So you’ve been chucking along in your accounting career for a while. Things are fine, but you are looking for more… whether it’s more money, more challenges, and more interesting work, your career is probably due for an upgrade. Let’s take a look at how you can do it.
Whether you are an auditor or a financial analyst in a company’s accounting department, you can always jump to a bigger competitor.
For auditors, it would mean switching from local/regional firms to national firms and the Big 4; for those working in non-public accounting, it could mean going from a regional company to a big, multi-national, Fortune 500 corporation.
If you are working in a “hot” industry and Big 4 is looking to expand that division, you have a good chance of success. But is the switching good or bad for you?
Here are the pros and cons of working in a regional CPA firm vs Big 4.
If you look at the triangular structure of any CPA firm, you will not be surprised that most auditors will end up leaving public accounting and working somewhere else. Most of them will likely work with their former clients or related companies on the business side.
Depending on the size of the company and whether it is a private or listed company, your experience will vary greatly.
It could be a pretty stable job churning out monthly management reports and annual financial reports.
It could also be an exciting and demanding job with handling the books for multiple subsidiaries, supplying data to business units, legal, investor relations, and other divisions, crafting projections, answering questions from senior management, and working on ad hoc financing projects…
General tips are to pick a business sector that (1) you are interested in and (2) has a relatively good future. Then it could be a stable yet interesting job.
The switch from corporate to public accounting is relatively rare. If it does happen, it is most likely at the senior level when the CPA firm looks for expertise in a particular business sector.
Suppose you started with public accounting and switched to corporate in the middle of your career when you accumulated enough experience and connections. In that case, you can certainly think about going back to public accounting by starting your own CPA firm.
As your own boss, there are more flexibility and upside, but it comes with the extra stress and risk that you need to consider as a business owner.
Specialization often requires specific skills, which means that the job nature could be more interesting and likely more pay.
Therefore, as mentioned in point 2, it is important to pick the “right” sector so you can benefit from an interesting and lucrative niche when you gain the necessary experience.
As an accounting professional, I am sure you know how the CPA title demands respect from your family, friends, colleagues, and business partners. More importantly, as you move up your career path, either in public or non-public accounting, you need the CPA title to secure the job.
If you aren’t a CPA yet, chances are that you’ve thought about becoming one from time to time.
Besides the respect, a CPA title helps you:
You can check out this beginner’s guide to pass the CPA Exam or a similar page written for candidates with international backgrounds. Good luck!
Once you become a CPA, you’ll find that it benefits your career in many unexpected ways. For instance, the IIA (Institute of Internal Auditors) offers the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) credential. Normally, the path to becoming a CIA is lengthy and requires passing a 3-part exam. However, if you already hold a CPA, you can take the IIA Challenge Exam and take an expedited path. Plus, if you study with a course like the Gleim CIA Challenge Exam Review System you can gain your CIA qualification even easier.
If you don’t meet all the CPA requirements, don’t worry! Several other accounting designations could propel your career, too.
For instance, consider the CFA vs CIA. And if you might be interested in the CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst), you might be interested in the related SIE (Securities Information Essentials) exam. The SIE exam is for professionals interested in securities and financial advising, and candidates can also pass related “Series” exams. Furthermore, the SIE exam has a strong pass rate, especially if you use one of the best SIE exam courses, best Series 9/10 study material, or best Series 99 study guides to prepare.
And if the CMA designation doesn’t work for you, the Enrolled Agent requirements are some of the easiest to attain. Basically, Enrolled Agents are specialized tax practitioners who have technical expertise in many areas of federal taxation. The IRS bestows the credential, which you can attain after passing a 3-part exam. However, the EA exam pass rates are higher than most other accounting credential exams, including the CPA Exam. What’s more, if you study with a review course, your chances of passing the EA exam increase even more.
I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!