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Did You Get a Steak Dinner and an iPad To Join Your Accounting Firm?

Hey kids! Have you heard? The accounting industry is on fire! Don’t all pile in at once, now, let’s make a nice single file line toward the piles of cash, work-life balance and cash prizes! Yes, cash prizes!

You see, Crain’s New York decided to publish a piece over the weekend called simply “CPAs are getting hired,” which leaves little room for interpretation. While there’s no denying you all have survived the recession far better than your brethren in the doomed and overpopulated field of law, it comes off as a bit irresponsible in my mind for Crain’s to make it seem like firms are so desperate for good help, they’re giving out iPads and cash.

It’s no wonder, then, that employers are aggressively working on quality-of-life issues and recruiting incentives. At the Metis Group, perks include flexible work hours, a firm-sponsored kickball team and full company payment to prepare for and take the CPA accreditation exam, according to Managing Partner Glenn Friedman. The firm also gives out iPads for stellar performance.

In Ms. Teibel’s case, she hadn’t even been hired when the generosity began. Before she started with Berdon in January 2011, the firm had paid the $4,000 it cost her to prepare for the CPA exam. And before the interview process, Ms. Teibel had been wined and dined by Berdon partners.

“All that attention truly meant a lot to me,” Ms. Teibel said. “In an economy like this one, I’ll feel secure for years to come.”

Ha! Ms. Teibel is in for one hell of a rude awakening long after the partners have written off that steak dinner and traded ass-kissing and CPA review books for long hours and endless piles of busywork.

In reality, $4,000 will barely cover the cost of a year of Becker classes and one exam attempt for each section, so what happens if she doesn’t get it done in a year and needs to repurchase review materials? Or what if she fails a section? Or all four? Sure it’s nice to have your review course paid for but the truth here is that few candidates actually pass the first time through, and my experience with candidates who had courses paid in full was that they tended to do worse on the exam than candidates who had to scrape together their own hard-earned Federal Reserve Notes to buy review materials.

And what’s this about work-life balance? Is there a memo I haven’t gotten? As far as I can tell, based on completely non-scientific analysis of the comments many of you leave here, the slave drivers haven’t let up on you guys and have no plans to do so any time soon. If you’re actually good at your job, expect to be worked into the ground as your expertise and talent are a commodity the firms are more than happy to burn. But hey, enjoy that free iPad.

I recommend reading the Crain’s piece in its entirety, if for no other reason than to scoff and wonder in what parallel universe this takes place and try to figure out how to transport yourself there immediately.

Between this and the Yahoo! fluff piece awhile back, if I were a 20 year old wondering what to be when I grew up, this number-crunching gig might seem like the only viable option in these uncertain times.

Prepare for the bum rush of ankle-biters, kids. Or at least start working on your kickball skills.