Students often choose to study accounting in college because they are good with math, and there is a long‐held perception that accountants are social introverts who would rather hunker down at their desks with a pencil and a ledger of accounts than interact with people.
Nothing could be further from the truth in today’s business world and for certified public accountants (CPAs) who are making their mark. While an aptitude for math is still a prerequisite, CPAs today also need to be articulate thinkers, have excellent communication and strong leadership skills to meet the growing responsibilities of their positions, whether that is tax accountant or auditor in a public accounting firm, or serving as the CFO or CEO of a major U.S. corporation.
Never have there been more opportunities, or greater demand, for qualified accounting graduates and especially for those who have earned the CPA designation—a sought after credential that many professional recruiters look for in placing new candidates.
Earning your CPA designation can be the ticket to building a rewarding and lucrative career in public accounting, government, corporate industry or the not‐for‐profit sector. The sky’s the limit, and where you go with it depends on your individual interests.
Many accounting graduates start their careers as a public accountant, where their role is protecting the interest of clients that may range from small entrepreneurs to large, publicly‐owned companies. As a public accountant, you’ll get experience in auditing and attest function, tax consulting, financial planning, environmental accounting, and other specialized assurance services.
Business and Industry
CPAs often move from public accounting to become consultants in their own companies or join the corporate sector by working for companies of all sizes. CPAs are in high demand and often can move up the ranks quickly, from Controllers to Financial Analyst to CFOs and even CEOs. No matter what their level in the company, CPAs—with keen insight into the economy and how that affects a company’s profitability and risk tolerance in any given market—are called upon to provide strategic thinking and financial advice.
Government and Not-for-Profit
CPAs even have a critical place in local, state and federal government, and in not for profit organizations. Increasing regulation in recent years has resulted in the need for greater internal controls and financial oversight across all industries. Who better qualified to help write new tax and auditing policies, and to enforce them than a CPA?
As a CPA working for a government agency such as the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Department of Treasury, you will provide guidance on how budgets are built and spent, and help assess the efficiency in other government entities—providing a valuable public service to this country’s taxpayers. Not-for-profits, because they don’t have large corporate budgets, need to adhere strictly to budgets, and CPAs who work with these organizations help them to meet their goals as well as their service mission.
Why are CPAs so valuable to businesses of all kinds? Quite simply, because they are highly qualified, having completed a rigorous accounting and business curriculum. They also have met the requirements needed to be licensed as a CPA—a process that requires a combination of education and real‐life experience.
And finally, CPAs are governed by a strict Code of Professional Conduct that has existed for more than 100 years. In a nutshell, they must act ethically in the best interest of their clients and the public. That means decisions they make must be free from conflict of interest, based in objectivity, or verifiable facts, and they must act with the highest degree of integrity in carrying out their role. It’s a code that has garnered CPAs a high level of respect the world over.
A career as a CPA can be whatever you want to make of it—an endless journey into exciting new places, each one more fulfilling and adventurous than the one before it.
Want to learn more about becoming a CPA? Visit Start Here Go Places, a fun, interactive site that outlines career possibilities, and includes personality tests and fun games that approximate a day in the life of a CPA.