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Career Advice for MSA- Tax Student

Hello everyone,

I am 22 and currently one year away from completing my Masters in Accounting with a tax focus. After I get my masters, I am planning on getting my CPA which requires the hours of experience under a CPA as you all probably know.

I have worked at a small bookkeeping and tax business for the last 4 years, and I have been a registered tax preparer for the last 3 years with this company. I love working there. The owner is the only one above me, and I have 3 people who work under me. The issue is that the owner is not a CPA. Therefore this experience does not count. However, I get to kind run the office and work more in tandem with the owner rather than underneath. We do taxes, payrolls, AR, AP and standard bookkeeping for about 30 business and we do way more tax returns. My favorite thing is the fact that there is a variety of different things to do (not just one thing day in and day out) and the amount of communication/contact I am allowed to have with all the clients. Tax fascinates me and I love doing it, which is why I decided to go that route. When I look at my future, I see myself owning my own business because I love the flexibility of it and being my own boss. I know all about the challenges as well though.

Over the summer I took a break from the job above, and did an 8 week internship with a mid sized firm (I’m not sure if I should say the name). I was exhausted after every day and even though I only worked 8 hour days, I was away from the house for 12 hours with the commute. This was just normal days too. I know in firms like this one, busy season is way more hours. After 8 weeks I should of adjusted to the hours and working. I normally work more than 40 hours a week but some are from home. A 9-5+ job in a corporate setting is completely different and is so much more tiring. While the firm was amazing (amazing benefits, good pay ($56,000 starting, really focused on employees well-being), I was more or less miserable because I was so tired. It showed me that working in this situation and only preparing tax returns every day, isn’t how I want to spend the rest of my life.  However, I did get offered a full time position starting in June. The salary starts at $56,000 and they would pay for my CPA tests and study materials. If I passed it within 2 years, I also get a couple thousand dollar bonus.

Here is my dilemma (sorry about the long post). I can’t continue working in my job that I love if I want my CPA because I need the experience. Even if he was a CPA, I don’t want to feel like I am holding myself back by working at a small business even though I love it.

I am going to meet the firms tomorrow to see my other choices, but the firm I received an offer at wants their response by the 15th. If I don’t find another firm, it seems like my only option is to be miserable and suck it up for the next two years until I can get my CPA. However, I am not necessarily in a rush to get my  CPA. I have a husband and an 8 year old step son, and I want to enjoy life. Do you think accepting the offer and getting the two years in and my CPA done is worth it?

However, I know the environment is how all mid-sized firms are going to be. My deciding choice then would be focused on not necessarily the firm but the size and type of the business. The firm I have the offer with is honestly a great firm. My choices, I think, come down to:

1) Accepting the offer at a mid sized firm and not having a life or being happy for 2 years in exchange for free CPA and meeting the experience requirement. Plus it looks great on a resume and I would be introduced to a variety of things that would help with my own business.

2)Trying to find a small firm like the one I currently work at, only owned by a CPA who could write off on my experience. This would allow me to have the variety I want, but I would have to shell out the CPA test fees and study material costs and I would have a lower pay than a mid sized firm. I am not sure if this is “holding me back” though.

Or, is there any other options I am missing? This has really had me stressed out trying to figure it out. I know I can always change and this is just the first step, but I would love some advice from people who have experience and know the Accounting/Tax industry.