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Started public accounting at an older age, thinking about moving to private

I never knew what I wanted to do in life, so I started in one career with a certain degree and went back later for a degree in accounting. I dont have a masters, because I didnt need one due to satisying the credit requirement, but am currently sitting for the first part of the CPA exam.

I got an internship while I was in school at a midsize firm, and didnt bother applying anywhere else. A while later they took me on full time doing tax and audit. So far I have been employed for one year as a full time employee ( and 2 years prior only doing tax part time). I guess because I am already 30, and only at an associate level, I dont know what the next move to make it.

Part of me wants to stick it out until a senior, and then leave, although at a midsize firm, that can be 3-5 years, and I am looking at already being 35 years old. The other hand is applying for private companies at an associate level, at maybe a slight increase in pay.

I really dislike public accounting, and never planned on doing it long term (goal was always public –> private), but I wonder since I am starting to late, how limited my options are in this plan. Most of my concern is monetary — Most of my accounting friends switched to private and I know I can make more in private with better hours, but how long should I stick it out in public to get to a point where that can be a reality?

Thanks in advance.