Home Amanda O’Neal

From Law to Accounting: Amanda O'Neal '15 Discovers Her Passion for Investigative Analysis

Katelynn Padron '15

Senior accounting major Amanda O’Neal was overwhelmed when she moved from the small town of Hoquiam, Wash., to the “Lute Dome.” But within a week she was certain that Pacific Lutheran University was the perfect fit. PLU was the right size and a good distance from home. So, O’Neal began her journey to becoming an attorney–or so she thought.

O’Neal intended to earn her undergraduate degree in business and continue to law school. But her School of Business general education courses revealed her interest in accounting.


In her first introductory business class, O’Neal took personality inventories. She said the quizzes always told her she should be an accountant and she couldn’t understand why.

“I don’t want to be an accountant,” O’Neal said of her reaction at the time, “that’s so boring.” But when O’Neal took her first accounting class with Professor Fern Zabriskie, she began to see things differently.

“Once I actually started taking accounting classes and finding out what accountants did I really enjoyed it,” O’Neal said. “I felt like it was a good fit.” She enjoyed it so much that she switched her concentration to accounting, a change that her grandfather welcomed.

“My grandpa was an accountant and had his own accounting firm,” O’Neal said. “Growing up I was there all the time visiting and seeing my grandparents.”  At the time, O’Neal said she had marveled at how someone could do something so tedious.

When she changed her mind, O’Neal said her grandfather was “so proud that I was going to be what he was.”

Sadly, O’Neal’s grandfather passed away in 2014, but once O’Neal committed to accounting, she was nothing if not determined. She obtained an internship at Moss Adams, LLP in the summer of 2014. O’Neal said her internship was vital for helping her understand how accounting theories applied “in the real world.”

“My experience at a public accounting firm so early was really helpful to my education.” O’Neal said. “It just gave me so much real-world application to the concepts we’ve been learning.”

O'Neal and her late grandfather, A. Vernon Olson (Photo: Amanda O'Neal)

O’Neal’s internship showed her that she has a knack for audit accounting. “I really like audit,” she said. “When I got my internship at Moss Adams last year they just made you decide do you want to go into audit or tax–and I hadn’t taken either class yet.”

O’Neal chose audit accounting for her internship and she’s glad she did. “I really love it–it’s perfect for me. Since I wanted to be an attorney I was kind of always into the investigative evidence,” she said, “and that’s what audit is. You have to go into a company and investigate their books to make sure they’re doing everything as they should.”

In addition to sparking her interest and providing real world experience, O’Neal’s internship led to a full-time audit staff position at Moss Adams, LLP. At the end of her internship, O’Neal was interviewed again. A few days later she was offered a position.


“It was so weird,” O’Neal said, “I got the call in August 2014 … for a job I was getting hired for October of 2015.”

O’Neal said she credits PLU faculty for some of her success. “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the accounting faculty,” she said. “I’m really close with Professor Zabriskie–she’s been a great mentor for me along the way.”

O’Neal had plenty to do before her position starts. She finished her degree in spring 2015 and has be studying for her CPA over the summer before starting at Moss Adams, LLP in October.

Though O’Neal won’t be dealing with lawsuits, as she thought, she will be doing plenty of investigating. O’Neal hopes to one day become a forensic accountant to satisfy her penchant for investigative analysis.

Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting

Join the tradition of PLU accounting graduates who have gone on to head Fortune 500 companies, become partners in CPA firms and succeed in many other types of organizations

Featured Articles

BizVenture Gives Students a Crash Course in Entrepreneurship 

Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) students in the introduction to business course get hands-on experience from the BizVenture competition . . . 

Amanda O'Neal '15  

O’Neal intended to earn her undergraduate degree in business and continue to law school. But her School of Business general education courses revealed her interest in accounting . . . 


Kristoffer Dahle, MSF 

Dahle's love of math and the Pacific Northwest brought him from Stavanger, Norway to PLU's Master of Science in Finance (MSF) program . . . 


Tran Pham, MBA

Pham ’16 plans to use her PLU MBA in Healthcare Management to open a clinic and relieve the crowded healthcare system in her hometown of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. . . .