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December 8, 2022

The Little Known World of Government Accounting

I have been reading Going Concern for a couple of years now, and it is usually very heavily focused on the audit and tax side of public accounting.  There are rants about work-life balance (or really the lack there of), the interns, the busy season hours, the ridiculous review comments…but I believe the world of Federal Accounting is sorely under represented.  All Big 4 Firms have their foot in the Federal ring…whether it is as external or internal auditors.

This is not an elusive practice.  Anyone can get in, and even more get out.  All you need to do is demonstrate that you can obtain a 4 year degree in anything from political science to financial management, and you are in.  Sure, from day 1 you realize you are surrounded by douche bags and that you will never see any change at your clients – that you can’t be one of them, buy them anything, or direct them to do anything without hurting their feelings and demeaning whatever level they have been promoted to (9 times out of 10 for existing).

But there are some pretty fabulous perks if you can get beyond all the bureaucratic insanity.  There is the “40 hour work week” cap.  Yes, you heard me correctly – a cap on hours so that you can’t charge more than 40 hours a week.  Sounds great right?  Well, refer to paragraph 2 where I mentioned douchebags…there are always the team members who eat their hours, and work 10 hours a day and only charge 8 because they think what they do matters that much and is that important anyway.  You also have to deal with flexible work schedules where your POC is out every other Friday so that on any given Friday, no one you need to talk to is in.

There is also the Federal Holiday thing.  Is it a bank holiday? Chances are you are working from home that day.  Oh, and don’t forget the potlucks.  You either have to state at the outset that you are on a diet, etc or you will have to eat cookies, cupcakes, cakes (every month) then also be subjected to all the bank holiday potlucks (what I am saying here is invest in some sweat pants because those skinny jeans won't fit soon enough).

Is Federal for you? Prolly.  If you want work life balance, constant frustration, and bang-your-head-against-the-wall slowness it is definitely for you.  The people in Federal practices are horrible to work with though, so word of warning.  You will probably get pigeon holed into A-123 testing and never be allowed to leave that specialty until you leave the firm.

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