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Graduate Work & Internships are the Recipe for a Successful Accounting Career

After completing his BS in Business Administration and Accounting at East Carolina University in 2016, Brian Kearns returned home to the Piedmont Triad to begin graduate work in accounting at the Bryan School. At first, he was concerned about not knowing anyone in the program – that soon changed.

“The Bryan School is a welcoming community and has the ideal combination of personable professors who have practical work experience and in-depth knowledge in the fields they’re teaching. There is also a strong recruiting process here,” he explains. “I chose the Bryan School because I’m from High Point and I plan to settle and work in Greensboro, so I wanted to make professional connections here. There are plenty of social events with local firms so that we have multiple opportunities to interact and can get to know local accounting professionals.”

That networking paid off well for Kearns. During summer 2016, he landed an internship for credit at KPMG. During his internship, he had to complete literally hundreds of K1 reviews. ”In Dr. Harden’s class, we had to handwrite all of the tax returns so we could learn how to do them properly and be able to recognize where things need to be,” he explains. “Melissa Hershberger and Dr. Harden were key in helping me secure my internship, which gave me real-world accounting experience.”

Mr. Brian Kearns

Kearns reflects on one of the helpful projects in the program. “As a group in Hershberger’s seminar class, we had to read through case studies, discuss the issues and then apply what we were learning in class. This is an inevitable situation in the accounting profession and it helped us build an understanding and recognition of fraud and risk of error,” says Kearns.

Kearns also worked as a graduate assistant both semesters for 20 hours per week and tutored students in both accounting and finance courses. “I learned how to teach based on different student needs. That experience translates well to working with different client needs,” he adds.

He also prepared confidently for the CPA exam. “Several classes in the program helped me immensely with the finance portion of the exam. We covered corporate taxation and flow entities in Dr. Harden’s class,” says Kearns. “The class materials were a mirror image of these parts of the CPA exam.”

Kearns received a job offer from KPMG and will begin working as a tax associate there this fall, building on his internship experience doing K1 reviews and not-for-profit work.

“Knowing my job at KPMG is waiting for me is like a light at the end of the tunnel. My internship there was great because it tied everything together that I’d been studying in school. All that you work on in school doesn’t really connect until you have real-world experience,” Kearns emphasizes.

His professional goals are strategic and attainable with his depth of knowledge and dedication. Kearns plans to complete the CPA exam this fall, begin working at KPMG’s Greensboro office and eventually advance to director or managing director at the firm. He’s also considering doing a two-year rotation at KPMG’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“The MSA program has been a great, unique experience. You can’t get a better bang for your buck. Many of the courses are geared to prepare you for the CPA exam and the professors are honest with you,” Kearns says. “I’d say talk to the professors and students and build relationships. Take the leap, it’s one of the best things you can do for your accounting career and your future.”Mr. Brian Kearns