Upgrading Your Accounting Career

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.

1. Switch to a Bigger Firm

Whether you are an auditor or financial analysts working in a company’s accounting department, you can always make the 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 corporations.

So What Is The Benefit?

  • Better pay and benefits – you can expect a small jump from your pay check, and a considerably better benefit package if you work for the big firms
  • Better job security – nothing is guarantee, but bigger firms are usually better in riding through financial crises and bad times
  • Greater exposure – everything is bigger, more complex, and (arguably) more interesting. Not everyone likes this but is certainly attractive to the more ambitious accountants
  • More opportunities in internal transfer – transfers between departments are common and sometimes encouraged in these firms. It’s a great opportunity to keep your accounting job interesting and greatly enhance your exposure and networking within the firm. For the adventurous lot, you can even apply to overseas post for a truly special experience.

Regional vs Big 4

If you are working in a “hot” industry and Big 4 is looking to expand that division, you have a pretty chance of success. But is the switching good or bad for you?

Here is the pros and cons of working in a regional CPA firm vs Big 4.

2. From Public Accounting To The Corporates

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 work 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 report and annual financial report.

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 is 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.

3. From Corporates To Public Accounting

The switch from corporate to public accounting is relatively rare, and if it does happen it is most likely at the senior level when the CPA firm looks for expertise in a particular business sector.

If you started with public accounting and switched to corporate in the middle of your career, when you accumulate enough experience and connection 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.

4. Get Into A More Specialized Field

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.

5. Become A CPA!

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.

Why CPA?

Besides the respect, a CPA title helps you:

  • Earn more – 10% based on a recent recruiter’s survey. Remember, it’s 10% every year
  • Break into lucrative and specialized niches that open only to CPAs
  • Keep your job – as you get promoted to senior positions such as controller and CFO, you may be asked to get a CPA qualification… or out. Better get it done sooner rather than later.

How Do I Become A CPA?

You can check out this beginner’s guide to pass the CPA Exam, or a similar page written for candidate with international background. Good luck!

If you don’t meet all the CPA requirements, you may also want to check out the CMA designation. You can read how to become a CMA, receive CMA discounts, or get exclusive Gleim CMA discounts. And if the CMA designation doesn’t work for you, the Enrolled Agent requirements are some of the easiest to attain. You can also find EA review course discounts and the Gleim EA review discount as well.

About the Author Stephanie

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