CPAs disagree about whether the best accounting jobs are with public accounting firms or in corporate management capacities. Most students are recruited by public accounting entities right after college. They work there while engaged in study for CPA exam completion and achieving the necessary experience requirement for licensing. Afterwards, the issue arises of whether to try moving up the ladder in public accounting or make a change to working in financial management at a major corporation.
Despite the similarities between the two career paths, a substantial number of differences exist. Evaluating the distinctive aspects of each is important because CPAs have different preferences and goals to accomplish from work. Fortunately, CPA preparation courses encompass a wide range of knowledge. CPAs therefore possess skills applicable to multiple purposes.
Public accounting entails the broadest opportunities to perform various functions for a mixture of businesses. Accountants at public accounting firms may work in audit, tax, or financial advisory capacities. Key to their work is objectivity and independence because they produce output used by third parties rather than only the clients. Public accounting firms include the Big-4, regional firms, and small local practices with one or two CPAs.
Public accounting firms employ the largest number of CPAs and have the most job openings. This generates the greatest interest among job seekers, especially those recently embarking upon CPA exam study. Some firms specialize in particular industries, such as banking, airlines, restaurant chains, real estate, or entertainment. Inexperienced accountants can capture intensive training within a certain economic sector.
One of the reasons working for public accounting operations seems most appealing is that they expect new recruits are still not licensed CPAs. These organizations encourage CPA exam prep and want new associates to attain their licenses and move into senior positions at the firms.
However, public accounting is not the only career avenue for CPAs. Many accountants move into management posts with industrial concerns. Several reasons trigger this action. One is a desire to focus on the success of a single organization. The variety offered by public accounting is too unstable for certain personality types.
Managerial accounting for a corporation involves many of the same functions performed by public accountants. Financial reports are the main focus. But, internal corporate accountants usually prepare more types of reporting, such as budgets, cost analysis, and planning models. A CPA working for a corporation is also expected to evaluate internal control processes and make risk assessments. This deploys similar accounting skills as those used by public accountants conducting outside audits.
Many CPAs who work for industrial corporations start in different capacities than management. For instance, they move into managerial accounting posts after first working as internal auditors. In fact, some recent graduates find their initial jobs within corporate accounting departments. They skip public accounting altogether and complete study for CPA licensing while working for large public or private companies.
Industrial accounting experience causes more exposure to forecasts and evaluations of intended business initiatives. That contrasts with public accounting, which is more oriented to communicating objective historical information. Unlike the information presented by public accounting firms, most managerial accounting work is for internal purposes and is never seen by outside third parties. Either direction for a CPA career has more similarities than differences. But, recognizing the differences is crucial to choosing wisely.
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