One of the benefits of becoming a CPA is that you will open yourself up to a number of exciting career paths. Below, we’ve listed some of the professional positions that you could fill as a CPA. Although many of these jobs may be available to non-CPA accountants, you are likely to be higher paid and have a greater chance of career advancement with a CPA.
1. Working for an Accounting Firm
As a CPA, you are likely to work for an accounting firm at least once in your career. You could find yourself in a large international firm, or a small local practice. Either way, being employed by an accounting firm will mean working alongside tax professionals and sometimes with teams of other CPA’s. It will also mean being able to work with a wide variety of clients.
The first decision that you will need to make is whether you work for a public or a private accounting firm. These are the two main career paths you could take as a CPA. Generally, accountants provide similar services regardless of whether they work for a public and private firm. These include recording and analyzing business activities, auditing, tax, advisory and consulting.
The difference between public and private accountants lies in the nature of your employer and clients, as well as the extent of the services that you provide. Working for an accounting firm means having one employer and several clients. If you work for a public firm, your services are going to impact the general public.
As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you are licensed to work in public accounting. You will also have more authority than private accountants. Under the guidelines of the Internal Revenue Service, CPA’s are legally able to represent their clients in tax court before the IRS. However, there are plenty of CPA’s who choose to work in private firms as well.
External auditors are responsible for assessing the financial statements of client companies and reporting back to the company owners. These types of auditors work for accounting firms, so they are always independent of the client company. If you are interested in learning about a variety of different businesses, then external auditing might be for you. The position can demand a lot of traveling, which can be great if that’s your thing. Either way, you’ll need to maintain a flexible lifestyle.
2. Business and Industry
CPA’s working in business and industry can also choose from a number of career options.
Corporate accountants are employed by businesses to perform a variety of accounting tasks. This usually involves day-to-day bookkeeping and recording transactions. Other times it could include special projects, strategic planning, or the supervision of other accountants working for the business. Corporate accounting is great if you want to get to know one company intimately. However, your experiences as a corporate accountant will only be as varied as the company you work for.
CPA’s can also work in a company’s internal audit department. This is a great career choice is you are interested in being an auditor but do not want to work with multiple different clients. If you work as an internal auditor for a larger multinational company, you may also get the opportunity to travel.
Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
As a more experienced CPA, you could find yourself in the position of CFO. The Chief Financial Officer of a business advises the CEO with respect to financial reporting, stability, growth, strategy, design, and execution. Additionally, they are in charge of supervising the work of the treasurer and internal auditing manager. They have a lot of responsibility, and may need to maintain relationships with stockholders, investors, and financial institutions. On top of this, CFO’s are frequently members of the Board of Directors. This means that they contribute to the overall planning, policy development, and implementation of business decisions.
3. Financial Advisory Services
CPA’s are also employed by specialized firms offering financial advice. Companies contract these firms for the financial expertise of CPA’s, who may help with a range of issues. This could include cost-cutting analyses, business risk determination, or software implementation.
4. Providing Specialized Services
The skills you will have as a CPA are also needed to provide services in specialized areas of accounting. Examples include personal financial planning, IT consulting, business valuation, or even financial forensics.
5. Working in Government
Much like CPA’s working at accounting firms or businesses, CPA’s in government may be responsible for auditing, financial reporting, and management accounting. CPA’s working in government positions can work at either a federal, state, or local level.
Working at a federal level, a CPA may be responsible for managing financial statement audits for government agencies and performing analysis on financial management issues. In other cases, a CPA’s skills may be needed for investigating white-collar crime.
State and Local Government
At a state and local level, CPA’s are needed to conduct financial, performance, or compliance audits of various kinds. Examples include financial analysis of a school district or the effectiveness of the workers’ compensation system. Similarly there are also often many jobs available for CPAs who specialize in taxation or forensics. In fact, there is even a federally-licensed accounting designation called the EA that allows for the license holder to represent taxes before the IRS.
6. Working for an NGO
CPA’s working for non-profit organizations help to make sure that the services offered by NGOs do not exceed revenues. Sometimes CPA’s work as staff members of NGOs, and other times they serve in an advisory capacity. Either way, CPA’s play an important role by helping the organization with tax issues, setting up internal control systems, budgeting resources, and preparing financial data for fund-raising.
7. Working in Education
There are plenty of diverse career opportunities for CPA’s in education. With their respected title, CPA’s can teach on a wide range of topics. These include auditing, financial accounting, tax, cost and managerial accounting, and professional ethics. In addition to teaching, CPA educators may conduct research or write books to expand the body of accounting theory. Many CPA educators also serve as business consultants or expert witnesses in litigation situations.