While no career path is completely recession proof, the public accounting CPA career path offers a unique opportunity to those seeking stability and opportunity. This path potentially ranges from student all the way up to Partner & Shareholder (read owner with company profit sharing) with a clear route, consistent economic opportunity and career support all along the way.
Today, the costs of a 4-year degree are approaching the range of astronomical. We are in an economy where many fields of study do not provide a clear path to great job opportunities. Students are coming out of college with significant debt and are often at a loss for solid career direction and opportunity. They believed that going to college and pursuing their passionate interest as a field of study was the right thing to do. However, many students leave college confused and disappointed about their future opportunities. Not so for successful accounting majors who have elected to pursue a career as a CPA in a public accounting firm!
Many accounting majors have an opportunity to secure a paid internship while they are still in school. These internships provide above-average compensation and excellent learning opportunities. Accounting interns will get a wide variety of experience in tax and audit work and will become immersed in the day-to-day activities within a public accounting firm. This is an opportunity for talented people to learn, develop, and stand out as a potential employee.
In today’s business environment, public accounting firms that are growing will consistently be looking for new employees. The successful intern will have an excellent opportunity of receiving a job offer for a full-time permanent position and a supportive career development path.
Upon graduation, an intern has the potential to move into a full-time job. In this phase of career development, the challenge is to gain experience in both tax and audit service areas and study for the CPA exam. Most public accounting firms will provide economic support for test materials and exam costs. Good firms will provide mentoring, coaching, and a bit of cheerleading that propels an accountant forward to acquire a license to work as a CPA.
Once licensed, a CPA has a wide range of service and industry specializations to choose from. Many CPAs will elect to have a tax or audit focus, some will decide to develop expertise and practices in both areas. Increasingly, larger public accounting firms are pursuing a niche strategy. This involves forming teams that specialize in a particular industry niche or service expertise. These might include specialization in nonprofit, construction, medical & dental, manufacturing, or other industries. This provides an opportunity for a CPA to choose an area of specialization that aligns with their interest and passion.
A CPA who has developed specialized expertise in a service or niche now has the opportunity to contribute to the building of the client base within that niche. Practice Development is a description of activities that are designed to lead to new client relationships. CPAs who have developed specialized niche expertise and who develop the skills to develop new client relationships within that niche have unlimited career and income opportunities.
With a clear career development path, significant employee demand and a wide range of specialization options, a career as a CPA working in a public accounting firm seems like a terrific opportunity.
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