Career Paths for CPAs
By: Jeanne H. Yamamura, CPA, CGMA, MIM, PhD and Wiley CPAexcel Author and Lecturer
Becoming a CPA opens a world filled with opportunities – now and into the future. The sad old stereotype of the boring accountant who endlessly crunches numbers in a small office is far from reality. CPAs today have an amazing number of career choices available – choices that enable accounting professionals to find careers uniquely suited to individual talents and interests. Here are five possibilities.
Career path 1: Public Accounting
CPAs in public accounting firms provide a full range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting services to their clients. The auditing of public and private company financial statements, in particular, is provided only by CPAs in public practice. Public accounting firms range in size from huge (think Big Four) to very small (sole practitioner). Similarly, clients run the full gamut from individuals to Fortune 100 companies and include governmental and nonprofit entities.
Career path 2: Business, Government, and Not-for-Profits
CPAs in business, government, and not-for-profits (NFPs) may be found in positions ranging from staff accountant and financial analyst to CFO and CEO. Their responsibilities include recording, analyzing, and reporting financial information for their organizations and a host of other functions essential to efficient and effective management, including budgeting, performance evaluation, product/service costing, and asset management. These CPAs might also perform auditing functions – internal audit or the audit of required government filings, e.g., tax returns.
Career path 3: Specialist
CPAs are increasingly called upon to provide services in specialized areas such as business valuation and information systems. Business valuation specialists determine what a business is worth as part of estate planning or perhaps as a step toward sale or purchase of the business. Or they may establish the value of an asset for donation or financial reporting purposes. In the information systems area, specialists are needed to aid organizations in managing their information technology including the massive amounts of data collected. These specialists conduct risk assessments, analyze and implement systems improvements and revisions, and help ensure that organizations get the information needed to make informed decisions.
Career path 4: Forensic Services
Forensic CPAs utilize their accounting knowledge and skills to investigate fraud and financial transgressions. 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. Forensic investigations include embezzlements, hidden assets, securities fraud, and bankruptcies. Forensic CPAs provide expert witness and litigation support services.
Career path 5: Financial Advisor
CPAs serve as financial advisors to individuals, helping them to manage their finances and to make informed financial decisions. These providers of personal and financial planning services assist their clients in buying homes, setting up college funds, starting businesses, and planning for retirement. CPAs may also provide investment advisory and investment management services.
And there you have it – five distinctly different career path possibilities for CPAs. Selecting one requires thinking about what you enjoy doing and the setting that fits you best along with your individual goals and priorities. The many choices available ensure that you will be able to find an engaging and rewarding career that is right for you.
Which path will you choose? Learn more about each of the Career Paths for CPAs.