AN EXAMINATION OF THE IMPACT OF ACCOUNTING INTERNSHIPS
AbstractThis study is based on two related premises. First, we believe that the stronger the business and professional background possessed by students, the more confident and motivated they will be to take an active, independent role in their education. However, it is also our belief that the typical 18-22 year old accounting student brings little professional or business context to the study of accounting. Taken together, these two beliefs suggest that a significant benefit of an accounting internship experience is that, by strengthening the professional and business context of accounting students, the internship experience will facilitate more active, independent learning and problem solving by the students. We believe that a study of the effects of an internship experience on student attitudes and perceptions is important because it should provide insights into the following three issues: (1) Why previous research has provided conflicting results as to the assumed educational enhancements from internship programs? (2) Whether internships will provide attitudinal and perceptional changes that might have more lasting effects on such things as motivational levels and development of better interpersonal skills? (3) How accounting firms might want to structure their internships so as to maximize recruitment benefits to the firms? We conclude that we should not expect post-internship academic performance to unequivocally improve as a result of an internship experience. The students in our sample believed their internship experience enhanced their knowledge and skill base, but did little to improve their academic motivation. Based on our findings, it is not surprising that previous academic performance studies have provided conflicting results â€“ student post-internship academic performance may well be affected positively by the knowledge effects of an internship experience and negatively by the attitude effects, resulting in an ambiguous overall effect. A couple of secondary implications that our â€œThen/Postâ€� analysis suggested was that students believed the internships were a long-term valuable experience, but the experience did little to strengthen their desire for a career in accounting. The students felt the internship experience was more beneficial to their long-term career enhancement than to improvements in their academic performance. However, a note of caution to the accounting firms is that the internship experience, which was viewed favorably by students overall, did very little to strengthen their interest in accounting as a discipline or their desire for a career in accounting. Internships, long viewed as recruiting tools by accounting firms, may actually hamper a firmâ€™s ability to attract and retain the â€œbest and the brightestâ€� if the internship conveys a negative long-term career impressions to the student interns.