Switching to Public Accounting?

I received an email from a potential student working in industry accounting who was looking to make the switch to public accounting. The student was working in industry accounting for the last three years and he felt that it was a bit of a dead end job. The student was looking to start studying for the CPA or to continue in industry accounting.

Here are the tips for students thinking of switching from private accounting to public accounting.

  1. Do not quit your job and start a new job in public accounting. I do not think it is a good idea to study and learn the ropes of a new job.
  2. I think you should pass both FAR and AUD before making the transition to public. You are more marketable that way.
  3. It is much easier to switch from public to corporate than the other way around. This is why I generally recommend that students start with 2-3 years of public accounting. It is a better springboard for your career.
  4. Public accounting has a clear career path for the first five years. First you are an associate. After 2 years you are a senior associate. After another 2-3 years you become a manager.  
  5. Most students report that the first 3 years of public accounting is quite interesting. It is only after 3 years that it becomes a little too routine for most people.
  6. You learn more in public. The learning curve is far higher and it is better suited for ambitious students.
  7. The skills are in higher demand. There are lots of exit opportunities from public accounting. You can easily find internal accounting jobs and internal audit jobs. Other opportunities that would open up would include consulting jobs and private equity careers.

If you are feeling stymied in your job you should not hesitate to take the CPA exam and make the switch. It may feel daunting but the key is to just take one part of the exam. Once you pass and have a hard section under your belt like the FAR section, you