenses, and where I spent most of my time, travel budgets.
Taking an 80 person football team from East Tennessee to Montana is not an easy trip. The budgets have to be carefully prepared to ensure the expenses are predicted and controlled. Creating a travel budget involves creating travel plans. Hotels, restaurants, gas, rental cars, grocery stores… the list goes on and on. Trip Advisor became my best friend. Every aspect of a trip has to be considered so that the overall budget remains balanced. We could not have unfavorable budget variances because we were a public institution. This means that the travel options were passed among several staff members including the team’s travel coordinator, head coach, director of finance and associate director of finance.
I learned that accountants are information getters. The accountants did not make the decisions, but for every decision, the information comes from the accountants and their cost analysis. For those who like to be a behind the scenes worker, this is great. When I attended a sports game, I knew all the effort and planning that went in to seemingly insignificant aspects of the event. To be honest, it’s pretty cool to see the end result.
As my internship came to an end, I began to have a scary realization. I hated sports accounting. Even the finance directors spent most of their time on travel plans and arrangements to adhere to budgets. I want to be an accountant. Accounting is a great career platform because of the logical and analytical way accountants are trained to think. Therefore, an accountant could enter certain career fields because of their training and not really perform too much accounting work. Yes, I did some credit card audits and some work with tax reimbursements on receipts because we were tax-exempt, but for the most part, my duties were business related more than accounting related. I realized I didn’t want to pursue sports accounting but rather another field that allowed me to perform more of what could be considered “accounting”.
I had picked my major because I like to ensure everything measures up. I feel accomplished when I complete a balance sheet, the books balance, or when the Schedule A is complete. For me, accounting is not a gateway to a hard to enter career field- accounting is the career field itself. Therefore, as I left my internship, I realized what the real treasure of an internship is. Sure, it is great to learn the application of all your schooling, but the real purpose is to experience different career paths with the full knowledge that it is only temporary. You can completely submerse yourself for a few months and decide if this is what area you will continue to pursue. Internships help you find out what you do or don’t like. The best part is that, even if like me, you change your mind about the career field where you were headed, it’s an internship - there is no wrong answer.