To be or not to be, that is the question. Or more accurately – public or private accounting? This is the biggest struggle for those in the beginning, middle, and end or their careers and haunts many college graduates. For those who are unsure of where they want to land, this is an all-encompassing guide to help you decide if private, public, or none of the above is right for you.
What is Public Accounting?
Public accounting is the front-line of the accounting world. You are on the cutting edge of all the accounting and tax updates and you have more CPE than you know what to do with. You’ll see more, do more, and work more (generally speaking) in public accounting then you will in private accounting.
One of the easiest jobs to land after graduation is a junior level audit position. Why? Well, the hours are long and turnover is high. If you are up for the challenge then going into audit might be right for you. You’ll be working in a variety of industries depending on your firm and you will learn more about financial accounting. If the thought of staying in the office all day hammering out tax returns in your cubicle doesn’t excite you – audit might be right for you.
Being a tax accountant is the equivalent of being a lawyer. You have to know just as much about tax law to do your job then a lawyer in their specific field. If doing research on the new tax law changes and finding out creative ways to save clients money on their taxes excites you, then tax accounting might be right for you. The hours might be long but the majority of the work is from mid February to mid April. Summers are really slow so while your audit friends are still in the office you’re out partying with your teacher friends.
This is the catch-all in public accounting. If you aren’t in tax and you aren’t in audit then you must be in “advisory.”. These jobs involve heavy communication with clients and creating various ad hoc projects. If you love the idea of consulting and specializing in a specific area of accounting then advisory is right for you.
- You’ll get paid more starting out.
- You move up the chain faster.
- It’s more challenging and diverse work.
- Summers aren’t typically busy.
- There are tons of perks to keep you from quitting during tax season like free food and alcohol.
- They are always hiring.
- The hours are crazy (we could probably end the list here and it will tell you enough).
- There is high turnover.
- More licensing, training and educational requirements are needed.
- You can’t take off during busy season (which happens to be when all your friends are going on spring break).
Are You Convinced Yet?
If the thought of a fast paced, highly compensated environment is enticing to you then public accounting might be a good fit. If you just want a solid 9 to 5 with good benefits and decent vacation time then private accounting might be more suitable to your needs.
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