A while back I spoke to several controllers at nonprofit organizations and asked them what tips they would give to an accounting or finance professional considering that role. Among the advice that was shared included “believe in the nonprofit’s mission and objectives” and “you won’t be rich, but the job is rewarding.” It seems that […]
Robert Kuehler and Alan West have a few things in common: both are CPAs, both started their careers in public accounting, both have accounting degrees, and both went back to college—not as a student or professor but as a state university controller. As associate vice president/university controller at the University of Colorado, Kuehler oversees a […]
This sunset is less everyday than your career goals. Happy Tax Day everyone! Today is the day for alcohol, sleep, and breathing a big sigh of relief. Another busy season complete! Today is also the day to start career brainstorming for potential post-busy season job hopping, ladder climbing, and startup launching. So it’s also the […]
Today I was in a meeting with a 29-year-old accountant who decided to join our firm. It came up in conversation that she was a skater. The fact that Accodex doesn’t have a problem with that was a part of her consideration for joining.
This is sponsored content brought to you by Armanino, an Accountingfly Firm Partner. In January 2016, Jason Gilbert became a partner at California-based Armanino LLP, 10 years after walking in the door as a 24-year-old staff accountant. His rise took the usual hard work and talent, but he clinched the partnership spot by getting creative―and […]
Have you considered a career at a regional or local firm? Perhaps you should! The career opportunities and earning potential are incredible, and the work is highly rewarding. Hear from a panel of managing partners from small, midsized and regional firms as they discuss what is great about working in one of America’s midmarket firms. […]
The spinmeisters at Bob Half are saying yes: The career outlook for women in finance and accounting has improved over the past decade, suggests a new survey from global staffing firm Robert Half. More than four in 10 (42 percent) chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said the ability of women in the finance field to […]
Now that's officially fall, you're probably thinking it's finally time that you got serious about finding a new job. Before long it'll be mid-November, and then you'll be in a food-induced hibernation for the last six weeks of the year. Where to start, right? Well, the easiest thing to do is jump over to Going […]
Back in February we briefly let you in on a new venture that we were working on called Going Concern Jobs. While there had been many discussions here at GC about the opportunities around job boards and recruiting services, we hadn't consulted with the most important people in that process, and that would be you all, the readers of Going Concern.
Congratulations, people, U.S. News says you have one of the hottest jobs of 2012! Logic and attention to detail are the name of the accounting game: This profession is the epitome of left-brain thinking. But most importantly, being an accountant means being passionate about numbers and the practical application of numbers. Many accountants are public […]
Just what public accounting doesn't need, another pro-public article touting the low unemployment rate and relatively high opportunities available to those with degrees in accounting. Forgive me for being too lazy to look up an actual number at this moment but I believe the last statistic was 3.5% or something – which means most of […]
As we all know, the Big 4 are more than happy to market themselves as the melting pots of the professional services world. First in your family to go to college? Great! Not an Ivy League graduate? No problem! Completely devoid of WASPyness? Even better! With the relative success of the firms to market this inclusive culture, however, Reuters reports that the biggest challenge is convincing the parents of first-generation recruits that accounting is just as worthy of a career path as medicine or law:
Accounting has long provided a path for first-generation Americans into the professional classes. Good pay and a focus on numbers makes it an attractive career choice. Still, recruiting the children of immigrants is complex, say some Certified Public Accountants (CPAs). Parents’ opinions are influential and they often don’t know the field, a problem that alternatives like medicine or the law don’t face. Once on the job, first-generation CPAs can face new challenges like decoding the relationship-driven, sometimes self-promotional American business culture.
Makes sense to me. Medicine is easy because doctors are in the life-saving business. Law is attractive because parents hope that they might become Jack McCoy or the protagonist in a John Grisham novel. But accounting? Jesus, numbers are boring, it’s not even a real profession:
When Maria Castanon Moats, PwC’s chief diversity officer, told her family that she planned to be a CPA, she remembers her parents asked “Why not be a lawyer?”
“They did not understand this accounting thing … To them, a professional was an attorney or a doctor,” said Moats, 43. Moats, who emigrated from Mexico at the age of one with her father, a migrant farmworker, said the profession appealed to her because it brought stability. High ethical standards and integrity, strong values in her family, were also important. Now, as part of the firm’s 14-member leadership team, she welcomes young recruits with a similar background. “The first generation really wants to be successful to make their parents proud. They are committed and loyal,” she said.
We’ve had the accounting vs. law debate before and we don’t to call Elie Mystal in here to explain why pursuing a career in a law is a risky proposition. The Reuters article doesn’t come out and say it but it really amounts to candidates educating their parents about the advantages to pursuing a career in accounting. Recruiters at the Big 4 can’t really say, “Clue your parents in,” so they put on aggressive marketing campaigns to tout diversity and inclusion. The students take this message back to mom and dad (along with salary ranges) and they start warming up to the idea. This way, everyone is happy. The kids get a decent job; the parents can beam about the CPA in the family. Sure, accounting isn’t justice but it beats being unemployed and doing this:
This survey was done by the Institute of Management Accountants, so of course the AICPA would encourage you to wait for the CGMA to get a dual certification but if you just can’t wait, then the CMA should work fine.
IMA’s Annual Salary Survey explores salary trends of accounting and finance professionals and reveals that certain industries are faring better than others. Public accounting ranked first in terms of average salary, at $125,488, and second in average total compensation, at $153,395, both in 2010 and 2009. The survey was mailed to respondents last December, and the results have just been released this month.
“The CMAs in this year’s study make a little more than the CPAs,” said Dennis Whitney, senior vice president of certification at the Institute of Certified Management Accountants. “For the younger professionals, it’s a little more per year. The number does seem to go up as you get older, but generally it’s a couple of thousand dollars. But the thing that’s the most dramatic is that people with both the CPA and the CMA fare the best.”
For those with both certifications, the difference can be not only $27,000, but $35,700.
“Dual certification is definitely worthwhile,” said Whitney. “It broadens your competencies. You have not only the financial accounting and auditing skills, but also the financial planning, analysis, and control skills and decision-making, which are very important today.”
As many of you already know, when an accountant walks into a room of non-accountants and tells everyone what he does for a living, the first question is usually “can you do my taxes?” That stereotype was exactly what industry veteran Stan Ross hoped to blow to bits when he worked with the AICPA to create the new book The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting.
“The bell rang when the grandkids kept asking ‘what is an accountant and what do you do?'” he told us. Wanting to answer that question without simply printing out a picture of a guy hunched over a 10-key in a green eyeshade, Ross put together a guide to various career paths in orate, government and non-profit accounting. It includes interviews with industry rockstars like Ernst & Young’s Jim Turley and former AICPA chairman Ernie Almonte. Hundreds of industry experts and professionals were interviewed in the development process, with the best of those included in the book and accompanying CD-ROM.
Covering everything from education to licensure, compensation to careers, Ross cut no corners to put together an all-in-one resource for those considering accounting as a career or even accountants looking to switch career paths and take on a new specialty.
The Big 4, et al.
Those interested in a career dedicated to public accounting will find tips on getting hired, moving up the corporate ladder, interning and even dealing with awkward intergenerational exchanges. One excellent piece of advice: “From the moment you start with the firm, try to learn as much as you can in your current position, and learn from your supervisors, the people you work with and others in the firm. Ask questions not just about your current position or work assignments, but about the larger firm, its organization, its services and its people.”
Who needs public?
If corporate accounting is more your style, you can follow the corporate ladder from staff accountant to CFO, working in management accounting (sorry, that means cost accounting too), payroll, A/P, internal auditing, financial reporting, tax or IT. Corporate accountants can also work in forecasting, working closely with department managers, the CFO and/or top executives within the organization to weigh in on the company’s plans and budget forecasts. As of 2007, there are 31 million businesses in the United States and they made a combined $26 trillion in revenue – don’t you think those businesses need sharp talent to crunch their numbers?
Are you good enough for government work?
Let’s not forget about government accounting. Ross told us that he initially did not even plan on putting in a separate chapter for government but in his research for this book, he discovered that there are unlimited possibilities in government and it just made sense to put them in. “When we talked to government people and regulators, we found out how many different career paths were there; city, state, county, all the agencies, the Federal Reserve… it was unlimited!” he said. Those interested in a government accounting career could find themselves working for the State Department, NASA, the FAA, the DOD, the GAO, the FBI, the IRS and many other agencies. You can find more information on opportunities in government (a booming industry when everyone else is hurting, you know) via the AICPA’s website here.
Last but not least, Ross highlights opportunities in non-profit accounting. Non-profit includes public charities as well as universities, private foundations, HMOs, labor unions and business/professional organizations. According to the book, The Conference Board said in a 2007 report that “widespread executive-level and leadership skill shortages currently affecting many nonprofits are predicted to get much worse as the sector expands and experience executives retire.” That means the sector needs qualified accountants who, unfortunately, can expect to earn less than for-profit positions but get reimbursed through warm fuzzy feelings and real world experience with non-profit accounting.
Ross reminds all of us that the best bet is always to seek out a mentor (or several) and use their knowledge to your advantage. Want to switch career paths? Track someone down who already has and ask questions. Want to find out the quickest way to climb the public accounting ladder? Listen to someone who’s done it already and learn from their mistakes and experience. Ross himself mentors hundreds of USC students and you better believe mentored students have a better chance to be promoted as they’ve gotten a broader picture of their future industry outside of the traditional black and white of their accounting school textbooks.
So whether you’re miserable in your current position or just starting out in your accounting career and trying to figure out which path to take, The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting will give you plenty of food for thought and useful information on what lies ahead, regardless of which fork in the road you head down. Accounting is no longer just doing taxes (as if it ever was) and, as Ross says, it is the best foundation for any career path, be that CFO, COO, investment officer or just about any corporate world gig dealing even indirectly with budgeting, finance and economics.
Ya get it? We hope so.
From “sometimes” GC reader JB (ever get the feeling like you’re being used for your snark and career advice?):
I finished up a Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civ. from Harvard, speak and read Chinese proficiently (non-native), and I absolutely hate academia. I’m getting out, and that’s that. I know–why invest 10+years of your life in a field getting a Ph.D. if you hate it? Well, it’s too late to change that, and I finished because I wasn’t going to throw away a Ph.D. from Harvard.
My problem is that I need to do something practical in life and fast. I’m old–36–and I’ve been thinking about getting a JD or a Masters in Public Accounting. It seems like the job market is shot for attorneys for the fu about accounting? Perhaps some of your readers are ex-accountants who moved to law and could shed some light on the current state of both fields? I was thinking about doing the 18 month Masters in Public Accounting at a place like McCombs. Would you and your readers have any thoughts about one’s employability after finishing that program in the current job market?
Okay, lots to digest here. We’ll tackle the accounting angle first:
McCombs is a good choice but make sure you check out their pre-enrollment requirements. We’re guessing your East Asian Languages background doesn’t cover Macroecon, Microecon, Stats or Intro to Financial Accounting.
That being said, if you do choose the accounting route, some might say a Masters in Accounting is useless while others will say it was the best decision they made. The usefulness you get out of it depends on your intentions, which are wholly unclear. Do you actually want to be a CPA or do you just want a job? Going back to school will at least get you in front of the Big 4 recruiters but they’d much rather take a 20-something with bad social skills and a stellar GPA over a 36 year old with one PhD to his name who A) probably has already formulated his views on the world and is therefore not so easy to persuade any other way and B) could easily leave them the minute the job market picks up for something bigger and better. Your language skills are extremely attractive however, so if you were interested in working in Asia (granted, this is probably a number of years into your accounting career) that could play in your favor.
Accounting programs are not pimped and packaged like law programs, so there are fewer grads looking for jobs but in the United States being able to sue someone is a far greater skill to have than being able to depreciate someone’s PP&E so there are more law positions to lose. Check out our recent post on CPAs thinking about law school and you’ll find most lawyers (the non-CPAs, mind you) that jumped in the discussion would have done things differently. Spend five minutes perusing Above the Law Editor Elie Mystal’s posts and you’ll change your mind pretty quickly about pursuing a law degree. Again, your language skills are a big plus, play that up.
To answer your question directly, the MAcc route is your best bet. However, you’re swimming an uphill battle trying to elbow your way into public accounting. I used to scratch my head wondering why some truly intelligent, qualified individuals couldn’t seem to find a job then it dawned on me that the firms like someone blank and pliable, not a free-thinker with goals that aren’t easily molded to meet their careful definitions of “work-life” and “life in general”.
If you play the game and don’t try to appear too ambitious, you might have a shot in public. But you’re better off figuring out what you actually want to do with your life and not wasting another 10 years working up towards making that decision. Good luck.
Somehow female accountants over 45 in the UK earn 60% less than their male counterparts. The disparity is so ridiculous it defies understanding, but according to a study conducted by the ICAEW and Robert Half, men earn more than women at all stages of their careers and the gap widens with increased experience. This finding is consistent with the 2008 report. So ladies, if you’re on the partner track and thinking, “London might nice,” we’d advise against it. As for our female readers from the UK, you can always jump the pond, we’d love to have you here …
From the report:
Overall, male [Associate Chartered Accountants] are better remunerated than females – an average basic salary of £88,200 for males (median £76,000) is almost 50% higher than their female colleagues’ average of £60,500 (median £53,000) (Fig 3). The average male salary is up by 7% on last year, females by 10%. However, the average bonus of £24,700 for males has dropped slightly compared to last year, while that of their female colleagues, at £11,600, has increased by 33% (median £6,900 males and £2,400 females). The bonus received by male ACAs represents 28% of average basic salary, while females received only 19%.
The differential reflects in part at least that male ACAs are typically older (46 against 40 for females), longer qualified (18 and 14 years respectively) and more likely to be in a permanent full-time role (88% and 72%). They also spend longer hours at work (45 v 38 hours per week).
It’s especially cute how this is “in part” chalked up to age and experience. It would probably be terribly bad form for the ICAEW and Robert Half to come right out and say that the difference in average pay is say, absolutely ridiculous and blatant evidence of patriarchal institutions exhibiting clear gender bias when it comes to compensation.
ICAEW/Robert Half Career Benchmarking Survey 2009 [ICAEW via Accountancy Age]