Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Business (Research)


Accounting & Information Systems

First Advisor

Sylvia Dempsey


Extant literature on the benefits of work placement extols the virtues of embedding work placement in accounting degree programmes, not only for the students, but also for the employers. It provides employers with an extended period to vet students for graduate position (Gault et al, 2000; Beard, 2007), a cost-effective solution to hiring for short-term projects (Ferkins, 2002) and a valuable link with local colleges (Gault et al, 2000; Me Gann and Anderson, 2012). However, there is a dearth of literature exploring how placement should be structured to maximise these benefits (Buckley and El Amond, 2010; Sheridan and Linehan, 2003). This study explores three aspects of the employers ’ perspective of the structure of work placement in accounting degree programme; their requirements of students entering work placement, the appropriate duration and timing of placement and the support they could offer interns. The empirical data was collected by way of an online survey of employers, resulting in responses from fifty-three potential employers of accounting interns, and five in-depth interviews with potential employers to obtain rich descriptive data.

A strong preference exists amongst respondents to recruiting interns for accounting roles from Accountancy/Finance programmes rather than other degree programmes. Employers view ability to work in a team, good academic results and communication skills as important requirements of an intern when entering work placement. Employers prefer students with previous work experience, but it did not have to he relevant accounting experience. The ideal duration and timing of placement for employers was a six month placement from January to June (with the employer having the option to keep the student on in the organisation over the summer if required), in the third year of a four year degree programme. The majority of respondents would offer interns regular feedback and coaching, however only half of the respondents would provide an exit interview. Advice could be offered to the intern regarding accountancy qualifications. These findings contribute to improving the structure of work placement in accounting degree programmes.

As employers see work placement as primarily an early recruitment mechanism, it may lose some of the possible benefit to the students. It is important that a tripartite agreement is constructed and agreed to by the employer, college and student to ensure that the learning outcomes of work placement are clear to all parties and adhered to throughout the work placement period.


This dissertation is submitted for the requirements of the Degree of Masters in Business (Research), Cork Institute of Technology.

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