Author Topic: Accounting careers  (Read 2098 times)

kblessing

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Accounting careers
« on: October 24, 2016, 10:38:41 PM »
So, quick back story. I've been in the insurance industry for 11 years now and have made a decent living. I'm a long range planner, as it seems most here are, and subscribe to the theory of autonomous vehicles becoming not necessarily the death of the insurance industry but can see a definite contraction in job availability becoming a reality.

 So, I've since gone back to school to finish my degree. I've settled on accounting because ive always enjoyed numbers, see more stability in the field, and can see a potential for good side job money to help the stache. I'm on track to graduate next summer so I had a few questions for those in the field.

1. Is the side income dream a reality or a pipe dream?
2. Does anyone have experience starting off in a remote/ part time role immediately after graduation? I make decent but not great money at my current job, and I'm not sure if its worth jumping ship immediately after graduation or gaining some experience first.
3. We all have different definitions of satisfaction, but overall, are you happy with your choice to go into accounting?

Thanks for any responses!
« Last Edit: October 24, 2016, 10:40:21 PM by kblessing »

marty998

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2016, 01:01:28 AM »
Our industry is not exactly roses either. A lot of the entry level work has been automated, and the work that is left is on the way.

Tax work will still be there (because the world will always have people wanting to avoid as much tax as possible), and accounting policy work, because machines cannot interpret complex transactions (yet). Payroll, accounts receivable/payable etc... all gone already in large organisations.

There are also roles you can do like forecasting and budgeting, auditing, strategy, M&A analysis, company directorships, compliance, investor relations, business analysis, business partnering, general management...

What do you want to do? Accounting is broad...In the same way as a musician has a choice of a hundred instruments, and accountant has a choice of a hundred roles as well.



mozar

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2016, 10:36:11 AM »
I work in policy and I can see there not being any policy jobs left in ten years. So how many years are you looking to work OP? If you live in a state where you need an extra 30 hours on top of your bachelor degree to sit for the cpa, I recommend you do that. Once you have all your hours you can apply for external audit positions. The company will reimburse your cpa fees. Then you will be set up nicely for a career and you can try a variety of roles. I started in external audit and went to federal government consulting.
You should start applying for full time accounting jobs before you graduate because applying after you graduate will be considered too late. If you want some experience before full time look for an internship now.
Side income is possible,  I've known people who do personal taxes on the side for like $200 a 1040, sounds tiring to me.
Generally I'm happy with it. I have no idea what else I would do even for less money. I love dancing but I'm not going to get a job performing at this point, lol. I like law but I was too anxious to do well on the lsat. Accounting policy suits me because its just complicated enough that most people don't get it, but not too complicated that I don't get it.

dogboyslim

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2016, 10:42:46 AM »
Average car today is 10-11 years old.  While you are right that a contraction in the auto insurance industry is likely going forward, its nowhere near what I'd call a crisis.  Personally I plan to retire within the next 10-15 years, so I'm good staying in the industry.

I bring this up because if you already work in insurance, are there any accounting roles within your company that you can move into?  That way you keep your company tenure for time off accruals and potentially any retirement benefits that may still apply for your company.  My company is always looking for accountants to help with budget prep and balance, tracking to goals, expense reporting/management and internal audit.

depending on what you want to do, you could keep your current company, gain the accounting expertise you need etc.

I think the part time side-gig work will be easier if you've already had some corporate or consulting experience.

Rubyvroom

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2016, 12:02:48 PM »
I have a degree in Accounting. I never got an MBA. I never got a CPA. I started full time right out of college at a Big 4 public accounting firm and stayed the bare minimum amount of time to get that heavy-hitting name on my resume without looking like I despised every second of it. I've since worked for two different companies doing various roles including SEC reporting, commissions accounting, financial planning and analysis, treasury management, and have had involvement in many debt and investment transactions. I've literally never done taxes.

As others have stated, there is a LOT you can apply this degree to, some areas more lucrative than others, and some experience/education/certification requirements can be more strict depending on what you want to do. The career can really ramp up though, but it does take some time. As with any career, being in the right place at the right time helps immensely.

I will say that once you acquire a few certifications (I say that, but I've done quite well without them), ample experience, and a robust network of people willing to vouch for your skills, it becomes much easier to exit and become a part time consultant, especially at the Senior Accountant or Senior Financial Analyst level. I know of many people who only work for consulting firms and take jobs as they please. They have assured me that it doesn't even necessarily take an immense amount of skill to provide value as a consultant, because so many companies have such backwards systems and processes that even minor improvements can make huge differences. Companies simply get very set in their ways and rarely have an outside perspective to show them different ways of doing things.

I have one friend in particular that works about 6 months out of the year (on different client engagements, ranging 1-3 months in length) for her "fun" money which she uses to travel the remaining 6 months out of the year. She gets hired most often as an Accountant, Senior Accountant, Accounting Manager, Financial Analyst, or Senior Financial Analyst. Anything above that and you are not going to find quite as much demand for those roles. This of course is location dependent - we live in a metro area with plenty of large corporate and medium/small company presence.

I will say that, given the fact that you've already worked 11 years, the "typical" career path will not be as acceptable to you (hell, it wasn't to me even at 24 y/o). It probably has changed a bit now, but at the time it was most common for a new grad to join a public accounting firm while studying for their CPA, pass the CPA, earn 2 years of experience at their current firm, gain their certification and then leave for a hopefully less stressful "industry" job. Those 2 years at a public accounting firm while studying for the CPA required massive amounts of work. There was no worklife balance. The hours expected during busy season were astronomical. The firm I worked for literally hired 90 college grads the summer I started and 2 years later there may have been 30 of us left (check back 1 year later and that number was in the single digits).

That specific career path, or "putting in your dues" was the fastest way to excel in Accounting (Excel, lol). If you didn't have that Big 4 name on your resume, it was guaranteed to be filed in the recycling bin. At 24, that lifestyle was exhausting, but doable. At 34 I don't think I'd be able to manage much more than a cackle and a middle finger as I walked out the door on to better things in life. I echo the person that said to try to find an accounting role within your current company rather than hopping on the typical accounting career treadmill. That may be far less stressful, and you can probably skip the "putting in your dues" nonsense without putting yourself back too far.

Be mindful that I graduated 11 years ago, pre-recession, so this is really just my experience with the industry. Things have probably changed quite a bit.

Also, become a pro in Excel if you aren't already. If you are, people think you are a mfing WIZARD, but if you aren't, it can be a serious handicap.

Lastly, I hope you like spreadsheets. :)

CptCool

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2016, 10:41:54 AM »
I have a degree in Accounting. I never got an MBA. I never got a CPA. I started full time right out of college at a Big 4 public accounting firm and stayed the bare minimum amount of time to get that heavy-hitting name on my resume without looking like I despised every second of it. I've since worked for two different companies doing various roles including SEC reporting, commissions accounting, financial planning and analysis, treasury management, and have had involvement in many debt and investment transactions. I've literally never done taxes.

As others have stated, there is a LOT you can apply this degree to, some areas more lucrative than others, and some experience/education/certification requirements can be more strict depending on what you want to do. The career can really ramp up though, but it does take some time. As with any career, being in the right place at the right time helps immensely.

I will say that once you acquire a few certifications (I say that, but I've done quite well without them), ample experience, and a robust network of people willing to vouch for your skills, it becomes much easier to exit and become a part time consultant, especially at the Senior Accountant or Senior Financial Analyst level. I know of many people who only work for consulting firms and take jobs as they please. They have assured me that it doesn't even necessarily take an immense amount of skill to provide value as a consultant, because so many companies have such backwards systems and processes that even minor improvements can make huge differences. Companies simply get very set in their ways and rarely have an outside perspective to show them different ways of doing things.

I have one friend in particular that works about 6 months out of the year (on different client engagements, ranging 1-3 months in length) for her "fun" money which she uses to travel the remaining 6 months out of the year. She gets hired most often as an Accountant, Senior Accountant, Accounting Manager, Financial Analyst, or Senior Financial Analyst. Anything above that and you are not going to find quite as much demand for those roles. This of course is location dependent - we live in a metro area with plenty of large corporate and medium/small company presence.

I will say that, given the fact that you've already worked 11 years, the "typical" career path will not be as acceptable to you (hell, it wasn't to me even at 24 y/o). It probably has changed a bit now, but at the time it was most common for a new grad to join a public accounting firm while studying for their CPA, pass the CPA, earn 2 years of experience at their current firm, gain their certification and then leave for a hopefully less stressful "industry" job. Those 2 years at a public accounting firm while studying for the CPA required massive amounts of work. There was no worklife balance. The hours expected during busy season were astronomical. The firm I worked for literally hired 90 college grads the summer I started and 2 years later there may have been 30 of us left (check back 1 year later and that number was in the single digits).

That specific career path, or "putting in your dues" was the fastest way to excel in Accounting (Excel, lol). If you didn't have that Big 4 name on your resume, it was guaranteed to be filed in the recycling bin. At 24, that lifestyle was exhausting, but doable. At 34 I don't think I'd be able to manage much more than a cackle and a middle finger as I walked out the door on to better things in life. I echo the person that said to try to find an accounting role within your current company rather than hopping on the typical accounting career treadmill. That may be far less stressful, and you can probably skip the "putting in your dues" nonsense without putting yourself back too far.

Be mindful that I graduated 11 years ago, pre-recession, so this is really just my experience with the industry. Things have probably changed quite a bit.

Also, become a pro in Excel if you aren't already. If you are, people think you are a mfing WIZARD, but if you aren't, it can be a serious handicap.

Lastly, I hope you like spreadsheets. :)

This advice is gold - I had/have the same experience as you, but graduated post-recession. I second everything Rubyvroom recommended

catccc

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2016, 11:42:46 AM »
I've got a certificate in accounting, a b.s. in IT, and a CPA.  I basically sold my credentials (pre-CPA) as a double major when interviewing with employers.  I told them exactly what it was, but explained that it was just a couple of classes short of a BS in accounting, and my school didn't offer accounting as a BS.  Which seems insane now, it's such a basic and popular degree, but whatever, that's just how it went down.

I think getting a job in public and getting your CPA will serve you well.  I spent 2 years in public at a regional firm, not big 4, and I think the diversity of work I did in that role has given me some good accounting cred., as well as a good foundation for accounting overall.  I got to try out tax and audit, as well as small biz consulting.  It was a good mix, and I felt it prepared me better for future roles as opposed to spending a lot of time auditing cash and fixed assets like a 1st year auditor in big 4 might do.  It was a well rounded experience.  That's how the regional firm sold it to me, and that is what I told interviewers.  It seems to work well, as I've been offered the job at something like 11 of 12 interviews in my career.  I now have a relatively cushy industry job.  37.5 hour standard workweek, workload that fits into said workweek, telecommute one day a week, great benefits (including 7% employer 401K contribution), and a decent salary of $90K.  In a senior accounting role... I'm a career senior, no desire to get into an accounting manager or controller role, though I was a controller once. 

I also keep the books for a local coffee shop, I charge $20/hr, which is kind of a joke, but it's a friend.  When I left public I was asked by one of the partners to do some light bookkeeping for one of their clients.  I charged $75/hr, but it was really only a couple hours a month, at a stretch.  The point being, good bookkeepers are actually hard to come by.  Side gigs, if you network, are available.  And since so many businesses use QBO (quick books online) you can do most of the work remotely.

I'm super happy with my career choice.  It suits me well.  There have been times in my career that I was not happy with my current employer or workload.  But you can change those things by finding another opportunity.  My experience has been that it is easy to find accounting work, specifically as a financial reporting/general ledger accountant.  Even in the roughest times (late 2009/early 2010, after taking a year off to be w/ our first baby), I've been able to find a job.  I'm on my 8th job in 12 years of career, and the longest position I held was at my last employer for 4 years.  I'm approaching 3 yrs now at my current job.  I job hopped a lot early in my career and every time my salary got better.  Placement agencies and recruiters are active in the industry.


kblessing

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2016, 03:37:52 PM »
Thanks for the advice everyone!

I've had discussions with my wife in regards to taking a pay cut initially from my current position and moving into an accounting role, so I'm willing to take some time to move upwards career-wise. We're not in a position to FIRE anytime soon so I've got some time.

I know the sky isn't falling on the insurance industry and my motivation to change industries isn't ONLY because of the future of the industry. Being in auto insurance on the claims side this long has really been a drain on me personally on top of little future growth in sight at this point. So, changing careers at this point in my life is also to save my sanity( not that accounting is all unicorns and rainbows).

From what I've gathered regarding the different specializations, I think my desire lends itself towards the financial analysis role. I love gathering data and utilizing the information to build and initiate change within an organization(Please correct me if I'm way off base regarding the role). I've had opportunities to do that at a former employer in a small capacity and really enjoyed it. I didn't try to stick it out with that company because there weren't any future opportunities for me in that type of role without moving my family across the country(which I'm not willing to do right now).


catccc

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Re: Accounting careers
« Reply #8 on: October 27, 2016, 07:31:14 AM »
On the analysis role... it is the kind of stuff I like to do, too.  But I tried it and hated it and went back to general ledger accounting/financial reporting.  The problems I had in my analysis role were that the organization didn't have good data for me to analyze, they weren't wiling to act on what was analyzed, and they was overly focused on variances to stale budgets.  By the end of the year I was a broken record.  It was very frustrating, and I really missed the relatively definitive world of general ledger accounting, where you follow GAAP and account for transactions properly, where journal entries always balance, and there's usually a right answer.  It's certainly not without challenge.  I love a puzzle, and they come up just often enough for my taste.

Analyzing data is great when you have good data and people willing to change.  But in many organizations, both large and small, change is hard to come by.  As is good data.