Internship sparks accounting career

Riley Pemstein Published December 19, 2023

Working as a tax accountant intern during tax season can be stressful, especially while also going to school full-time. But for Riley Pemstein, this was when he figured out what career path he wanted to follow.

When Pemstein came to College of Lake County (CLC) in fall 2019, he knew he wanted to study finance. He initially wanted to start at University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) but chose CLC to take his general education courses.

Wanting to get experience working, Pemstein sought an internship through the Career and Job Placement Center (CJPC). There was an opportunity to work as a tax accountant with Chris Rudolph at Rudolph CPA in Libertyville, and while it wasn’t what he wanted to pursue at the time, he knew it would be good experience.

“That experience taught me so much about what it’s like to be an accountant,” Pemstein said. “I never had any interest in it until the internship, and then it became what I wanted to study.”

Rudolph said, “In accounting, you need a mature and thorough mind, and Riley has that. There aren’t a lot of people becoming tax accountants because of the exhausting hours and all of the rules to learn. But when Riley runs into a problem, he doesn’t get flustered, he gets curious. I’ve had a lot of interns, and he was one of the best.”

The CJPC helps connect students with internships in the community for almost every major.

Pemstein added accounting to his studies and transferred to UIUC after one year at CLC. Knowing where he wanted to transfer, he was able to set himself up for an easier process with the help of his advisor.

“Transferring is a challenging process, but CLC did a great job making it smooth,” Pemstein said. “The fantastic academic success advisors prioritized me having my schedule right so I had the classes to transfer where I wanted to go.”

At his internship, Pemstein saw firsthand the value of becoming a certified public accountant (CPA), someone licensed to provide accounting services to the public. To earn the certification, Pemstein had to pass a series of exams on top of what he was already doing in school.

Pemstein thinks he studied hundreds of extra hours for each of the four exams. He took the first one while he was in school, and passed the last three after graduating, earning his license in 2023.

With his degree and CPA license, Pemstein recently started working at Grant Thornton LLP doing tax accounting for high-net worth individuals.

“CLC has a lot of opportunities for people going in millions of directions because it has so many resources,” Pemstein said. “If you take advantage of what they provide, it'll really benefit you in the future. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t pursue that internship.”