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private to public after 13 years

Hi All – I was hoping to get some insight from the experienced heads on this board.

I’ve been working in private for 13 years. I got into accounting by accident (straight to private, no public), and it ended up growing on me. I decided to get my CPA…I passed all of the exams last year, and I am now getting my masters in accounting to fulfill the California CPA requirements.

My dream is to start my own accounting biz, working with small businesses to do their bookkeeping, taxes, business valuations for folks who want to sell, and other stuff. Before starting that business, I would like to be in management positions at small-to-medium sized companies to get a better feel for them at that level (and save up more money for my own biz).

I’ve heard often that, with these aspirations in mind, it would suit me to go into public accounting after I’m finished fulfilling my CPA requirements (which should be by January 2018). At that point, I’ll be 38. I’m not married, have no kids, and really have no life, so the hours won’t bother me. The pay won’t kill me, either; I live way below my means. I get along with everybody of all ages, so the atmosphere doesn’t scare me, either.

My questions are: Does the community here think that’s a good idea to go into public accounting at somewhat of an older age? And how much would a CPA with 14 years of private experience expect to make at the entry level in public? I live in the Bay Area, CA.

Your thoughts are much appreciated!