How Merrimack Accounting Students are Solidifying Employment Before Graduation: The Accounting Co-Op Experience

Merrimack College students are gaining full-time experience, getting paid handsomely, receiving multiple job offers before they graduate, and still finishing up their undergraduate degree in four years. You read that right; Merrimack’s students can have it all with the spring accounting cooperative “co-op” experience.  

Re-launched in 2015, the accounting co-op is a full-time, intensive experience in the spring of accounting students’ junior years. It is ideal for those who want to become certified public accountants and work in public accounting, have great interpersonal skills, and a desire to gain real-world experience in the field while also getting paid for doing it. Students have participated in co-ops in a wide range of sites, including Big Four accounting firms like PwC and KPMG as well as middle and smaller firms. While the prospect of finding and interviewing at any firm can seem daunting, students are surely not alone in the process.

“[Merrimack College has] that closer touch in the classroom, with advising and with alumni connection.” says Mark Cordano, professor of management at Merrimack, former dean of the Girard School of Business, and the mastermind behind the accounting co-op program. “We’re a relatively small school, we know the students very well and have the [Lucey Center for Business Advising] working to help students early on, giving students an idea that they should be pursuing the co-op. And then they work with students to go through the interview process and prepare.”

Photo of student and alumni networking at Fall 2019 Accounting Networking Breakfast.

Photo of student and alumni networking at Fall 2019 Accounting Networking Breakfast.

Between the many preparation and networking events hosted, the annual Fall Internship & Job Fair, alumni and industry connections fostered through Merrimack College staff and faculty, and the innate willingness to succeed, students are poised for success with ample opportunities to secure their spring co-op at a well-established firm and stay competitive in their ultimate goals: finding a job post-graduation.

Patrick Frazier ’16, M’17 was one of the first students to participate in the accounting co-op’s relaunch in 2015, starting at Katz, Nannis & Solomon his junior year. While his experience was transformative, helping him to decide what type of accounting he wanted to pursue, it more so enabled him to land a full-time offer at one of the “Big 4” accounting firms: PwC. “My co-op experience definitely set me apart from candidates vying for the same position at PwC, looked great on my resume, and gave me plenty to talk about during the interview process. The experience is something I still bring up to this day – almost 6 years later – when I go on interviews.”

While half the battle is obtaining the co-op experience, the other half is completing it. Students are able to gain skills and experience that will help them in the industry upon graduating. “I’m a big advocate of this program because the students come back with a sense of confidence that they can go out in the real world and actually work in accounting and have adequate skills to fit right in,” says Donald “Don” Levis, lecturer and  one of the key instructors in the intensive accounting courses following the co-op. “They also have a new sense of maturity, because they’ve had this new experience.  And finally, many times they return back to Merrimack with a job offer for after graduation.” 

Molly Tansey ’21, accounting and corporate finance and investment student,  is no stranger to gaining experience. She completed her co-op in the spring of 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. “I was hesitant to pursue the accounting co-op at first, but after hearing more about the possible opportunities and the chance to secure a possible full-time position I knew it was the right decision for me.” And secure a full-time position she did. After completing her co-op with tonneson + co, she was offered a position upon her graduation this spring. “I would recommend the co-op to anyone that is interested. It gives you real experience and the opportunity to find out what you’re really interested in doing in the future.”

So, besides getting paid and potentially landing a full-time offer after graduation, why else should students participate in Merrimack’s accounting co-op program? “For two reasons,” states Mary-Joan “MJ” Potvin ’86, associate instructional professor in accounting and a co-op student herself in Merrimack’s previous 5-year degree completion and accounting co-op program. “One, having the experience makes you much more marketable when you’re looking for a full time job later.  Two it helps you decide whether or not that’s the route that you want to take to understand the different sizes of the firms.  Until you’re out there and you actually see it, you really don’t know.”

Interested in pursuing the accounting co-op? Schedule a virtual academic advising appointment today!

By Ashley Archangelo
Ashley Archangelo