Author Topic: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice  (Read 13866 times)

missleo

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« on: April 10, 2016, 06:37:18 PM »
Hi all,

I've been a reader of the site and forums for some time now, and figured it was about time to make my first post! Hoping some of you mustachians may be able to offer some insight on my situation, as I'm feeling a bit lost at this point...

To begin, I'm 22 and have been working in public accounting for a little over 7 months since graduating college. As a student, I was fairly certain that I did not want to go into public accounting, but ended up interviewing and taking a job with a firm that I like quite a bit. However, throughout working there and (almost) surviving my first busy season, it's become even clearer to me that public accounting is not a good fit for me. It's a stressful job, and not a field I can see myself in for years. Furthermore, the expectation once busy season is over is that I will work towards passing the CPA exam, which I am not motivated to do or interested in becoming at all.

My dilemma is this: I make a pretty great salary for my age, allowing me to save a lot toward the goal of FIRE, and I know that I wouldn't be able to get anywhere close to my current salary if I moved to a job outside of public accounting. While the stress of the job and lack of interest in continuing down the public accounting career path are weighing on me, it's so difficult to give up the good pay. That being said, my living expenses are quite low, so even with a lower-paying job I could still manage to save toward FIRE, and I would likely try to drop my expenses down further to keep my savings rate fairly high. However, giving up the career that I essentially spent all of my time in college working toward feels wrong.

At this point, I'm really unsure of what to do. Part of me feels that the salary may be worth sticking around for. However, I'm also not sure I can manage the stress of the job or want to waste my time in a career field I don't see going anywhere for me.

Thanks to all those who read, and I appreciate any advice that's given!

BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1386
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2016, 06:52:03 PM »
I think we need more info. Have you been doing tax or audit? What is your salary? How much overtime are you working, and do you receive any additional compensation for it? Is there any part of your current job that you enjoy?
I think it's possible for you to make decent money outside of the firm. I chose not to work for a firm and I think it's worked out well. I do have my CPA, and I think it has given me more opportunity and income.
Accounting has many different opportunities that are worth some exploration.
More importantly, FIRE is not worth working yourself to the bone and being miserable.

missleo

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2016, 07:18:23 PM »
I think we need more info. Have you been doing tax or audit? What is your salary? How much overtime are you working, and do you receive any additional compensation for it? Is there any part of your current job that you enjoy?
I think it's possible for you to make decent money outside of the firm. I chose not to work for a firm and I think it's worked out well. I do have my CPA, and I think it has given me more opportunity and income.
Accounting has many different opportunities that are worth some exploration.
More importantly, FIRE is not worth working yourself to the bone and being miserable.

Thanks, BeanCounter, appreciate the response. Good to hear your perspective on the CPA. And you're right, FIRE isn't worth being miserable for. I guess that's another part of my conflict...sometimes I feel really miserable but others are alright. I do still really like the firm I'm at and the people I work with, my issue is really just with the work that I do.

To give some extra info, my firm is small so I've been doing both tax and audit work, averaging around 65-70 hours a week. I make $50,000, with no additional compensation for OT.

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8346
  • Age: 63
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2016, 07:18:30 PM »
English major with a CPA here. I got my CPA as more of a challenge than anything else, but it did open doors for me. You do not have to stay in an accounting firm, you know. I was a financial planner. Many CPAs end up working in finance or the control function in companies large and small. If you are determined to leave without the CPA, what would you do? What do you like to do?

Papa bear

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1175
  • Location: Ohio
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2016, 07:19:06 PM »
Stick around for a bit.  Recruiters will be calling you begging you to interview for their clients.

I made it 1.5 years in public accounting before joining one of those recruiting firms internally.  You will be sought after.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

NorCal

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 730
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2016, 08:53:16 PM »
I do corporate finance in Silicon Valley startupland.  I've maybe met and worked with close to a hundred (mostly CPA) accountants.  Not a single one enjoyed working at an accounting firm, but almost all of them found something that was much better.

I would recommend sticking with it long enough to get the CPA license, then finding something else you can get behind.  Having that license will open a lot of doors to a lot of options.  And many of them will have very little to do with accounting.

If you have that license, there are actually a lot of interesting jobs at companies doing interesting things.  I don't know exactly what appeals to you, but I'm confident you can find something.



mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2988
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2016, 09:04:11 PM »
I made it 1.8 years in public accounting. Yay me! I was laid off during the recession. I was fortunate to get a job in audit consulting for the federal government 9 months later. That was in 2010. I've been working in audit consulting ever since. 9-5, 2 days of telework, pretty sweet. I would stick it out another busy season then start looking. Are you on LinkedIn?

I took the cpa test a bunch of times and failed. I did keep telling recruiters I was going to get it although I have no intentions to. I have certainly missed out on opportunities because I didn't do the CPA but I'm very happy with where I ended up. Also you can likely get a raise for your next job so don't undersell yourself.

lhamo

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 9755
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2016, 09:07:42 PM »
Another option you might find more enjoyable/meaningful is to work as an accountant/controller for a non-profit.  Best jobs with highest pay are in NY, DC and SF where a lot of non-profits have their HQs. 

Mr. Sharma

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
  • Age: 30
  • Location: New Jersey
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2016, 09:24:54 PM »
As everyone else said, get your CPA license, then decide if you want to leave public accounting.  Your firm should also cover your review course cost and hopefully give you a bonus for passing the exam and getting your license.  There will be plenty of opportunities available to you outside of public accounting once you get your license.
 

marty998

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6434
  • Location: Sydney, Oz
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2016, 05:35:48 AM »
Yep +1... stick it out, get qualified and then go to corporate.

I do less than 45 hours a week, earn enough to keep me happy and generally look at our auditors and think why the hell don't you join me?


BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1386
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2016, 06:24:17 AM »
Yep +1... stick it out, get qualified and then go to corporate.

I do less than 45 hours a week, earn enough to keep me happy and generally look at our auditors and think why the hell don't you join me?
+1!!!!

pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8346
  • Age: 63
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2016, 06:58:56 AM »
Another thought: I have an accountant friend who decided she wanted to work very part time. She developed an expertise in preparing tax returns for a niche group - artists, actors and musicians. She knows every deduction, she knows health plans, she knows union memberships and dues. She works VERY HARD from February 1 to April 15, and the bare minimum the rest of the year. Busy season, she works out of her NYC apartment, where the living room has been converted into a professional office with comfy sitting area. After busy season, she goes to Paris for a month and stays in an Air B&B. Summers, she rents a room from friends in the Berkshires. She makes a solid six figures net, works on average less than 10 hours per week, and never plans to retire, because why would she?

Proud Foot

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1035
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #12 on: April 11, 2016, 08:47:16 AM »
Missleo,  you said you did not want to go into public accounting while you were in college, so what did you want to do with your accounting degree?  And also are you married/in a serious relationship? For myself I worked 2.5 years in public accounting as an auditor and loved the work.  I was at a regional firm so the hour requirements were not bad and I was able to be exposed to a lot of different industries. I ended up leaving as the travel was cutting into the time I was able to spend with my wife. This experience allowed me to move to a nice non-profit assistant controller position where I stayed for 2.5 years and then moved to my current position.  Both of these moves provided me with increased responsibility without adding additional hours to my work week as well as nice pay increases.  Having my CPA was a big factor in getting my current job as well.

So I would encourage you to work hard and learn as much as you can at your current job and work on obtaining your CPA.  Once you have that you will have a lot of opportunities open up to you.  If you keep an updated LinkedIn page you will have plenty of recruiters contacting you with opportunities.

jwright

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 266
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2016, 09:17:47 AM »
Ditto the plan to stick it out until you pass the CPA exam, it will open more doors.  I was in public accounting for over 10 years and finally got an industry job.  I should never have waited this long, but you gotta pay your dues first.

nobody123

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2016, 09:41:46 AM »
Welcome to the real world.  Jobs aren't fun all of the time, that's why they have to pay you to do them.  7 months isn't enough time, IMHO, to make a decision to abandon your career choice that you spent 4 years of college training for.  You're an entry level employee, so you spent a couple of months learning the ropes of being a professional at the firm and the remainder doing the crappiest, most tedious work of the busy season.  Next busy season shouldn't be a stressful because you know what to expect, and maybe they'll be a newer entry-level person to delegate some of the tedious work to.  You say you like the firm and your coworkers, and that aspect of a job is something that lots of younger folks overlook.  Maybe the slower season will recharge your batteries.

As others have said, get the CPA because it will open doors for you.  I would get through one more busy season, and armed with a CPA and two years of experience, you will be in a solid position to move on if you still feel the same.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2016, 10:05:06 AM by nobody123 »

Midwest

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1346
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2016, 09:42:51 AM »
I'll echo the advice here, get your CPA.  Increases your marketability.

On the CPA, decide you are going to get it over with.  I've seen many people give a half hearted effort.  Much easier to put the effort in and get it over with than do it over and over again.

Good luck.

Cardinal12

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 27
  • Location: Indianapolis, IN
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2016, 11:16:59 AM »
Former young accountant here - I started on the corporate side basically as an accounting clerk because public accounting never really interested me.
After doing that for a year I started my MBA and made several advancements through different companies(hiring managers really liked to see that I was going back to school - that's definitely how I got my current role.)

If you really are not interested in getting your CPA I would recommend working towards an MBA or CMA. The CMA will help with getting other accounting jobs, the MBA will be good if you decide to get out of accounting completely or want want to advance faster in your career.

bognish

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 298
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2016, 12:42:24 PM »
I will echo the advice to stick it out in public accounting a little longer and to buckle down and get your CPA license. I passed the CPA exam 20 years ago and did 4 years of public. Even though I have long forgotten most of those facts, or the regulations have changed I still get interviews because I can check those boxes. You have spent years getting this far in accounting and done most of the hard work. Another year and half of public and test prep and you will have a solid foundation for a resume that will last you for decades. After busy season most public accounting firms should be understanding of studying for the CPA exam during company time and paying for test prep and test fees. Take advantage of that.


mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2988
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2016, 01:56:15 PM »
I do have a masters in accounting so I get a leg up with that. I did pass one part of the 3 part cgfm, but Im not sure I have the brain cells to pass anymore tests. There are jobs for non cpas but it will take longer to become a manager. I'm not a manager after 8 years, I'm a subject matter expert on internal controls. And I make bank.

missleo

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #19 on: April 11, 2016, 06:51:41 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! I appreciate all the advice on the CPA, and I have no doubt that it would increase my marketability in the accounting field. I'd love to hear more about some of the opportunities that you all have had come from it, especially any that may not have been specifically accounting-related. I know part of my problem right now is being discouraged because I have tested for a couple parts of the CPA and can't seem to pass them. But it seems like something I just have to get done if I want to continue down this career path.

To address some of the other questions/comments: I do have both a bachelor's in accounting and a MBA. I have considered/looked into pursuing jobs outside of accounting, but at this point, especially not having much work experience, the MBA doesn't seem to get me very far. While in school, I was mostly interested in non-profits or corporate, and also took an interest in the hospitality industry. Since graduating, I've become more interested in financial planning, and have looked into the CFP designation, although have not pursued it as the push is so strong toward getting the CPA. Also, I am engaged, so not having much time to spend with my fiance is definitely another big factor in my current conflict.


pbkmaine

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 8346
  • Age: 63
  • Location: The Villages, Florida
Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #20 on: April 11, 2016, 08:31:31 PM »
Take a CPA prep course like Becker and dedicate your life to it. It's the only way to pass. I have an MBA, a CPA and a CFP, and the CPA tends to get the most respect, precisely because it is so hard to get.

DH and I were a new couple when I was studying for the CPA and he was very supportive of the time commitment because he knew how much it would help my career. I spent every Saturday in class and every Sunday, all day, doing problems. I was at an accounting firm and they gave me lots of time as well. You cannot do it half hearted, but the CPA will yield returns for the rest of your life. When you look at it that way, it's a very good investment.

I would add that if your fiancÚ is not supportive of you going for a CPA, that tells you something important about the relationship.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2016, 08:37:50 PM by pbkmaine »

WGH

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 104
  • Location: Houston, TX
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #21 on: April 11, 2016, 10:02:44 PM »
Thanks for all the responses! I appreciate all the advice on the CPA, and I have no doubt that it would increase my marketability in the accounting field. I'd love to hear more about some of the opportunities that you all have had come from it, especially any that may not have been specifically accounting-related. I know part of my problem right now is being discouraged because I have tested for a couple parts of the CPA and can't seem to pass them. But it seems like something I just have to get done if I want to continue down this career path.

To address some of the other questions/comments: I do have both a bachelor's in accounting and a MBA. I have considered/looked into pursuing jobs outside of accounting, but at this point, especially not having much work experience, the MBA doesn't seem to get me very far. While in school, I was mostly interested in non-profits or corporate, and also took an interest in the hospitality industry. Since graduating, I've become more interested in financial planning, and have looked into the CFP designation, although have not pursued it as the push is so strong toward getting the CPA. Also, I am engaged, so not having much time to spend with my fiance is definitely another big factor in my current conflict.

The MBA is a great check the box if you don't have a CPA. Many controller/CFO positions out there want one or the other. As a CFO with a MBA who will likely never attempt the CPA exam I still echo the crowd and advise you to sit tight and do the exam on your companies dime. There are plenty of high level jobs out there that won't require it but there are plenty that do as well. I also echo getting out of public accounting after your CPA. Go into corporate or government.

VaCPA

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 220
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2016, 07:19:07 AM »
Thanks for all the responses! I appreciate all the advice on the CPA, and I have no doubt that it would increase my marketability in the accounting field. I'd love to hear more about some of the opportunities that you all have had come from it, especially any that may not have been specifically accounting-related. I know part of my problem right now is being discouraged because I have tested for a couple parts of the CPA and can't seem to pass them. But it seems like something I just have to get done if I want to continue down this career path.

To address some of the other questions/comments: I do have both a bachelor's in accounting and a MBA. I have considered/looked into pursuing jobs outside of accounting, but at this point, especially not having much work experience, the MBA doesn't seem to get me very far. While in school, I was mostly interested in non-profits or corporate, and also took an interest in the hospitality industry. Since graduating, I've become more interested in financial planning, and have looked into the CFP designation, although have not pursued it as the push is so strong toward getting the CPA. Also, I am engaged, so not having much time to spend with my fiance is definitely another big factor in my current conflict.

Public accounting is great on your resume, if you want to remain in the accounting field. I actually started out in corporate accounting, went into public for 2 years and back to corporate. Since then I'm steadily climbed in corporate and am now CFO at a small company. If you're that burned out by public accounting get out and find a job in corporate. I only lasted 2 busy seasons. You can still pursue the CPA there and lots of companies have tuition reimbursement(I actually got my CPA before going into public accounting). If you plan on staying in accounting then I would highly recommend getting the CPA at some point though, no matter how difficult. It does open lots of doors.

mak1277

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 788
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #23 on: April 12, 2016, 08:53:57 AM »
Former Big 4 public accountant here...now head of internal audit for a public company.

CPA license is such a tough thing...I'm a CPA, and I can tell you that there was pretty close to zero educational or practical value in studying and passing the exam.  There is no chance on earth I could pass it again right now, and I learned more in my first 6 months working than I did in 5 years of college or studying for the exam. 

That being said, as someone who hires 2 or 3 accountants into my department every year, I would be very skeptical of someone who didn't have the license.  The fact is, the test isn't *that* hard...so if I interviewed someone from public accounting without their CPA, my immediate reaction would be that: (1) they aren't smart enough to pass and I don't want to hire them, or (2) they aren't dedicated enough to pass and I don't want to hire them.

The exam is important because it demonstrates intelligence and/or drive...not because of the knowledge and information you must know to pass it.  Is that stupid and unfair?  Maybe.  But it's also a fact.


Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1670
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #24 on: April 12, 2016, 09:58:33 AM »
I took a circuitous route to get my CPA license and have pretty much worked in private industry.  I felt there was zero intrinsic value in taking the exam and I'd never be able to pass it now.  I've directly used very little of what was on the exam.

With that said, it has been tremendously valuable as a "calling card" and has opened doors.  If you will be supported in studying for it and can punch it out, I would stick it out with the firm and get it done.  You will have employers knocking on your door.

Doing the CPE to maintain your license can be a chore, but I've always always liked having the incentive to study new things and my CPE has allowed me to focus in areas directly relevant to my current job (compensation and benefits issues).
« Last Edit: April 12, 2016, 02:03:30 PM by Trudie »

skekses

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 52
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #25 on: April 12, 2016, 04:59:57 PM »
I've worked in various roles over the years. I spent four years in public accounting and overall it was pretty awful. Despite that fact, I would encourage any new accountant to at least start in public accounting and give it an honest shot for a couple of years. It can be a really hard adjustment that first year going from a student to someone that works 50+ hours for several weeks in a row and that burns people out quickly. But if you stay, you will learn a lot about how to verify information and that knowledge will continue to prove useful throughout your career (whether in accounting or another field altogether).

As for the CPA designation, I would say the most value I've gotten out of it is that it's helpful to have on a resume and I'm sure it has opened doors for me. It took me about a year to complete from the first day of the review course to sending in my ethics exam (it can be done faster, but this was a manageable rate given that I was already working in public accounting at this point). My advice is to accept that your life is going to be boring for awhile and take the exam seriously. Many people tend to drag it out, but I feel like life only gets busier as it goes along and you may as well knock out the CPA exam while you are still in the test-taking mode from being in school for most of your life.

My last advice is to pay attention to what you do like in your current job. If you can find a special niche like someone else mentioned and become an expert in that area, then it will serve you well. Ideally it would be in something that you enjoy. If you can't see yourself enjoying public accounting as a career, then identifying the parts you do like can help you figure out where to aim next. For example, do you like the variety of clients and the travel? Maybe consulting would be a good move. Prefer the days you get to go to the same office and the relative predictability of what you'll be doing? Maybe corporate accounting makes sense for you. Hate the accounting, love the technology? There are ways to divert that direction.

Good luck!

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2988
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #26 on: April 12, 2016, 09:10:04 PM »
Quote
(1) they aren't smart enough to pass and I don't want to hire them, or (2) they aren't dedicated enough to pass and I don't want to hire them.

There are employers who will think that you are plenty smart for having an MBA and will want to hire you without a CPA. Would you make partner at an accounting firm or controller at a non-profit by 35 without it? No, but there are other accounting/audit/finance jobs that you can be hired for. I'm not smart enough or dedicated enough to pass it. And I'm OK with that. We all have our lot in life. And making almost 6 figures at 33 makes it sting a little less :-)

missleo

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 5
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #27 on: April 13, 2016, 05:49:41 AM »
I agree 100% that the CPA would open doors for me and set me up for the future, especially in the accounting field. However, I have this conflict between setting myself up for a career and working toward FIRE. I was lucky enough to discover MMM at a young age and be in a good spot to start seriously saving right away, so my (perhaps aggressive) goal to FIRE is 10 years. How do I reconcile between setting myself up for the future in a career path when I have no interest or intention of staying in this, or possibly any, career in the long run?

BeanCounter

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1386
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #28 on: April 13, 2016, 06:23:32 AM »
I agree 100% that the CPA would open doors for me and set me up for the future, especially in the accounting field. However, I have this conflict between setting myself up for a career and working toward FIRE. I was lucky enough to discover MMM at a young age and be in a good spot to start seriously saving right away, so my (perhaps aggressive) goal to FIRE is 10 years. How do I reconcile between setting myself up for the future in a career path when I have no interest or intention of staying in this, or possibly any, career in the long run?
What is the REAL reason you want to FIRE? What do you plan do when you FIRE?

nobody123

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #29 on: April 13, 2016, 07:22:56 AM »
How do I reconcile between setting myself up for the future in a career path when I have no interest or intention of staying in this, or possibly any, career in the long run?

Again, you have been in your career for 7 months with one employer.  How on earth can you state without a doubt that you want to shift your career path?  If you want to FIRE in 10 years, you need to maximize your income over that relatively short timeframe, so you suck it up and do the CPA on your employer's dime.  That opens up opportunities to move around in related fields to jobs that you might find more palatable while increasing your salary along the way.  You already have an MBA, but without experience, most employers will not think too highly of it unless it is from a top 20 program.

It sounds like you're having a bit of a reality check now that you're out of college.  I would let yourself adjust to the real world before making decisions based on what is admittedly the most stressful part of your professional year.  There's a reason that common wisdom is to not do anything drastic the year after you have a major life change (death of a spouse, large inheritance, etc.).  Humans aren't good with change.


Midwest

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1346
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #30 on: April 13, 2016, 07:26:36 AM »
I agree 100% that the CPA would open doors for me and set me up for the future, especially in the accounting field. However, I have this conflict between setting myself up for a career and working toward FIRE. I was lucky enough to discover MMM at a young age and be in a good spot to start seriously saving right away, so my (perhaps aggressive) goal to FIRE is 10 years. How do I reconcile between setting myself up for the future in a career path when I have no interest or intention of staying in this, or possibly any, career in the long run?

You need cash to retire.  If you switch careers, it is likely you will be working more years. 

When I hate my job, I focus on the good things and the alternatives.  You are 22 years old making 50k with the opportunity to make even more and retire early.  There are much worse places to be.

dkaid

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 84
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #31 on: April 13, 2016, 08:28:18 AM »
I have to echo the crowd here... I'm also a CPA, worked Big 4 for 5 years although never expected to make it that long... I hated that job.  So, stay for the minimum time for your license, take the Becker course and get the certification.  Seriously.....  I know it sucks while you're doing it, but keep your eye on the prize.... You have so many options open to you with those 2 little letters.  And realistically, you're more than halfway there.  I have a cakewalk corporate job now and while it's mind numbingly boring to me, it pays well, I work with great people and it has allowed me to focus on other areas of my life that I care more about. 
You can do it!!!

Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1670
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #32 on: April 13, 2016, 09:14:29 AM »
I have to echo the crowd here... I'm also a CPA, worked Big 4 for 5 years although never expected to make it that long... I hated that job.  So, stay for the minimum time for your license, take the Becker course and get the certification.  Seriously.....  I know it sucks while you're doing it, but keep your eye on the prize.... You have so many options open to you with those 2 little letters.  And realistically, you're more than halfway there.  I have a cakewalk corporate job now and while it's mind numbingly boring to me, it pays well, I work with great people and it has allowed me to focus on other areas of my life that I care more about. 
You can do it!!!

This is me to a T.  I feel like me job is manageable.  I don't love it, but it's not all-consuming.  When I "get real" about my situation, this job is what has allowed me to get on a path to FIRE.  Even just a decade or less of maxing retirement investments and getting a decent employer match (10%, in my case) has made a tremendous difference.  I know that I will not need to work many more years.

V

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #33 on: April 13, 2016, 11:27:49 AM »
I want to start off by saying that I think some of you guys are being a little hard on the OP.  You CAN know 7 months in a career whether or not you like it.  I was in a similar situation as you.  I worked part-time at a small CPA firm during college and thought it was ok, but there is a big difference between part-time and full-time.  Once I graduated and got a full-time corporate accounting job, I realized I hated what I do.  I still do it to this day because I have to, but everyone kept telling me to get my CPA and I would be happy because I would have so many opportunities. The opportunities are there for me without the CPA.  I get calls all the time from recruiters, but I realized that I would be leaving one place for the exact same thing at another place. The CPA is great to have, but I don't think you should get it just because everyone else is telling you to go for it.  I decided not to go for it because one day I want to get out of accounting.  The way I see it is that you do what you have to do to get by for now and save what you can to live how you want and do what you love.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 11:30:53 AM by V »

couponvan

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6103
  • Location: VA
    • My journal
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #34 on: April 13, 2016, 11:38:53 AM »
I think the end of busy season might be causing you to want to leave....Summertime at CPA firms is usually very slow (unless you audit non-profits or employee benefit plans).  Just use this slow summer to get the CPA.  It is very important to your long-term career prospects.

Also, you should not focus on being a "super star" if you don't see yourself continuing at the firm very long. 

I did 5 years public accounting Big 4, 2 1/2 years in private, 1 year off with baby #2, back to same Big 4 for 2 years at 1/2 time, then off for 6 years with baby #3...Now I've been with a Top 10 firm for 5 years part time.  My CPA license was imperative.  I will tell you that there isn't too much flexibility the first 2-3 years at a firm in terms of hours.  After that if you want, you can pretty much tell them how many hours you're willing to work and take a pay cut to get that part-time status. 

However, look at how many hours you'd be working at a "regular" job for the same amount money.  Sometimes the 60 hours for the "generous $50K salary" is not worth it when you could be working a 40 hour job for $40K, and another 20 hour job for $20K.

dkaid

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 84
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #35 on: April 13, 2016, 11:47:26 AM »
I want to start off by saying that I think some of you guys are being a little hard on the OP.  You CAN know 7 months in a career whether or not you like it.  I was in a similar situation as you.  I worked part-time at a small CPA firm during college and thought it was ok, but there is a big difference between part-time and full-time.  Once I graduated and got a full-time corporate accounting job, I realized I hated what I do.  I still do it to this day because I have to, but everyone kept telling me to get my CPA and I would be happy because I would have so many opportunities. The opportunities are there for me without the CPA.  I get calls all the time from recruiters, but I realized that I would be leaving one place for the exact same thing at another place. The CPA is great to have, but I don't think you should get it just because everyone else is telling you to go for it.  I decided not to go for it because one day I want to get out of accounting.  The way I see it is that you do what you have to do to get by for now and save what you can to live how you want and do what you love.

For sure I think you can know in 7 months if you don't like it.  But in my real life experience, the CPA designation open opportunities that are a higher caliber than those without it.  The business acumen I developed while working in the field has translated into networking opportunities for me that could have led into different career paths (if I had chosen to pursue them).  Part of the skill set of becoming a CPA is understand cause effect relationships with numbers and an overall sense how businesses operate.  This knowledge can translate in a lot of different ways outside the accounting world.  Also, in regards to FI/RE, it's pretty feasible to pick up busy season/tax work or do a book-keeping gig if you need to.  Which is a nice cushion to have.  Without the CPA designation those gigs, while attainable, will be harder to find. 


Midwest

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1346
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #36 on: April 13, 2016, 12:02:26 PM »
I want to start off by saying that I think some of you guys are being a little hard on the OP.  You CAN know 7 months in a career whether or not you like it.  I was in a similar situation as you.  I worked part-time at a small CPA firm during college and thought it was ok, but there is a big difference between part-time and full-time.  Once I graduated and got a full-time corporate accounting job, I realized I hated what I do.  I still do it to this day because I have to, but everyone kept telling me to get my CPA and I would be happy because I would have so many opportunities. The opportunities are there for me without the CPA.  I get calls all the time from recruiters, but I realized that I would be leaving one place for the exact same thing at another place. The CPA is great to have, but I don't think you should get it just because everyone else is telling you to go for it.  I decided not to go for it because one day I want to get out of accounting.  The way I see it is that you do what you have to do to get by for now and save what you can to live how you want and do what you love.

If taking and passing a test adds $10,000 a year to compensation for 10 years, isn't it worth the 1000 hours of studying some of which the person working at a cpa firm will be paid?   If you make $100k extra over the course of a 10 year career, that's $100 an hour for your effort.  If you work 15 years, that's $150 an hour.

To the OP, I would suggest if you really want to advance your career you should consider the big 4 for your resume.  I didn't take advantage of that opportunity and it would have helped my resume.

To add - I hated my first job so much, I considered a job sorting packages for an overnight service.  That would have been a huge mistake.

V

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #37 on: April 13, 2016, 12:06:14 PM »
I'm not trying to downplay the CPA.  It is a great accomplishment and it can open doors, but I don't think it should be pushed onto people as much as it is.  I'm 24 and have been out of school and working full time for almost (I know not long) 4 years now.  I don't have any regrets about not getting the CPA.  Do I think I could get it?  Yes, I do but I also think that it's not for everyone.  It's a personal decision and it's not the answer to everything.  Accounting isn't a bad career field and I actually do like working with numbers and doing the calculations.  It's the  slow times that I struggle with the most and the fact that my passion lies somewhere else.

nobody123

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 524
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #38 on: April 13, 2016, 12:23:18 PM »
She's asking random internet strangers for advice, there's going to be a range of answers from "follow your passion, the money is secondary" to "just suck it up, make bank, and FIRE".  I don't think it's possible to be too harsh when dispensing your opinion as long as you're not name-calling.

I was suggesting that 7 months is too short to completely abandon the accounting field.  If OP actually meant she wants to get into another segment of accounting, then fine, maybe the CPA isn't necessary for some of those options.  However, as a hiring manager, I would question the passion (hiring buzzword alert!) of someone who quit their first job out of school seven months in.  What's to say that she won't get bored working at my non-profit world-changing unicorn farm in a couple of months when we ask her to do the entry-level grunt work?  I think it would look better to prospective employers if she stuck it out a little longer.  If getting a CPA is the next expected step in her current position, she needs to do it.  Appearances matter.  Will I roll the dice on a job-hopper if they have some extraordinary talent and a track record of delivering results?  Probably.  For an entry-level person, not likely.

V

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #39 on: April 13, 2016, 12:49:07 PM »
If you force yourself into something because people are telling you that's what you should do, it can lead to some serious issues, especially right out of college.  I was constantly told I needed to do this and that in order to be hired or considered good enough for employers.  I became severely depressed and depression is still something I struggle with, but having to work while being depressed made it so much worse.  I'm just advising not to feel pressured into doing something you don't want to do because it can send you into even more of a downward spiral.  I make a good amount and I know I could be making more if I had my CPA, but I also know that I wasn't ready.

bognish

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 298
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #40 on: April 13, 2016, 01:05:16 PM »
You definitely do not need an CPA and public accounting experience to stay in accounting, but you will be paid more and have a larger variety of opportunities open to you that if you skip it. I am paid $15k more that the controller I replaced because of the CPA & public. I am paid $40-$60k more than the assistant controller and accounting manager who work for me because of the CPA, public and previous experience I have that the CPA got me into. We all work about the same number of hours and the number of years work experience does not account for the wage difference. This was about the same at my last job.

I have been in charge of payroll and involved in hiring decisions at 3 different companies in the last 10 years. If you are looking to maximize your salary for the hours worked over the next 10 years sticking with public and the CPA test prep for another 18 months will help immensely.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2988
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #41 on: April 13, 2016, 01:58:54 PM »
I personally wouldn't take the cpa test again for only an extra 10k a year. I make about 97k now. I have a friend who makes 120k with a cpa. He works for a big 4 too, which I don't have the opportunity to do. I have subcontracted to big 4 companies and I can't deal with their arrogance. I'm fortunate to live in an area with diverse companies. I think I could get to 120k if I was willing to leave my job. I just started getting phone calls from recruiters asking if I'm ready to be a director yet, but I'm not ready.

mak1277

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 788
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #42 on: April 13, 2016, 03:24:13 PM »
I personally wouldn't take the cpa test again for only an extra 10k a year. I make about 97k now. I have a friend who makes 120k with a cpa. He works for a big 4 too, which I don't have the opportunity to do. I have subcontracted to big 4 companies and I can't deal with their arrogance. I'm fortunate to live in an area with diverse companies. I think I could get to 120k if I was willing to leave my job. I just started getting phone calls from recruiters asking if I'm ready to be a director yet, but I'm not ready.

Big 4's are kind of like Ivy League universities...getting hired/admitted there says a lot more about you than what you learn while you're there.

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3595
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #43 on: April 13, 2016, 03:29:34 PM »
OP, you've been there for 7 months. If you leave before 1.5 -2 years minimum, you run the risk of being labeled a job hopper. Makes it harder to get a job. Also, the job doesn't get interesting until a year or 2 in - until then you're still learning, and you get the grunt work. Thus boring! That applies to both audit and tax in my experience.

If you plan to stay in the accounting field in a position that isn't accounting grunt work, having a CPA license will make it MUCH easier to get a job, and a good job. A CPA license will also tend to get you a salary bump over someone who doesn't have it. In addition, public experience helps you get into private accounting - go take a look at job postings. A lot of them say public accounting experience.

There are people who will throw out a resume if you don't have a CPA. There are people who won't. Thing is, you don't know that when you're applying for jobs.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2988
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #44 on: April 13, 2016, 04:58:16 PM »
Quote
Big 4's are kind of like Ivy League universities...getting hired/admitted there says a lot more about you than what you learn while you're there.

That's a good analogy, because most people don't get into Ivy League schools, and do just fine in life. I actually learned a lot as a sub-contractor, so I'm glad I did it. But never again.
I do like parts of accounting though. OP, you should think about whether there are any aspects of accounting you like. I don't like doing numbers so I got into consulting. When I can sit by myself and write accounting policy I'm pretty happy.

Fuzz

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 336
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #45 on: April 13, 2016, 05:19:23 PM »
Stay at least 1 year, preferably 2. If you are at the big 4 or a similar type firm, you are learning how to carry yourself and present yourself as a professional. You are learning valuable skills. You will be extremely marketable. You will be able to get awesome jobs as a 24 year old, or 26 year old.

If you just graduated, this is the first thing on your resume that actually matters. Make the investment to do it right. Take a prep course and get your CPA, even if you never do anything with it. I'm assuming it's like the bar exam (lawyer here). If you put the time in, you will pass it. It's not that bad. Don't signal that you're lazy, or a flake. Tough it out.

If you're there at least a year, this job sets a floor on your value. It puts you on your career trajectory. Leaving or half-assing it after 7 months is like the first SpaceX rocket launch. You want to be like the 4th rocket launch.



couponvan

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6103
  • Location: VA
    • My journal
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #46 on: April 13, 2016, 05:56:23 PM »
When (notice I didn't say "if") you are going to take the CPA exam, don't do what so many people in my office do....They take Audit first, then REG, BEC and finally hen flunk Financial (FAR) a couple times....and lose all their parts.

Take FAR first. If you can't pass FAR after 3 tries, you might stop.  Maybe others will disagree with me.  After FAR, I would think BEC, REG, Audit in that order.  If you are a good test taker, you might want to try FAR, with Audit in the same window as a "freebie" to see if you can pass it without studying given you are doing Audit work currently.

Bicycle_B

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1825
  • Mustachian-ish in Live Music Capital of the World
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #47 on: April 13, 2016, 06:21:56 PM »
Missleo,

You say the job is stressful, that you work 65-70 hours/week, and don't see yourself doing this for a long time. It's your first job, and your main goal is to get out... in fact, to reach FI so you can RE.

There are jobs out there related to accounting with less stressful hours, but takes a combination of effort, luck, time, job skill and job search skill to find them.  You're going to have to make an effort to get to FIRE.  I suspect you should go ahead and make the effort to pass the CPA, and to get through one more busy season, and get the 2 years at the big firm that are de rigeur for "I'm smart and I'm not a quitter."

Benefits:
1. Once you do this, nothing will be tougher.  You can do it.  You'll be stronger, your credentials will be stronger. 
2. Our society continues allotting big benefits to "winners" (CPAs, people with 2 years at the Big 4) while increasing the penalties and reducing the meager slim pickings granted to lesser mortals.  One more year of diligence will put you on the privileged side for the 10-15 years to FIRE... skip it and you may face 20-25 years to FIRE, based on the same effort per year during years 2 through 10.  The investment is worth it.  Not pleasant, just a high return on your time.  Remember that other jobs may suck too, why work them for 20 years when you can be done in 10?

(I'll be honest.  I think it's sort of close.  But there's something about facing a strong challenge instead of running away that is very empowering.  I think you'll be better off overall by doing the next year full force.)
 
3.  These things compound.  Combine the better privilege from a strong resume, plus the toughness to hang in there, you can achieve your 10 years.  Without that combo, you could end up in limbo forever.
4. I'm probably your dad's age, I avoided tough stuff when young, I learned how long it can take if you abandon your opportunities.  Hint: I'm not FI yet. Let me be your Ghost of Christmas Future.
5. "Stoicism" and "Position of strength"- look up the posts.  I take them broadly to mean that minor discomfort is extremely powerful in building your life.  View the next year as the hardest investment you'll ever make.

There is hope besides just sucking it up, of course.  Work seriously at finding other work!  Read What Color Is Your Parachute and take charge of your job search/career development.  You can have a lot of impact on how much or little you'll enjoy working the next 10+ years, not just how fast you can make enough money to escape.  Plus, the wise and serious job search may pay more per hour than anything you do on the job.

It's still probably worth one more year of effort and self discipline for now on the CPA/ stick it out side.  In any case, best of luck.

sunnyca

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 411
  • Age: 37
  • Location: Orange County, CA
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #48 on: April 13, 2016, 06:43:00 PM »
I started out at a public accounting firm doing audits and reviews for local governments.  While I was there, I got my CPA.  It did suck for a while- I worked several 60+ hour weeks and traveled a LOT.  But less than five years later, I got a job at a local government, and five years later, almost tripled my salary AND have a pension.   And I really, really enjoy my job.

Sometimes a little pain up front can be totally worth it.

Cpa Cat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1586
Re: Young accountant looking for some career/life advice
« Reply #49 on: April 13, 2016, 09:30:30 PM »
No lie - the CPA license opens doors. I'm a sole-practitioner tax accountant. I don't even need to be licensed for my job! I could open a business called BIG TAX REFUND DAYCARE, HAIR SALON, AND PAYDAY LOANS without any license at all (oh wait... maybe I need a license to be a daycare and hair salon).

But people like the CPA. They're always trying to hire me to do stuff because of it.

Listen though - I watched a lot of people rot in public accounting for YEARS without a CPA. Flunking section after section. Letting their passed tests expire. Only to eventually leave with no CPA. Give it a shot, but if it's not working, then jump out to something else. I suggest government work.

I know a few people who are doing very well as accountants in universities, military accountants, public school system. Great hours, solid benefits, and no real pressure to be a CPA.

Heck, I wouldn't even worry about being labeled a "job hopper" or anything else. People flunk out of public accounting all the time after less than a year. Everyone in the accounting industry knows what it's like. From a pure math standpoint, right before busy season is the right time to quit - not right after busy season - that way you're maximizing your average hourly wage.

If you decide to stay, you're not really wasting your time or earning potential until you hit the 2 year mark without a CPA. They're not going to promote you before that, anyway. And there are plenty of people who scrabble their way to Senior Accountant without one - but I find that they're the ones who get the worst assignments and lower pay.