Author Topic: Accounting Career Advice  (Read 4444 times)

mathy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Age: 29
Accounting Career Advice
« on: July 28, 2015, 01:41:04 PM »
Hi All, My husband and I discovered MMM this year.  We recently purchased a small home ($77,000) but have relatively low living expenses and hope to retire within 10 years.

I'm 25 and have a BA in psychology.  We're paying cash for me to take courses part-time to sit for the CPA exam in about 2 years.  I've completed through Intermediate Accounting II and it has been difficult but I really enjoy it and feel confident that I'll be able to complete the coursework required.  I currently am an administrative assistant for a small engineering firm and make $17/hour.  Since starting, I have been asked to take on more and more, what I feel were outside my original job description.  I generate financial reports, pay and track accounts payable and accounts receivables, track budgets for all of our projects and have the responsibility of keeping charges for projects in check and providing reports to project managers.  I am basically responsible for all the financials (except filing taxes) for $1,000,000 in revenue or so per year.  Maybe I'm wrong, but it just seems to be a lot of responsibility and I feel like they would have to hire an accountant to replace me if I left the company.  I recently asked for a raise to $21/hour and was turned down.  I was basically told that I didn't have any raises in my future except for maybe 3% cost of living each year.  This has resulted in some frustration and job dissatisfaction.  They've also been pushing me to work overtime, which I really don't have time to do with my accounting and business courses.

Downsides of my current job: it requires me to drive about 20 miles round trip, it's a family business and there are a lot of emotions, political opinions and that can get a little frustrating.  Upsides of my current job: very flexible, can work from home a few days a month if needed.

When I was turned down I decided to start looking for other opportunities.  I have a few promising leads that would be at much larger companies and closer to home (within 2-3 miles).  I have one that I'm really hoping I get at a regional bank in the accounting department as a Financial Accounting Representative (had a phone interview today).  I feel like getting my foot in the door at a larger more financial or accounting-oriented company would be hugely beneficial in case I don't pass the CPA exam.  I take classes online and am pretty new to the town I live in so I don't really have a network here of people in accounting and so having this opportunity seems good.  However, I am expecting that most of these jobs are going to be a $2-3/hour cut in pay.

This will decrease our savings rate slightly from our current rate of slightly over 50% but I don't think it wouldn't be a huge hit to our finances, especially since our gas expenses would decrease by about $50/month.

What are things I haven't considered here?  Should I take a cut in pay now to potentially make more later?  Any accountants have good career advice?  What would be the difference between starting my CPA career at a bank versus a public accounting firm?

Thanks in advance!  If I need to clarify any points let me know and I will respond!

Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1662
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2015, 03:15:03 PM »
I applaud you for looking for a new job.  The cut in pay may be worth it if there's room for you to progress and future opportunities.

I already had a business degree and some business experience eleven years ago when I went back (at age 33) and did precisely what you did.  I punched out the accounting courses necessary for the exam, then passed it on my first sitting.  It immediately led to job prospects.

I have always worked for private companies, and I like it that way because I am still able to have a life.  Public accounting, particularly in the early years, is fast-paced with high burn-out potential.  But you can make decent money.  Plan on giving up most free time and working weekends.  You will have to travel a lot and to places that aren't necessarily decent.  I never thought auditing seemed very interesting (which is most likely what you'd be doing).  You could choose to work on the tax side, which is a totally different ballgame.  I always thought I would find this more interesting.

But, if you want to be a partner at a firm that's what you need to do.  If you go the partner track route you will be expected to bring in business.  You will need to travel to clients' sites often.  You really need to like people and be energized by a great deal of interaction.  It takes a lot of savvy to sort out their issues, deal with their management teams.  You also need to be an exceptional writer and presenter.

In the private accounting world my CPA background has helped me manage audits from the inside, and helped me get my foot in the door at several places.  I wouldn't say that I am rewarded for it, necessarily, but I kind of view it as an insurance policy for securing future work.  It says something about you -- that you can buckle down and learn new things, and that you can devote yourself to a program on continuing education.  But I much prefer the private company lifestyle.  There is a lot less pressure.  My work days are manageable, and about the only time I have to put in overtime is during the crummy winter months when we are audited and I have year-end filings to do.  I also live in a rural area, so there isn't huge advancement potential or raises.  But, I get excellent retirement and health benefits so will probably stick it out.  That's a personal choice.  But this job allows me to pursue other interests and I make a decent living while traveling, pursuing hobbies, and still stashing away a huge chunk into our retirement accounts each year.

Hope this helps.  Bottom line:  Know thyself and what kind of lifestyle and intellectual challenges you really want.

Cpa Cat

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1572
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2015, 03:54:41 PM »
My advice is to get onto Linkedin and be trying to contact any recruiters you can. You're in a tough spot with online classes, since you have no on-campus events to go on (if your university does have a campus, see if there's a Business Career Services that can tell you if there will be any recruitment events). You didn't say whether or not any big firms are available to you locally, but if they are, you will need to take initiative to get in touch with these people.

Fall is the big recruitment season for accounting. That's when they'll be lining up Winter full time internships. Absolutely gun for an internship. Since you have Fin Acct 2 under your belt, you should be looking at taking an audit class and/or a tax class during the Fall semester so that you'd be done before the internship.

I'd highly encourage going to a bigger firm for at least a year or two - primarily because they will pay for your CPA exam, study materials and generally give you a CPA completion bonus. All told, these things add up to a lot a money. And it's good for your resume.

Also take a look at payroll department opportunities and possibly the financial department of government entities - like schools or universities.

I'm a tax professional. I was also a non-trad, returning to school with an Econ degree. I finished my Master's in Accounting and shot through the CPA exam. My #1 goal was to position myself for a work-from-home tax job as a CPA. And that's what I do now.

mathy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Age: 29
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2015, 04:33:24 PM »
I have always worked for private companies, and I like it that way because I am still able to have a life.  Public accounting, particularly in the early years, is fast-paced with high burn-out potential.  But you can make decent money. 
Hope this helps.  Bottom line:  Know thyself and what kind of lifestyle and intellectual challenges you really want.

I am becoming very aware of my limits as I take courses and try to work full time.  I love my weekends and have even chosen to cut back a bit on how fast I take my courses because I don't want to give up every night and weekend to class.

My advice is to get onto Linkedin and be trying to contact any recruiters you can. You're in a tough spot with online classes, since you have no on-campus events to go on (if your university does have a campus, see if there's a Business Career Services that can tell you if there will be any recruitment events). You didn't say whether or not any big firms are available to you locally, but if they are, you will need to take initiative to get in touch with these people.

Fall is the big recruitment season for accounting. That's when they'll be lining up Winter full time internships. Absolutely gun for an internship. Since you have Fin Acct 2 under your belt, you should be looking at taking an audit class and/or a tax class during the Fall semester so that you'd be done before the internship.

I'd highly encourage going to a bigger firm for at least a year or two - primarily because they will pay for your CPA exam, study materials and generally give you a CPA completion bonus. All told, these things add up to a lot a money. And it's good for your resume.

Also take a look at payroll department opportunities and possibly the financial department of government entities - like schools or universities.

I'm a tax professional. I was also a non-trad, returning to school with an Econ degree. I finished my Master's in Accounting and shot through the CPA exam. My #1 goal was to position myself for a work-from-home tax job as a CPA. And that's what I do now.

I am on linked in but I think I might be a bit early in my schooling for internships.  Most of the internships I've found listed say they want you sitting for the exam within a year or so.  I am pretty introverted but I know I need to get the guts up to reach out to some more accounting firms.  I'm in a fairly small town (100,000 people) but I know of at least one firm that's in the Top 50.

I found out the job at the bank has tuition reimbursement - big plus.  Now fingers crossed I get an offer!

john c

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 80
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2015, 06:26:16 PM »
In order to get your CPA license, you'll need to have worked for a CPA for 2000 hours.  You may get lucky and work for a CPA in a corporate setting, but it's probably somewhat unlikely.  Otherwise, you need to decide if you want big bucks, but 80+ hour weeks; or a part time job at a local firm for very low pay.

My advice when you start studying for the CPA exam is get a system like Becker of Gleim.  I chose Gleim, and they have a one-pass guarantee.  It worked for me!  Remember that the CPA exam is not an accounting exam, it's its own animal.  With enough studying and practice questions, you should be able to pass it, if not the first time. 

After that, you can work for a firm, or hang out your own shingle.  A local CPA firm will most likely be a tax practice

Good luck!

Yankuba

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1357
  • Location: Long Island, NY
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2015, 07:59:13 PM »
In order to get your CPA license, you'll need to have worked for a CPA for 2000 hours.  You may get lucky and work for a CPA in a corporate setting, but it's probably somewhat unlikely.  Otherwise, you need to decide if you want big bucks, but 80+ hour weeks; or a part time job at a local firm for very low pay.

My advice when you start studying for the CPA exam is get a system like Becker of Gleim.  I chose Gleim, and they have a one-pass guarantee.  It worked for me!  Remember that the CPA exam is not an accounting exam, it's its own animal.  With enough studying and practice questions, you should be able to pass it, if not the first time. 

After that, you can work for a firm, or hang out your own shingle.  A local CPA firm will most likely be a tax practice

Good luck!

Don't you also need x credits in accounting to get the title of CPA? A guy I work with passed the exam and majored in Accounting in college but now he is getting his Masters because he didn't have enough credits.

mathy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Age: 29
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2015, 08:03:18 PM »
In order to get your CPA license, you'll need to have worked for a CPA for 2000 hours.  You may get lucky and work for a CPA in a corporate setting, but it's probably somewhat unlikely. 

Thanks!  I didn't think about that! I assumed my supervisor at the bank would be a CPA, but maybe not.  I will have to ask.


Don't you also need x credits in accounting to get the title of CPA? A guy I work with passed the exam and majored in Accounting in college but now he is getting his Masters because he didn't have enough credits.

Yes, you do.  I will be well past the 150 credits required between a B.A. and the required accounting and business courses that I'm working on.

mozar

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2958
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2015, 09:05:24 PM »
I don't think you should have to take a pay cut for your next job, you should be looking for at least a small raise for a pure accounting role and you have gained experience since you started with less knowledge. You are doing financials for 1m in revenue, is that on your resume? Are you telling everyone this?
 Also once you pass the cpa you can start looking for a new job. I say put in 2 years at a public accounting firm. You will really understand everything (well mostly I guess) about accounting, and you will have a lot more options afterwards.
If you feel strong in intermediate you should be fine for CPA. I also wouldn't draw it out. Even if you love accounting, all the courses and tests are a drag and you should get it over with before you lose momentum.

Cressida

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2422
  • Location: Sunset Zone 5
  • gender is a hierarchy
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2015, 10:06:29 PM »
In order to get your CPA license, you'll need to have worked for a CPA for 2000 hours.

I think these sorts of rules vary by state. When I took the exam, I had to have a CPA "sign off" on my work experience, but it wasn't necessary that I directly report to that CPA as long as they were comfortable vouching for me.  http://www.cpaboard.wa.gov/individual-licensing/experience

OP, I think looking for a job in private industry is smart. Audit is soul-sucking and they're prejudiced against older candidates (similar to law recruiting). If you've proved yourself to an employer (that is, an employer who isn't dismissive like your current one), you can get a job with the Accountant title even without the CPA or an accounting degree. I've seen this happen more than once. Not that it *will* happen, just that it's *possible*.

Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1662
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2015, 08:58:28 AM »
In order to get your CPA license, you'll need to have worked for a CPA for 2000 hours.

I think these sorts of rules vary by state. When I took the exam, I had to have a CPA "sign off" on my work experience, but it wasn't necessary that I directly report to that CPA as long as they were comfortable vouching for me.  http://www.cpaboard.wa.gov/individual-licensing/experience

OP, I think looking for a job in private industry is smart. Audit is soul-sucking and they're prejudiced against older candidates (similar to law recruiting). If you've proved yourself to an employer (that is, an employer who isn't dismissive like your current one), you can get a job with the Accountant title even without the CPA or an accounting degree. I've seen this happen more than once. Not that it *will* happen, just that it's *possible*.

Yes - it varies by state, so check the requirements for your state.

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3525
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #10 on: July 29, 2015, 09:31:32 AM »
I'm a CPA. My path: 4 years college to get accounting degree; worked 6 years in public accounting, primarily audit, some tax, moved cross country and worked 6 months public accounting. Didn't mesh with the firm, so got out. Little over a year now in internal audit for private company.

Pay is better in private. I got the biggest bonus of my life after working for 6 months here, and it'll be double this year. Hours vary. Public accounting is notorious for long hours and burn out, the Big 4 firms chew up and spit out entry level kids. Private accounting has a huge variation. Some places it's long hours, high stress, etc, but other places it's not. Even within the same company it can vary widely. Also depends on what you're doing.

CPA license tends to open doors. Plenty of places require it, even though it's not really needed.

You NEED a CPA license to do external audit. Literally can't get promoted past a certain point. It's almost mandatory if you're in public accounting.

However, most of the grunt work of accounting is done by people with associate or bachelors degrees, no license. You can get steady work doing payroll, AP, AR, general ledger, etc. It follows a pattern, and your hours and workload will as well. A license will help you get into the supervisory and management levels.

oldmannickels

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 196
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #11 on: July 29, 2015, 09:58:50 AM »
I'm having trouble thinking of good advice to give. I feel like entry level accounting positions aren't going to pay much more than you currently receive based on your housing cost and size of the city where you live.

Getting a CPA will be good but that's still another 2+ years down the road and you already plan to be FI in 10 years. I'm not sure if becoming a CPA is going to move the needle all that much. 

mathy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Age: 29
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2015, 10:09:46 AM »
Getting a CPA will be good but that's still another 2+ years down the road and you already plan to be FI in 10 years. I'm not sure if becoming a CPA is going to move the needle all that much.

It should move it a little, I think - the job I currently have is one of a kind as it required no formal experience.  They hired me because they know I'm bright and able to learn and that accounting was my career path.  A normal job like I have in my town would pay more like $12-$13/hour.  I want the CPA and the accounting coursework so that I have a few more options career-wise.  I'm getting really frustrated where I am.

I am definitely considering speeding up my classes.  I know I need to, it's just hard to get motivated when I already have a decent job that pays well.  However, the bank will reimburse partially for courses based on what grade I end up with.  That's pretty motivational!

I think these sorts of rules vary by state. When I took the exam, I had to have a CPA "sign off" on my work experience, but it wasn't necessary that I directly report to that CPA as long as they were comfortable vouching for me.  http://www.cpaboard.wa.gov/individual-licensing/experience

I'm trying to discern the rules in Illinois.  It seems like maybe I don't even have to be working under a CPA?!

"Experience may be gained through employment in government, industry, academia, or public practice, and is not required to be acquired under the supervision of a licensed CPA."
http://www.icpas.org/hc-licensing-registration.aspx?id=24530

I have an interview with the bank Friday!  Woot!

Sibley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 3525
  • Location: Chicago, IL
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2015, 10:17:54 AM »
I'm trying to discern the rules in Illinois.  It seems like maybe I don't even have to be working under a CPA?!

"Experience may be gained through employment in government, industry, academia, or public practice, and is not required to be acquired under the supervision of a licensed CPA."
http://www.icpas.org/hc-licensing-registration.aspx?id=24530

I have an interview with the bank Friday!  Woot!

Hope I did the quotes right...

Yes, there are loop holes in the experience requirements. I've heard they're really tough to jump through though.

mathy

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 22
  • Age: 29
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2015, 10:22:15 AM »
I'm trying to discern the rules in Illinois.  It seems like maybe I don't even have to be working under a CPA?!

"Experience may be gained through employment in government, industry, academia, or public practice, and is not required to be acquired under the supervision of a licensed CPA."
http://www.icpas.org/hc-licensing-registration.aspx?id=24530

I have an interview with the bank Friday!  Woot!

Hope I did the quotes right...

Yes, there are loop holes in the experience requirements. I've heard they're really tough to jump through though.

I think you did!  It's my first time using them too. 

Good to know.  It sounds like my supervisor would be a CPA but we will see.  I definitely have a lot of questions for them.

The office would be like 2 blocks from husband's work too.  Huge bonus because we could share a ride sometimes and potentially not replace one of our cars that is starting to crap out.

Trudie

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1662
Re: Accounting Career Advice
« Reply #15 on: July 29, 2015, 11:07:00 AM »
I got the necessary experience without working for a CPA firm, but that was in another state.

If you're having trouble interpreting the rule, just call the State Board of Accountancy and have them interpret them for you.

I got lucky -- I took the exam when it was still offered on paper and the head of the State Board was there the day of the exam...so I just point-blanked him during a break.