Wondering what it’s really like to work as a CPA? Find out in our free guide: A Day in the Life of a CPA.

(This an abbreviated version. Read the full article by Jeanne H. Yamamura, CPA, CGMA, MIM, PhD.)

Here’s a quick look at five of the most popular CPA career opportunities:

CPA Career Path #1:  Public Accounting

CPAs in public accounting firms provide a full range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting services for clients of all sizes. From entry level staff auditors to senior level partner roles, CPAs have the opportunity to work with large international clients, small local firms, and practically everything in between. The auditing of public and private company financial statements, in particular, is a coveted service. However, public accountants across the entire field are in high demand with great opportunities to advance throughout their career.

According to the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), a few specialized areas CPAs can focus on within public accounting include financial forensics, business valuation, personal financial planning, and IT consulting. Some additional common roles include:

  • Budget analyst
  • Tax examiner
  • Business systems analyst

CPA Career Path #2:  Business, Government, and Not-for-Profits

CPAs in this broad field can hold a range of positions, from staff accountant and financial analyst to CFO. Their responsibilities include recording, analyzing, and reporting financial information for organizations.  They can also carry out budgeting and internal auditing functions.

Noted by the AICPA, CPAs in business work for companies ranging from family-owned to Fortune 500. They are considered trusted business partners and can work in a variety of areas. Some potential roles include:

  • Staff-Financial Accounting & Reporting
  • Staff-Tax Accounting
  • Staff-Internal Audit

CPAs who work in government hold roles at the federal, state, and local levels, and they have similar responsibilities as those in public accounting. Auditing, financial reporting, and management accounting are all shared duties.

Within nonprofits, a CPA’s main job is to ensure the services an organization provides does not exceed their revenue. Potential nonprofit roles vary based on each organization, but a few include:

  • Staff financial accounting and reporting
  • Staff internal audit
  • Controller

CPA Career Path #3:  Specialist

CPAs are now regularly called upon to provide services in specialized areas. Choosing a specialty is a major decision, as it directly affects the sort of roles available, your salary, and the settings in which you work.  It’s best to follow your interests and find a specialty that you genuinely enjoy. In the information systems area, for example, specialists aid organizations in managing their information technology, including the massive amounts of data collected, by conducting risk assessments as well as analyzing and implementing systems improvements and revisions.

Another specialty CPAs fall in love with is internal auditing. An internal auditor is responsible for improving a company’s operations by evaluating both the financial and operational sides of the business. It’s safe to say CPAs in this role wear a lot of hats. They assess risks, controls, ethics, quality, economy, and efficiency to ensure the business is operating efficiently.

Does a career as a CPA seem interesting? – Learn how to become a CPA in our free guide

CPA Career Path #4:  Forensic Services

Forensic CPAs use their accounting skills to investigate incidents like fraud, bribery, money laundering and embezzlement. They examine and collect evidence that will later enable the courts to determine if a crime has been committed or enable a dispute to be resolved. Often, law enforcement agencies like the FBI seek out forensic accountants to help further investigate crimes related to money. However, forensic accounting roles can be found in public accounting firms, consulting firms, insurance companies, and more.

Those wishing to pursue forensic accounting should possess strong written and verbal communication skills, an ethical mindset, and a natural desire to investigate. Every day in a forensic role is different, so it’s a career path for those who want to stay on their toes.

CPA Career Path #5:  Financial Advisor

CPAs serve as financial advisors to individuals, helping them to manage their finances and to make informed financial decisions related to home purchases, college savings, starting a business and retirement planning.

Financial advising is a great route for those who love crunching numbers and helping others. By working closely with clients, financial planners can directly impact the lives of others in a positive way.

Top Jobs for A CPA In Summary

That’s five distinctly different career path possibilities for CPAs.