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Accounting Students Land Competitive Big Four Jobs

Accounting is one career path that remains resilient, even when the economy falters. This enticing career stability has not gone unnoticed by four University of St. Thomas accounting students.

Adding to the growing pool of UST graduates working at Big 4 public accounting firms, UST BBA/MBA students Michael Pair and Sabrina Akhter have secured a full-time position at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and Christian Brillantes and Elizabeth Houche have been hired at Ernst &Young LLP.

At UST, the students say they gained the knowledge, skills, connections and experience necessary to land positions at the world’s top accounting firms.

The Cameron School offers a five-year BBA/MBA, which enables high-achieving undergraduates the opportunity to earn both the bachelor’s and master’s degrees concurrently. Students in the combined five-year program have the benefit of completing two degrees with fewer hours than the requirements to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees separately. 

“UST accounting students not only earn the essential industry skills, they also learn to see the big picture, to think critically, to communicate and to present themselves in an ethical and professional manner,” said Dr. Vinita Ramaswamy, professor of accounting. “Employers frequently tell us that UST accounting graduates are smart and hardworking, and they gain a unique ethical foundation from attending a faith-based, liberal arts university.”

Michael Pair, who will graduate in May, saw first-hand how important networking can be. The Accounting Department emphasizes that planning ahead for internships are critical for any student who dreams of working in the Big 4.  Pair, a first-generation college student, was working two jobs to pay for school, and didn’t have time to complete an internship. Fortunately, Pair received assistance from a fellow student and 1997 UST alumnus Burton Cole, an audit senior manager at PwC. For the last 13 years, Cole has returned to his alma mater to recruit and offer career guidance to aspiring accountants.  Cole referred Pair to a PwC recruiter, and he later progressed through a series of interviews.

“As I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel (graduation), I began frantically applying to all the Big 4 and any accounting positions I could find,” Pair said. “Unfortunately, I was not getting much of a response. Then I decided to reach out to my fellow classmates to see if they could offer any assistance. A friend of mine, Jenan Adham, mentioned I should contact Burton Cole.  Fortunately, Mr. Cole returned my email and said I should be expecting a phone call from a recruiter for an interview. It was certainly a combined effort getting me to where I am now. I owe a great thanks to Jenan and Burton for their assistance. Combined with a little hard work on my part, I thankfully got the job.”

Sabrina Akhter double majored in political science and business, and she will complete the MBA portion of the BBA/MBA program in December. Akhter said earning both liberal arts and business majors fulfilled her varied interests and sets her apart from other accounting students entering the job market. Akhter also experienced the strength of the UST alumni network at PwC, and got an internship interview upon Cole’s reference.

“Accounting is very detail-oriented and stable, and I enjoy that, but majoring in political science has helped me learn to think critically, communicate and express my opinions with greater confidence.” Akhter said.


Elizabeth Houche said her UST professors helped instill a diligent work ethic and prepared students for real-life experiences in the accounting industry. Houche, who graduates in December, completed a summer internship at Ernst & Young, LLP and was offered a full-time position.

“From the first class, Professor Lee Carl really pushed the students to achieve their full potential,” Houche said. “It was clear that he wanted his students to succeed and that made me want to try harder. I carried that work ethic to my internship, where I put into practice what I learned at St. Thomas.”

Christian Brillantes said he is grateful that he can pend the next semester finishing his MBA coursework without worrying about finding a job in May. He was also offered a full-time job as a first year staff auditor at Ernst & Young, where he has interned the last two summers.

“It’s a huge relief and I feel blessed to have a job lined up when I graduate in May,” Brillantes said.

Brillantes echoed Akhter’s sentiments about the benefits of a business education at a liberal arts university and the emphasis of ethics at UST.

“The liberal arts influence at the University permeates into the business program,” Brillantes said. “having an ethical mindset, doing what’s right  and having integrity is the core of a UST education.”

Brillantes said he hopes return to UST in the future to open doors for students to apply for internships and jobs at Ernst and Young.

To learn more about the accounting at UST, contact Accounting Department Chair Dr. John Leavins at 713-942-3479.