Can I switch accounting firms if accept an internship offer?


Many of you are preparing for fall recruiting and many of you will be getting multiple accounting firm internship offers this fall (my wife literally had 12 offers!).

Inevitably you should be asking the question:

Can I switch firms after I do an internship?

Think about it this way, in 2008/09 many top accounting firms were rescinding offers they’d given to candidates because of the economy. If they’re allowed to have a reason to back out, you are too. I’ve been thinking about the topic as a number of Bean Counter fans have asked me this exact questions.

Here are 4 reasons why you should switch to another firm even if you’ve accepted an offer. There are more, but these fill the major categories.

Note: Yes, even if you’ve accepted an offer, you can still go to another firm. I’m not advocating you do this and any decision should be taken seriously. It’s in your best interest not to change offers if you can bear it. All of the contracts I’ve seen are “at-will” agreements which means you or the employer can end the agreement anytime you want and give the customary 2 weeks notice.

Be advised, you may have to return any advances or bonuses you received as well as CPA review materials and the retail price of those courses, so be careful and make sure you read all your agreements in detail.

1)     You didn’t “fit in” with the people

I can’t promise you that everyone at any other company will be nicer to you than your co-workers at your first internship, it could even be worse! But, if you have reason to believe things will be different, make the jump.

Here’s a scenario: a friend of The Bean Counter accepted her offer with a Big 4 firm but really struggled relating to most of her peers. She felt things were too, “clicky”. She was between two accounting firms before she started and thinks she chose the wrong one. In my humble opinion, that is a legitimate reason to switch accounting firms, you just don’t enjoy the other employees.

2)     You want different clients/departments

When I was going through recruiting, I know I did not want to work on any government clients. When I asked the firms what type of client base they had, if they even mentioned government, it was a mark against them in my book. Now, I knew before I started, but what if you don’t know until you’re in the job?

If you realize you don’t like healthcare or investment management or anything else, that is a completely valid reason to switch to another firm.

3)     You want to move to a new city

A good friend of mine received an offer with her company and during her grad school and CPA review “time-off”, her husband was accepted to grad school in a city that the company had no office in. Luckily she had a great GPA, and now a top 10 firm internship under her belt. Within a few weeks she had a locked down an offer at a new firm in her city of choice.

No hard feelings, sometimes life just works out that way.

4)     You’re pursuing a new career

Many of my colleagues have dreams that are outside of a future in public accounting. A common reason people back out on their full time offer it to pursue a law degree. They want their CPA to work in tax law, or other types of financial litigation, but have chosen a different path. This is a completely valid reason to leave. If the company decides to go in a different direction and close the department where you work, there wont always be a job for you. It’s the same if you chose to take your professional career somewhere else.

In terms of making the final communication to the firm/company, I would recommend talking with upper management first. Calling HR can be seen as a copout and typically the people from the business want to try and talk you out of your decision before involving HR. Make sure it’s a phone call, cancelling your offer via email just isn’t the way you want to end the relationship when you’re the one calling it quits. Think about your girlfriend, would you send her a digital note to end things?

After the call, think it over one last time, even if it’s just to respect their wishes for wanting you to consider all options. Then a day or two later, send an email to the person you spoke to, then a separate email to HR noting that you won’t be joining the company!


There are a myriad of reasons you could be looking to change an internship you accept this fall. Don’t take it lightly, and do your homework now to make the best choice for you. In my experience about 95% of interns are hired full time and 80%+ of those continue to the full time position. Don’t plan on quitting the company after your internship but realize that you don’t “owe” them your full time work if you really really want to do something else!

P.S. If you’re gearing up for recruiting and want a full resume review including two meetings with me and a proven resume, cover letter and action plan, check out my resume services or the course Get Hired By Big 4 Accounting Firms.