Author Topic: I'm going back to school for Accounting.  (Read 9178 times)

biffwhipster

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I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« on: June 08, 2015, 03:14:03 PM »
I'm looking for any advice or really things to keep in mind from anyone who has gone back to school for a 2nd time in order to change careers, and had a household to maintain while doing it. A little about me below.

I have a BA in Sociology - whatever the hell that means. I've been at my job for about 7 years, and there isn't much more room for growth. Aside from the standard 3% yearly increases I don't see any more significant increases coming. I'm at 58k. My wife I have committed to a budget, and are ready to buckle down for the next few years. Oh, and we have a 10 month old daughter who will be starting daycare in August. I will be going part-time (20 hrs/week) at my current rate of pay. I plan to finance this 2nd bachelor's (tuition/books) through student loans. We live in a condo we bought a year ago about 45 mins north of LA. I'm 30.

I'm also looking for any advice from current mustachian accountants. My best friend is a CPA, and he will be guiding me through this process. The only issue is, he isn't mustachian friendly.

My apologies if this isn't specific enough.

pbkmaine

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #1 on: June 08, 2015, 03:32:14 PM »
What is the absolutely cheapest way you can finance this and still get a job with a reputable firm/company? I am a CPA (inactive license from NJ) and there are some very good state schools in NJ the big accounting firms hire from. Is there a similar situation near you? Do you want a CPA? If you do, most states require the equivalent of a masters degree and work experience of 6 months to 2 years, but this is very state specific. It's a good career if you believe that God is in the details and you are willing to work very hard as you climb the ladder.

mozar

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #2 on: June 08, 2015, 04:06:53 PM »
You shouldn't get a second bachelors. I have a bachelors in psychology. I went to a masters program in accounting that didn't require any pre-reqs. You can also take online classes to fulfill the extra 35 or so credits you need. If you want to work for big 4 I suggest the masters, but both my big 4 co-workers did online classes. If you have aptitude for it you will go far, if you don't you can still get a decent job.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #3 on: June 08, 2015, 04:49:45 PM »
What is the absolutely cheapest way you can finance this and still get a job with a reputable firm/company? I am a CPA (inactive license from NJ) and there are some very good state schools in NJ the big accounting firms hire from. Is there a similar situation near you? Do you want a CPA? If you do, most states require the equivalent of a masters degree and work experience of 6 months to 2 years, but this is very state specific. It's a good career if you believe that God is in the details and you are willing to work very hard as you climb the ladder.

Thank you for the response. I will be attending a state school that the big 4 recruit at heavily. CPA is my goal.

You shouldn't get a second bachelors. I have a bachelors in psychology. I went to a masters program in accounting that didn't require any pre-reqs. You can also take online classes to fulfill the extra 35 or so credits you need. If you want to work for big 4 I suggest the masters, but both my big 4 co-workers did online classes. If you have aptitude for it you will go far, if you don't you can still get a decent job.

Interesting. As far as I knew,at least in CA, to sit for the CPA you need somewhere around 150 units of which 80 need to be business/accounting related. A Master's in Taxtion or Accounting is equivalent to 20 of those. What master's program did you complete? No pre-reqs required sounds ideal.

Bicycle_B

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #4 on: June 08, 2015, 05:11:51 PM »
+1, Mozar!  You too, pbkmaine.

BiffWhipster, I actually know a sociology bachelor's holder who got a master's in accounting, then became a CPA... me!

I started out in public service before the accounting, then continued in public service after the accounting degree (though under different job title).  My pay started out lower than yours, then rose after the accounting to an amount similar to your current one.  I ended up doing OK but not great, fitting in on paper but not quite in practice, and left my "real" job a year and a half ago. 

The previous posters are very accurate in their education and licensing comments.  Accounting education can be cheap or expensive, and the main thing is just to get the knowledge and then certify it, along with getting the needed experience.  Night classes can get you where you need to go.  Consider muscling up by keeping the day job, studying at night, doing the transition more cheaply instead of burdening yourself with loans.

In terms of whether you really want to be an accountant, before quitting your job I suggest thorough onsite research with accountants.  Do everything possible to visit them at work, do detailed interviews with real accountants to understand their workday, determine whether you really feel you will be fit the "mold" - because more than most professions, accounting is about producing the same result someone else would produce, therefore it is more about fitting into the same box as everyone else.  Do research up front instead of quitting your job, and definitely instead of taking student loans. 

Can you do participant research by becoming a part time employee of a friend's accounting firm?  If not, instead of taking loans, consider becoming a tax preparer for a season before you abandon your current job.  58k is nothing to sneeze at for a 30 year old with BA in Sociology.  You can be a tax preparer with little or no education, just getting on the job training, working nights and weekends.  Busy season is January through April, so take a basic accounting course or two this summer and fall at night, then apply for jobs at local firms in November looking for employment in January; use H&R Block as a backup in case you can't get on somewhere else.  Earn money first, decide later.

A lot of accountants work long hours, especially if they want the lucrative jobs, so consider it a cheap investment to determine whether the larger cost of your planned job transition is worthwhile.  Yes, accounting jobs vary and they're not all exactly like preparing tax returns, but it contains many characteristics of common accounting jobs: the need to apply rules to varied data, to interpret data in one form and transfer it to another, the ability to do detailed work at speed after a bit of practice.  If you turn out not to like it, it's much better to decide that now before plunging into a debt hole.

That said - good luck with whatever you decide!!!

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #5 on: June 08, 2015, 05:46:09 PM »
+1, Mozar!  You too, pbkmaine.

BiffWhipster, I actually know a sociology bachelor's holder who got a master's in accounting, then became a CPA... me!

I started out in public service before the accounting, then continued in public service after the accounting degree (though under different job title).  My pay started out lower than yours, then rose after the accounting to an amount similar to your current one.  I ended up doing OK but not great, fitting in on paper but not quite in practice, and left my "real" job a year and a half ago. 

The previous posters are very accurate in their education and licensing comments.  Accounting education can be cheap or expensive, and the main thing is just to get the knowledge and then certify it, along with getting the needed experience.  Night classes can get you where you need to go.  Consider muscling up by keeping the day job, studying at night, doing the transition more cheaply instead of burdening yourself with loans.

In terms of whether you really want to be an accountant, before quitting your job I suggest thorough onsite research with accountants.  Do everything possible to visit them at work, do detailed interviews with real accountants to understand their workday, determine whether you really feel you will be fit the "mold" - because more than most professions, accounting is about producing the same result someone else would produce, therefore it is more about fitting into the same box as everyone else.  Do research up front instead of quitting your job, and definitely instead of taking student loans. 

Can you do participant research by becoming a part time employee of a friend's accounting firm?  If not, instead of taking loans, consider becoming a tax preparer for a season before you abandon your current job.  58k is nothing to sneeze at for a 30 year old with BA in Sociology.  You can be a tax preparer with little or no education, just getting on the job training, working nights and weekends.  Busy season is January through April, so take a basic accounting course or two this summer and fall at night, then apply for jobs at local firms in November looking for employment in January; use H&R Block as a backup in case you can't get on somewhere else.  Earn money first, decide later.

A lot of accountants work long hours, especially if they want the lucrative jobs, so consider it a cheap investment to determine whether the larger cost of your planned job transition is worthwhile.  Yes, accounting jobs vary and they're not all exactly like preparing tax returns, but it contains many characteristics of common accounting jobs: the need to apply rules to varied data, to interpret data in one form and transfer it to another, the ability to do detailed work at speed after a bit of practice.  If you turn out not to like it, it's much better to decide that now before plunging into a debt hole.

That said - good luck with whatever you decide!!!

Wow. What are the chances? Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts in detail. I began responding to some of your points and then realized... that wasn't your point!

Would you be able to elaborate more about fitting the mold. I am somewhat aware of this. MY CPA friend has shared his experiences with me fairly often throughout the years.

mozar

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #6 on: June 08, 2015, 05:58:59 PM »
I see that some new rules went into affect in 2014. But it looks like 14 units you can double up? I don't see how you need an entire new bachelor's degree. Talk to your school about exactly how to go about it.
I actually find accounting people to be more tolerant of eccentric people, but that could be because of the jobs I've chosen. But it is extremely detail oriented and a lot of rules to memorize.

pbkmaine

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #7 on: June 08, 2015, 06:12:40 PM »
I can only speak for the Big 4, which is where all my experience was. It takes a certain personality type to be happy in the Big 4. You need to be extremely detail and goal oriented. The people who do really well there tend to be described as "machines". They can just grind through the work, even when it is dull and repetitious.  Many who absolutely love the Big 4 could be diagnosed today with ASD. These are broad generalizations, of course. The other interesting thing about the Big 4 is what one of my mentors once told me: "As soon as you get to be good at something, you will never do it again." You start, typically in audit, and add and proof long columns of numbers. Then you supervise people who do this, which is an entirely different skill. Then you project manage, which is different still. Then you start to work intensively with the clients. Then, if you want to be a partner, you focus on relationships and sales. All the time you are doing these things, you work long hours and have a laser focus on your billable hours and those under you. The money gets to be good once you get to the higher levels. In 2000, I was a senior manager making $150,000. Had I stayed and made partner, I could have moved very quickly up to the $400,000 range. In the end, I wanted my life more than I wanted the money.

Bicycle_B

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2015, 07:38:35 PM »

Would you be able to elaborate more about fitting the mold. I am somewhat aware of this. MY CPA friend has shared his experiences with me fairly often throughout the years.

You're welcome to PM me.

Good comments by the other posters.  I certainly have friends in the Big 4 who I wouldn't call machines, but some have worked long hours to the point they might have felt better if they were!

Not to be discouraging, just want you to dig deep before deciding.

TaxChick

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #9 on: June 08, 2015, 07:53:20 PM »
I would second the recommendation to take a couple of online or night classes before you quit your day job. Maybe you could enroll in a basic accounting class and a finance or management class?  Community colleges tend to be a little cheaper and the first couple of accounting classes usually transfer to a four year school.

My background, I received my bachelor's in accounting and served 4.5 years in a large accounting firm, then 4 years and a lot corporation and 15 years in my current corporation.  My jobs have all been in tax. 

There are a lot of different jobs in which you can use an accounting degree. Do you have an idea as to what type of environment/job you would like? Public accounting, working for a corporation, having your own business?  When I was in public accounting, the large firms used to hire individuals with non-accounting degrees and train them.  If you had a couple of classes, this would be in your favor.  It is possible that an employer might even pay for you to get your degree.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #10 on: June 08, 2015, 08:33:02 PM »
To answer a few questions/comments:

I'm not actually quitting my day job to go back to school. I will remain in my current position at half the hours, with half of the pay.

I have 3 classes towards the CPA unit requirements. As far as a master's, while it seems like a natural progression, alone it doesn't look like it would allow me to sit for the CPA. Maybe in the past it would? A bachelor's in Accounting would fulfill everything I need to sit. I also think I would personally benefit from starting with the basics.

pbk - Thank you for elaborating. Everything that you described about your big 4 experience matches what my friend has told me. From the structured advancement plans, to the pay. One thing he said has changed is their expectations of their associates. He said they are finding that while pay is important, the millennials are looking more for work/life balance. While I'm not counting on this at all, it seems a little encouraging. I fully expect to work like a dog several months out of the year. I must admit though, he left public 2 years ago.

chick - I would like to work in public long enough to get promoted a few times - maybe manager. I would then like to go private. As far as tax, audit, etc... I have no clue. I am really basing all of my ideas off of my friend's experience. He has told me where he screwed up, where he missed out, and where he wasted time. While getting hired at a firm and going to school then sounds nice, it sounds better if I would have done it 4 years ago. I'm not sure I could work full time and go to school full time. With the home, wife and kid... no way no how. Part time school isn't appealing as I don't want this reboot to drag on. Nice excuses, right?

Again, I really appreciate all of the input.


mozar

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2015, 09:06:14 AM »
I agree that going back to basics is helpful, but you're not doing this for fun. You are doing this to get a job. You are right that a masters degree alone isn't enough but it does count for 20 units. I don't think you are understanding the rules. It says you need 24 accounting and 24 business, 14 of which count for both. 48-14 = 34. Plus 20 for new accounting units and ten for ethics. If I'm understanding correctly that's 64. A bachelors degree is 120. Why would you get an extra 54 credits? I just looked up ms in accounting in california and i see lots of schools offering it. It says right on their website that they will make sure you get all the units you need for the cpa. I don't understand how you have time and money to do 120 units again, but not for a part time 15 month program. Google masters in accounting california.
Anyways I live on the east coast and I regularly get recruiter emails from california, so it seems there are federal advisory jobs there, which is more chill.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2015, 09:47:52 AM »
I agree that going back to basics is helpful, but you're not doing this for fun. You are doing this to get a job. You are right that a masters degree alone isn't enough but it does count for 20 units. I don't think you are understanding the rules. It says you need 24 accounting and 24 business, 14 of which count for both. 48-14 = 34. Plus 20 for new accounting units and ten for ethics. If I'm understanding correctly that's 64. A bachelors degree is 120. Why would you get an extra 54 credits? I just looked up ms in accounting in california and i see lots of schools offering it. It says right on their website that they will make sure you get all the units you need for the cpa. I don't understand how you have time and money to do 120 units again, but not for a part time 15 month program. Google masters in accounting california.
Anyways I live on the east coast and I regularly get recruiter emails from california, so it seems there are federal advisory jobs there, which is more chill.

I will look at the requirements again then.
I wouldn't need the lower division requirements for this 2nd bachelor's, since I have those from my first bachelor's. I do need to take care of about 20 pre requisites though to start, which I will be doing at the JC. I am still having trouble finding a master's program that you mentioned that doesn't require any re-reqs. I will look again though and check out what you mentioned. Thank you.

sunnyca

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2015, 10:25:55 AM »
You can also take online classes to fulfill the extra 35 or so credits you need. If you want to work for big 4 I suggest the masters, but both my big 4 co-workers did online classes.

I think it depends on what you plan on doing with your CPA once you have it, but I personally wouldn't go the online class route, if only because I know a lot of firms will want a Bachelor's or Master's in Business/Accounting. 

I got a degree in Accounting, got my CPA, worked at a firm doing tax/audit/consulting for four years, then ended up working in local government.  I make a good salary (certainly nowhere near $400k, but more than enough for my needs), and have a great work-life balance. 

rmendpara

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2015, 10:39:10 AM »
Biffwhipster: Welcome future CPA!

I get excited, in a very nerdy way, about future accountants (very broad term, since it applies to all the different things people do as CPAs). Just remember that there is tax, audit, internal audit, accounting/financial reporting, consulting, transactions/M&A, and even finance that CPAs end up doing.

I can't help with the 2nd time around in school stuff, but I am a former auditor, so here's what I can share.

I'll just add that pbkmain gave a great summary of the Big 4 possibilities. Same with other large national firms where the path is very structured, but over time you can have a very above average salary... although you will work very very hard for it. After a few years, many people decide they want more balance and go out to do different things.

To give another experience, I joined a big 4 firm in audit after graduating (dual undergrad in finance + accounting). Spent just under 2 yrs, and joined industry (term for some non-public accounting company) in an internal audit rotation program. Been here for about 1.75 yrs and planning a move into a finance role within the company by Sep 2015.

Comp has been great.. I'll admit, but I worked incredibly hard and sought out projects and experiences while at my big 4 firm, and also the current job (which I moved 500 miles away to take) in order to get the biggest advancement available.

Estimates on what is "normal" in the tri-state area:
- associate for 2-3 yrs, probably making mid 50s when you start (high 50s NYC) and mid 60s after your 3rd yr... 5-7% raises each yr, with a bonus ~5% when you're promoted to senior associate after yr 2
- you can leave for industry after the 2-3 yrs and become a sr accountant or internal auditor  and realistically and somewhat easily find a position paying ~75k (base plus bonus) with VERY GOOD lifestyle... albeit with slower progression. Some other companies offer much faster progression (ex. General Electric), but the lifestyle is much worse.
- From there, ti's really up to you on what you want and how you progress, but your first 5 years could see you making in the high double digits if you're "average", and more depending on how hard you work to advance

My own personal experience, which may not be typical (southeast region):
- big 4 audit for 1.75 yrs. Left at 54k base, no bonus, 1.5% 401k  (~55k all in gross)
- fortune 10 internal audit program, 1.75 yrs today, currently at 82k, 10% bonus, 8% 401k (~95k all in gross)
- progression will not jump by 30% every 2 yrs, and will slow down a lot once reaching the manager level (likely jumps only with promotions or other changes).

The career path can be average or great, depending on how hard you work, network, and move around to advance your career. Timing is also partially luck, but if you work hard enough, you can make your own luck (to some degree).

« Last Edit: June 09, 2015, 10:50:20 AM by rmendpara »

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #15 on: June 09, 2015, 11:50:00 AM »
sunnyca & rmendpara (thanks for the warm welcome):

Thank you for the relevant insight. I am shooting for big 4 right out of the gate. Beyond that I am taking the wait-and-see approach. It is my understanding that there will be a variety of avenues I can go down. I certainly value work/life balance, but I am willing to invest significant time up front if that means the back end will level out with more pay. I say that now, but who knows once I get into it. I have a 10-month old daughter who is great at making me re-evaluate life. I guess I can blame her for this reboot.

Financial.Velociraptor

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #16 on: June 09, 2015, 12:00:53 PM »
Most of the people I knew from Big 4 accounting were miserable and looking to get out.  At least here in Houston the career path appears to be "pay your dues in Big4" and move into industry with a big raise.  The hours for a senior/manager at Big 4 are terrible in Houston.  I swear they all worked 80+ hours. 

My old firm (BHI) had a lot of "accountants" without accounting degrees (me included).  If you get about 12 hours of accounting or finance as part of an MBA, you can probably get a "Finance Manager" type role with a lot of different companies starting about 85 and topping out around 150 unless you can make the leap to middle manager.  Experience as an accountant is worth a lot more than a degree except to get your foot in the door.  I never made management even with my MBA.  I topped out at a base of 88k as a 'senior analyst' with a 15% annual bonus target plus some other perks that put me in the low six figures range before going FIRE.

Realistically, unless your COL is really high, you should be able to FIRE on what you are making.  Is the goal FIRE or to be an "accountant"?  If you want to be an accountant for the next 40 years, I think you are sick in the head *facepunch*! 

I'd try to get work to pay or at least reimburse for some type of grad school.  Management or Marketing MS/MBA might be more accessible to you.  Accounting is drudgery, I only did it because I happened to be good at it not because I liked it.


mozar

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #17 on: June 09, 2015, 12:05:39 PM »
I might've been looking at a different part of the state. Cal state la and csun require prereqs, but I still don't understand getting a bachelors and not a masters. Getting a second bachelors is like going backwards. St marys college of california has a combo of online and in person. If you know you can pass the cpa I think thats most important however you do it.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #18 on: June 09, 2015, 12:52:09 PM »
Most of the people I knew from Big 4 accounting were miserable and looking to get out.  At least here in Houston the career path appears to be "pay your dues in Big4" and move into industry with a big raise.  The hours for a senior/manager at Big 4 are terrible in Houston.  I swear they all worked 80+ hours. 


I am aware of the long hours, but my friend assures me those weeks only happen 8-10 times a years. I have heard him mention 60 or 70. I am assuming that the mention of 80 was used to emphasize a point.



Realistically, unless your COL is really high, you should be able to FIRE on what you are making.  Is the goal FIRE or to be an "accountant"?  If you want to be an accountant for the next 40 years, I think you are sick in the head *facepunch*! 


COL is high here outside of Los Angeles. I can stretch 58k, but not as far as I could in Houston. It's interesting that Texas comes into the conversation. I plan on moving to the Dallas suburbs at some point in the distant future. I would say that FIRE is the goal, but not nearly as quickly as some folks here. My wife, while she tries, isn't onboard with a mustachian lifestyle at the moment. It is a work-in-progress. I am shooting for early 50s.

I might've been looking at a different part of the state. Cal state la and csun require prereqs, but I still don't understand getting a bachelors and not a masters. Getting a second bachelors is like going backwards. St marys college of california has a combo of online and in person. If you know you can pass the cpa I think thats most important however you do it.

CSUN is likely where I will go. I know I mentioned early that I would personally benefit from starting the with basics, and I truly meant that. I have zero accounting experience. I want to make sure that I have a solid base. A second bachelor's is the cheaper option in terms of tuition. I understand that I'm not factoring in the lost wages of going part time. I checked out that hybrid program at St Mary's. It is $34k. A 2nd bachelor's would be less than half of that at CSUN. I would like to say I know I can pass the CPA. I can't see I why wouldn't be able to if everyone else can.

mozar

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2015, 02:19:38 PM »
My experience was that you work 70 hour weeks in february, march and early april. But I only did 3 busy seasons, and that was 5 years ago. Personally I would do the pre-reqs online or cc and get the masters. But it won't matter if you can get the cpa. I started with less than 0 experience in accounting. It took me a few years to even understand debits and credits. My masters program had a basic accounting class. I don't see how taking several would've helped. You either get it or you don't. Get a basic accounting book now to test your aptitude. Or get a bookkeeping job now and see how it goes. Before I started accounting school I got accounting jobs just by saying I planned on going. Aptitude is most important.

MoneyStubble25

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #20 on: June 09, 2015, 03:00:49 PM »
My live in girlfriend is a CPA and works for a midsized firm and has for more than a decade. I'll confirm that even at a midsize firm, the hours are long. She easily averages north of fifty hours a week, even during her "slow" times. Busy season is six days a week, Jan - May, and is easily 60 hours a week during that time. From what she tells me many of her coworkers put in more time, and those that have moved on to working directly for a business can easily put in similar hours. It's a slog.

I also will point out that being a CPA is a client focused profession, which can lead to many other headaches ranging from long commutes to client offices for weeks at a time, dealing with crazy client requests at all hours of the day, unnecessarily tight deadlines, and in general a wide mix of personalities. Not only do you have to slog through tough and meticulous work, but you have to deal with clients to boot.

My father was also a CPA, and seemed to hate every minute of it. Although later in his career he ran his own small firm and made his own hours, he made much less money doing it. I don't think he ever fit the "mold".

All this being said, if you love the work, are willing to put in the time and effort, it can be a worthwhile career. If you can make partner (few do) you can do very well. If not, your skills will always be in demand. However, I would think hard about this before deciding to take on debt to commit to being a CPA.

sunnyca

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #21 on: June 09, 2015, 03:19:05 PM »
Most of the people I knew from Big 4 accounting were miserable and looking to get out.  At least here in Houston the career path appears to be "pay your dues in Big4" and move into industry with a big raise.  The hours for a senior/manager at Big 4 are terrible in Houston.  I swear they all worked 80+ hours. 


I am aware of the long hours, but my friend assures me those weeks only happen 8-10 times a years. I have heard him mention 60 or 70. I am assuming that the mention of 80 was used to emphasize a point.


When I worked at a large local accounting firm, I worked 60-80 hour weeks four to six months out of the year.  Another thing which hasn't been mentioned as much (assuming you decide to go the auditing route), is the travel.  I was out of town for at least three months out of the year.

Getting a degree in Accounting and obtaining your CPA is great, but I would consider what you're taking on by working for a public accounting firm, especially with a family.  There are other jobs out there which would pay well, utilize an Accounting degree, and give you the experience required to get your CPA license.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #22 on: June 09, 2015, 03:42:33 PM »
My CPA contact says that during his big 4 years, his average week was 40-45 hours. During busy season it was 50-60 give or take a few hours. He had a couple of 70-80 hour weeks because he took on too much work. He also said he never realized any benefits of taking on that extra work. He worked at a big 4 2 years ago. Is his experience unique or does it have something to do with a shift in expectations?

sunnyca

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #23 on: June 09, 2015, 03:54:28 PM »
My CPA contact says that during his big 4 years, his average week was 40-45 hours. During busy season it was 50-60 give or take a few hours. He had a couple of 70-80 hour weeks because he took on too much work. He also said he never realized any benefits of taking on that extra work. He worked at a big 4 2 years ago. Is his experience unique or does it have something to do with a shift in expectations?

His experience seems unique to me.  The majority of CPAs I've known that work in public accounting work much more than 40-45 hours, on average.  Working on weekends, etc. is pretty typical. 

MoneyStubble25

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2015, 04:05:00 PM »
I agree that those hours don't sound typical, but there could have been a lot of factors. Was he in tax or audit? What were his future plans? Get Big 4 experience and check out, or work your way up to manager and later partner? If he was just in it for the couple years experience, he was likely able to just coast by. My GF is on partner track, and to be even considered for that her billable hours have to average over 50 a week for the year. That means vacation is not included.

That being said, I also dated another woman in accounting (what can I say, I like accountants) that worked for the SEC. Her salary was good, only worked 40 hours a week, and had great vacation time and benefits typical of a government employee. Upward mobility was limited and it's tough to get those jobs, but it seemed like a great gig. There are alternatives to the firm slog, but are the exception rather than the rule.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #25 on: June 09, 2015, 04:58:52 PM »
I agree that those hours don't sound typical, but there could have been a lot of factors. Was he in tax or audit? What were his future plans? Get Big 4 experience and check out, or work your way up to manager and later partner? If he was just in it for the couple years experience, he was likely able to just coast by. My GF is on partner track, and to be even considered for that her billable hours have to average over 50 a week for the year. That means vacation is not included.


Tax. I don't think he was ever interested in partner, but he was on track to make manager. He left a year before that happened. I can't imagine him just coasting by. He is a committed and goal-oriented individual. The only time he needed to average that many billable hours was during busy season.

BeanCounter

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #26 on: March 02, 2017, 06:51:16 AM »
I'm a CPA with no masters. I have a double major and double minor in accounting and marketing, plus some extra classes in tax that allowed me enough credits to sit for the exam. If I had it to do over again I would have just done the masters. The reason I didn't was that my employer at the time wouldn't pay for it, but they did pay for the additional undergrad hours.
Anyway. I worked at a firm for a short time, just about six months. It was not for me. I got out fast.
The last ten years of my career have been like this- staff accountant and then controller at a small company. Then Accounting Lead (which was basically a regional/division controller position) at a big mega corp. Did that for a few years and decided that I was really bored with accounting and wanted to move over to the finance side. I stayed with huge mega corp and became a "Sr. Finance Consultant". Then moved to another large organization in the same industry as a Finance Manager and now I'm Director of Finance at the same place.
I'm really glad I  have the accounting background. It makes lots of parts of my job easier. The CPA after my name has helped me get jobs and move up.
What I love about the finance side is being part of operations. I do all the budgeting, pro-forma's and analysis for projects and month end financials. That gets me on the ground working with operations managers and helping them put numbers behind projects so that we can make good decisions.
There are lots of different directions you can go with accounting. It's not all about closing the books every month, or working for a firm auditing and grinding out tax returns. Just depends which direction you want to go.

Cpa Cat

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #27 on: March 02, 2017, 07:56:45 AM »
I did it - ECON liberal arts Undergrad, Masters of Accounting and CPA as a married non-trad aged 29.

The education rules in my state are pretty restrictive so I had a lot of gaps to fill. Before applying, I sat down the head of the Masters of Accounting program at the college to talk about options. She encouraged me to apply directly to the Masters program and then take prereqs via the Masters program. It put her in charge of any waivers I needed to fast track my way through and allowed me to bypass any undergrad classes that weren't strictly necessary for my CPA and Masters requirements. I'm glad I talked to her. I could have wasted a lot of time muddling along on my own otherwise.

I went to a school that had a good representation of recruiters and I did an internship for credit, which paid a good amount. I also became GTA and got a 50% tuition break. Between that and scholarships, I broke even on tuition costs. A one year Masters was more like 18 months and I went full time and added some Summer classes.

I didn't do Big 4, although it was an option. I did a mid-size firm to get tax experience so that I could go out on my own. They paid for my CPA exam study materials and testing, and there was a bonus upon completion. But overall, it was a dead-end firm. I did 40 hours outside busy season and had time in the slow months to study for the exam on the clock. Busy season was a 55 hour minimum target and I did not work hard to exceed my target. I did my minimum experience requirement and then I left and started my own business.

It took me 18 months to surpass my previous salary + benefits (net after taxes). I currently work about 25 hours a week off-season, 40-50 Jan-mid Feb, and 80 hours a week since mid Feb or so. My business grew tremendously this year and I wasn't on the ball enough to get an employee set up in time.

Speaking of which... I actually do not have time to post on MMM. What am I doing? I must have gone a little crazy if I'm here reading this thread.

Jenny1974

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #28 on: March 02, 2017, 08:10:21 AM »
I'm curious . . . are you looking to do Tax, Audit, or both?  In Big 4, you typically are a Audit guy or a Tax guy.  Personally, I worked Big 6 (or 8, can't remember what it was at the time) for about 3 years as a Tax associate . . made Tax Sr. . . . and shortly thereafter left the firm for a nice industry job.  I have been a tax professional working in industry for about 17 years now. 

Whether you take a tax or audit route can have a big bearing on what your life will be like in the working world.  Obviously, with tax, we were busy during the first part of the year and pretty steady (roughly 40 - 45 hours a week) during the remainder of the year.  The audit group seemed to have a lot more busy (i.e. 55 or > hours a week) time.  Also, I think tax people and audit people are two different breeds.  Look into what really suits your personality and your desires.

biffwhipster

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #29 on: March 02, 2017, 11:16:06 AM »
I'm not really sure what I want to do yet since I don't have any real experience. In fact, I haven't taken a single audit class yet - it starts next week. I do know that I don't want to travel much, so maybe audit isn't for me.

Just a little update - I ended up going the masters route. I needed 12 prerequisites for the program - I'm working on the last 2 this semester. I start the program in August and will finish it a year after. Surprisingly and thankfully most of if not all of the subject matter comes to me naturally. Everything accept cost.

Giro

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #30 on: March 02, 2017, 11:55:24 AM »
I second the idea of taking a few night classes before going all in or quitting your day job.  I'm also a CPA (inactive).  I graduated a very long time ago (97), worked in Accounting for about 4 years and then went into Engineering.  I realize it was a long time ago, but I couldn't even break $80K a year working 50 hours.  Went into Engineering and broke that immediately and now make double that amount and I'm in one of the lowest COL areas in the country.  Oh, and I work 35 hours a week or less.  The CPAs in Ohio are barely making $100K a year. 

My husband also works in Engineering so it's pretty much what I know.  I may be coming from the other side of things and not being fair to CPAs.

 


BeanCounter

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Re: I'm going back to school for Accounting.
« Reply #31 on: March 02, 2017, 12:01:31 PM »
I second the idea of taking a few night classes before going all in or quitting your day job.  I'm also a CPA (inactive).  I graduated a very long time ago (97), worked in Accounting for about 4 years and then went into Engineering.  I realize it was a long time ago, but I couldn't even break $80K a year working 50 hours.  Went into Engineering and broke that immediately and now make double that amount and I'm in one of the lowest COL areas in the country.  Oh, and I work 35 hours a week or less.  The CPAs in Ohio are barely making $100K a year. 

My husband also works in Engineering so it's pretty much what I know.  I may be coming from the other side of things and not being fair to CPAs.

 

I think industry is more lucrative earlier and longer than working for a firm. Firm work is lots of hours and a great big J curve pay scale.
My salary is >$100k. I rarely work over 40 hours, and when I do work extra I do it from home. I'm in Ohio. The next step for me would be VP and then CFO. My boss, one of our CFO's makes >$600k.
We are all CPA's turned finance.