Author Topic: College Student Career Choie Dilemma  (Read 2816 times)

College Stash

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College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« on: March 25, 2017, 04:59:57 PM »
Hi everyone. I'm graduating in May with 2 majors, one of which is accounting and I am currently faced with an interesting choice. I have it down to 2 offers that are very different and offer different paths, flexibility and levels of security in life. I am planning to begin studying for and pass the CPA exam in my first year of work.

Choice 1: Stick with near-whole career at same company. This is not an accounting position, but rather a finance-related job with a stable government institution although the skills learned aren't very transferable to many other fields. The pay is pretty good, but not quite on par with Big 4. It does have decent pay advancement, but frankly after somewhere around 8-10 years, pay tops out at around 100k USD in an affordable metro. However, it offers a decent pension as well as an outstanding 401k match. Long-term earnings are probably somewhat to significantly lower depending on how well I would do in an alternative accounting career. One thing I like is that there is a lot of time-off and security with this position and it is a 40 hour a week job. After a few years, I will probably be able to take close to a month off each year to backpack different regions of the world.

Choice 2: Accept an Audit or Tax position with a Big 4 Accounting Firm in my metro. Work my way up and stay for a while or exit after 2-3 or 5-6 years. While I have already turned down a Big 4 offer, I am 95% certain I could get an offer from any of the other 3 firms if I wanted. This route has much higher upside, longer hours, and probably a bit less security. That being said, it offers more flexibility and the skills I will learn will be more transferable if I ever decided to take a year or 2 off work to travel at a young age. I truly don't know how valuable Big 4 experience is and what exit pay looks like in a smaller US metro area.

Choice 3: Go to Law School or something related to pursue a high paying field at a young age.

My long-term goal in my life is to travel the world (I have only been to 20 countries thus far and have so much I want to see), build a large amount of wealth, and possibly retire at a young age to pursue other interests. I don't particularly want a large family or anything that requires significant money.

I'm just looking for feedback on what to do here, particularly from anyone in business-related fields. Starting a first job is a difficult and stressful decision. I want to make the right choice.

GizmoTX

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2017, 07:54:56 PM »
You are obviously conflicted: you say you want a high paying job while saying you don't want wealth.

What do you enjoy and what are you good at? While your first job is unlikely to be your last job, it needs to be successful. We know a number of graduates that literally failed their first job. Don't let that happen to you.

As for a law degree, don't do this unless the law is a driving passion. There are too many lawyers chasing phantom riches.

pbkmaine

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2017, 08:40:53 PM »
I would go with #1 because it seems to fit your preferred lifestyle better. I chose #2 out of graduate school, and it was grueling. Forget Law School. The payback period is too long.

dess1313

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2017, 04:43:47 AM »
I can't speak to the field of accounting, (i work in healthcare) but as to the sounds of Job #1 it is similar to mine.  working for the government, defined benefits, pension, secure hours.  Its actually pretty good gig. We get an employer match with our pension and it may not sound like much when you start, but with time it really starts to improve.  Around here not as many places offer pensions any more. And knowing that you have a secure job even in downturn economies really helps the sleep at night.  The vacation perks are also awesome for traveling.  A lot of our people also go to part time work, allowing for pension accrual, keeping our benefits, still having a good income, and moderation with work/home life.

Topping out at 100k USD isn't exactly that terrible either. Just depends on where you live, and how much you can save. 

Also, why would you want to just graduate, then immediately go back for law school?  not sure but its likely 3 to 5 years for law school plus all the debt that comes with it?  you'd set yourself back 8 years or more when it sounds like you can land at least one of the jobs in the next few weeks AND start getting paid 2 weeks later.   You would loose all those years of earnings, when you say you want to retire early and travel the world.  Do you really want to become a lawyer, or do you just like the idea of what they make in wages?  What does the AVERAGE lawyer make in the field that you would go into.  would it make your hours of work worse, or make you more stressed depending on the legal field you go to?

Mezzie

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2017, 05:01:09 AM »
Choice #1 sounds a lot like the choice I made (albeit in a totally unrelated field). I love it. For me, security and time off trump high pay. My pay is good; I could earn more if I were willing to take on more risk, but I love what I do, and, 15 years later, I am quite happy.

It's not for everyone, but I'd clearly go with choice #1.

Joel

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2017, 05:03:32 AM »
The public accounting route is a good one. Not sure if you are looking at audit or tax, but it's pretty easy for audit professionals to leave after 3-4 years (with their CPA) and be around 100k shortly thereafter. Not sure where you are located but 100k is not the same in all cities.

former player

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2017, 05:23:34 AM »
You've already turned down a Big 4 offer: that's your answer.  No need to second-guess yourself.

Letj

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2017, 06:12:10 AM »
I am a CPA. Go with choice number two. It would set you up to earn much more and provide much more flexibility and options. You can always leave and go back to a slower paced job or FIRE. I work for a very large organization and I've seen many high paid individuals who still had flexibility to travel and live a balanced life. It's not that hard to do in corporate America.

Kl285528

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2017, 06:33:49 AM »
Please do not go to law school without an absolutely clear picture of what you want to do as a lawyer, and you are very clear about what a lawyer actually does in their job. Too many folks go to law school because that's what smart people who don't go to med school do. Former lawyer speaking from experience here. Not to mention, I believe you will be much clearer about why you would want to practice law if you get a few years of work under your belt.

College Stash

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2017, 01:17:02 PM »
Thank you for the advice everyone. I wasn't particularly serious about option #3 and I'm quite certain it's something I wouldn't be happy with. While I've often heard about the benefits of public accounting, I'm skeptical that exiting after 4 years at 100k is actually possible in a Midwest city. I tend to think 6 is more of the requirement to earn this much. I'm also wondering how much more advancement occurs after exit and if the lesser benefits are truly compensated for with the potentially higher salary. Leaning option #1, but I'm still seeking more confirmation and feedback.

Laura33

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2017, 07:20:16 AM »
Would job 1 still be an option after a few years at job 2?  Or are they in completely different directions?

If you take job 1, how stable is the government institution in the current political climate?  I know a lot of state government workers who are seeing pension and benefit cuts coming and feeling angry/betrayed that they traded lower salaries for other benefits that they now are not going to see.

Law school is right out.  You can earn as much or more in accounting or business consulting/finance stuff as you can in law -- more once you factor in the ridiculous cost of law school.  So if you aren't really compelled to practice law, run the hell the other way.

IMO, when you are fresh out of school and hungry, that is the time to throw yourself into your career and learn as much as you possibly can and build your resume and make yourself as valuable as possible (added bonus is that socking away giant sums in the first couple of years of your career sets you up extremely well for future FIRE).  If you don't like it, you can always off-ramp to an easier job -- and I bet a Big 4 firm, which churns up and spits out accountants, will have many, many connections to clients and others to help provide those off-ramps for people who leave.  It is always easier to go down the food chain than up.

College Stash

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2017, 08:34:23 AM »
Would job 1 still be an option after a few years at job 2?  Or are they in completely different directions?

If you take job 1, how stable is the government institution in the current political climate?  I know a lot of state government workers who are seeing pension and benefit cuts coming and feeling angry/betrayed that they traded lower salaries for other benefits that they now are not going to see.

Law school is right out.  You can earn as much or more in accounting or business consulting/finance stuff as you can in law -- more once you factor in the ridiculous cost of law school.  So if you aren't really compelled to practice law, run the hell the other way.

IMO, when you are fresh out of school and hungry, that is the time to throw yourself into your career and learn as much as you possibly can and build your resume and make yourself as valuable as possible (added bonus is that socking away giant sums in the first couple of years of your career sets you up extremely well for future FIRE).  If you don't like it, you can always off-ramp to an easier job -- and I bet a Big 4 firm, which churns up and spits out accountants, will have many, many connections to clients and others to help provide those off-ramps for people who leave.  It is always easier to go down the food chain than up.

Thanks for the advice. It would not be an option later. Also, they are unrelated fields and I do believe I'd like the work at option 1 more. The job would be incredibly stable and immune from the majority of cuts. No worries there. Also, I do plan to save at least 70% of my salary my first couple of years. Shouldn't be an issue at all without sacrificing much QoL. Plus I'll try to travel hack some trips. I was also thinking that due to the large hour difference between options 1 and 2, I could probably add a part time job to option 1 and come out ahead on salary still possibly. That or work on advanced degrees/certifications in my free time.

Joel

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2017, 11:11:18 AM »
it sounds like you are set on option 1 regardless of what anyone had to say.... not sure why you asked.

I'm curious what job in the government sector would be open to entry level accounting graduates but not someone with a few years experience in public accounting. Sounds odd to me. I also think you are significantly downplaying the opportunities for someone coming out of public accounting.

Laura33

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2017, 11:25:21 AM »
it sounds like you are set on option 1 regardless of what anyone had to say.... not sure why you asked.

I'm curious what job in the government sector would be open to entry level accounting graduates but not someone with a few years experience in public accounting. Sounds odd to me. I also think you are significantly downplaying the opportunities for someone coming out of public accounting.

I think it's the same as flipping a coin to make a decision (the right way):  heads I'll do A, tails I'll do B; then you flip the coin, and it comes up heads, and you see how you feel about that choice.  If you're happy, go with A; if you're unhappy, go with B.

I think asking the question and getting the responses here probably served the same purpose, because from the comments, the OP seems to think that the government job is the best fit.  In which case it probably is. 

So, OP, good luck!  Hope we've helped clarify the thinking a bit.  :-)

College Stash

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #14 on: March 27, 2017, 03:02:14 PM »
it sounds like you are set on option 1 regardless of what anyone had to say.... not sure why you asked.

I'm curious what job in the government sector would be open to entry level accounting graduates but not someone with a few years experience in public accounting. Sounds odd to me. I also think you are significantly downplaying the opportunities for someone coming out of public accounting.

It is a finance job, not accounting. Still deciding also.

Joel

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2017, 03:13:35 PM »
it sounds like you are set on option 1 regardless of what anyone had to say.... not sure why you asked.

I'm curious what job in the government sector would be open to entry level accounting graduates but not someone with a few years experience in public accounting. Sounds odd to me. I also think you are significantly downplaying the opportunities for someone coming out of public accounting.

It is a finance job, not accounting. Still deciding also.

Many audit professionals end up in "finance jobs" after public accounting...

Fudge102

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #16 on: March 27, 2017, 04:08:05 PM »
All I can say about option one from experience is this:  how much will you enjoy it?  As you said it will develop skills that really apply to that field, but not much elsewhere.  I'm in that position right now.  I just left a government job that had great skills and I could go anywhere.  As long as I remain in that field.  There are great opportunities as long as I'm willing to do the same general work in a few distinct locations.  But after 10 years of that, I wanted to go somewhere new.  The job was doable, it just didn't fit my long term goals.  But now I'm finding it difficult to start a new career because I have a very specific set of skills.  And while they helped before, they don't fit the new area quite as much.

So that's my only caveat to option one.  Where do you see yourself in the long run?  Can you do the job?  Will you enjoy doing the job?  Is everything where you want it to be?

Davids

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #17 on: March 27, 2017, 05:02:19 PM »
Go with Choice 2 at a Big 4 and work there for 3-5 years and get your CPA. After that you will basically have the pick of the litter of what you want to do next (Probably a good internal audit manager role at one of the companies you audited while working at the Big 4).

College Stash

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #18 on: March 27, 2017, 05:35:15 PM »
it sounds like you are set on option 1 regardless of what anyone had to say.... not sure why you asked.

I'm curious what job in the government sector would be open to entry level accounting graduates but not someone with a few years experience in public accounting. Sounds odd to me. I also think you are significantly downplaying the opportunities for someone coming out of public accounting.

It is a finance job, not accounting. Still deciding also.

Many audit professionals end up in "finance jobs" after public accounting...

Obviously. I can't explain the circumstance without saying too much.

College Stash

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #19 on: March 27, 2017, 05:36:45 PM »
Go with Choice 2 at a Big 4 and work there for 3-5 years and get your CPA. After that you will basically have the pick of the litter of what you want to do next (Probably a good internal audit manager role at one of the companies you audited while working at the Big 4).

I would likely go Tax. I didn't enjoy my auditing courses, but loved tax. Not sure how much real tax work compares to school though.

Hargrove

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #20 on: March 27, 2017, 08:27:40 PM »
It doesn't matter much, if you save 70%.

If you'll get showered in money with Big 4, to the tune of "retire in 3 years," I would go Big 4. Travel as much as you want after you retire in your 20s.

If you'd like to do this or something like it for ANY longer than 3 years, take the more flexible job and coast right into a 5-10 year working career, then retire, if you can really save that much. Then pocket a pension as insurance, to boot. Travel NOW with the flexible job, just because it's easier than waiting for complications to get in the way.

I had to make a "big salary" bet I can barely stand because of few other better options at the time, and longer than 2-3 years at a job you hate is just not a good idea. It sounds like your Big 4 path has a potentially wide range of up- and down-side. You only sound sure and comfortable about option 1.

MattC

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Re: College Student Career Choie Dilemma
« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2017, 05:33:31 AM »
I think there's a question at play here regarding the actual nature of the work you would be doing at job 1 versus job 2, and the quality of people you would be surrounded with.  Based on what you've said, I don't think there is a definitive "take job 1" or "take job 2", but if you do a little more research (or maybe you've done some of the research and are summarizing for us here) maybe you can get to a more obvious "right choice"?

Find someone one or two degrees of separation from you who works at job 1 and job 2, call them or grab lunch and say, hey, I'm thinking about getting into your industry and I was wondering if I could pick your brain about what you do.  People like to talk about that stuff (provided you didn't preface your conversation with "can you get me a job?").  Ask how they like their job; how competent their managers are, how the workload is, career trajectory, how transferable their skills are, etc. 

I think that's really your best way to get the fuller lay of the land of what you'd be getting into with either of these jobs.  And also note that job 2 is not monolithic.  There are pockets of bad managers and bad places to start within the big 4, and there are good places.  The pre-job-acceptance networking can help you see what you're getting into.

If you're interested in further reading, the "ask the headhunter" section of the pbs website is worth a read regarding the job search process.