September 24, 2022

Apparently, If Junior Seau Had Been a CPA, He Would Have Made Partner in Five Years

I'm always amazed by the misinformed comments made by those outside of the accounting industry about the accounting industry (and, sadly, sometimes the ones made by those on the inside). Now no one expects the uninitiated to have any clue what they're talking about but how hard is it to at least try if you're going to talk about accounting?

Jim Steeg's recent National Football Post article about life after football for professional athletes was interesting and informative up until the point that he decided to use a completely ridiculous, mythical example of a CPA none of us have ever known making partner at 28 years old:

For the average fan, just imagine that you go to college to earn an accounting degree, then back it up with an MBA, pass the CPA exam with flying colors, work for five years and achieve partnership in your firm. And then, suddenly, at 40, you are fired. And then, you are inexplicably informed that there are no more accounting jobs for which you can apply. To me, this is like the story of [Junior] Seau: Unanimous first-team college All-American, fifth overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft, 10-time all-pro, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, soon-to-be Hall of Famer who grew up in a poor Samoan family in Oceanside, Calif., played 13 seasons for his hometown San Diego Chargers, transcended American football and became a San Diego sports icon and the most successful Samoan athlete ever.

Now maybe I'm nit-picking here but it ruins the entire comparison given that the author has compared Junior Seau's career to that of a CPA that doesn't exist. A quick Google search for "how long does it take to make partner?" could have revealed this 2004 New York Society of CPAs CPA Journal article:

Individuals that wish to join a big firm commonly want to know how many years it takes to make partner. The current estimate is that it takes an average of almost 13 years (Exhibit 1). Compared to the previous survey, the time to make audit partner has increased by approximately one year, and the time to make tax partner has increased by one and one-half years.

Now, in Steeg's defense, you do have freaks like this overachiever who made partner at Deloitte by 28, ate snake in China and still managed to find the time to bang his wife at least twice in between globe-trotting for "The Man" but he is the exception, not the rule. I get that he's trying to say Junior Seau was exceptional but the problem here is that there really is no such thing as an exceptional CPA in this context, either you know how to do your job or you don't. There may be "high performers" and "super slaves" but for the most part, you don't get first year accountants being treated like the star of that year's NFL draft. Could you imagine Peyton Manning, CPA-to-be being called into audit committee meetings his first week on the job?

Let's not even consider that making partner isn't simply a matter of sucking up to everyone above you for a decade and TA-DA you get the job. One Going Concern reader with not enough to do did the math on the odds of making partner and let's just say there's a reason those guys make the kind of money they do, it takes balls (or ovaries) of steel to stick it out 10 – 15 years. Yes, TEN to FIFTEEN years. Not five. Most CPAs would be lucky to make it out of the senior manager parking lot in that amount of time.

Now, there are some characteristics both public accounting and pro football share. If you didn't know Adrian Peterson played for the NFL, you might think he's just another disgruntled CPA:

"It's modern-day slavery, you know? People kind of laugh at that, but there are people working at regular jobs who get treated the same way, too. With all the money," Peterson continued. "The owners are trying to get a different percentage, and bring in more money."

So really, maybe Junior Seau was the Elijah Watt Sells winner of NFL players but the comparison just doesn't work. Next time use lawyers, dude.

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