Nov 09, 2021

Public Accounting or Industry? A Look at the Great CPA Quandary

William HayesBy William J. Hayes, PICPA Administrator of Content and Partnerships

In April 2020, the PICPA released PICPA’s Guide to CPA Careers in a Changing Business Landscape, a digital-only version of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal dedicated to CPA careers. Some things have changed in the past 18 months, but one issue that has remained consistent is whether a CPA would be more comfortable working in public accounting or pursuing a career in industry.PICPA’s Guide to CPA Careers in a Changing Business Landscape had three authors address working in public accounting. Lauren M. Lear, CPA, provided tips on how to survive the trials of public accounting. Jack Cavanaugh, CPA, gave tips on transitioning from public accounting to working in industry. Kevin McMonagle, CPA, discussed why he left public accounting, and explained the reasons why he ultimately came back.

Field of 3-D question marksBelow you will find summaries of the contributions, but make sure to check these articles out in full and use them to inform your decision in the timeless quandary of staying in public practice or moving into the corporate world.

“Navigating a Life in Public Accounting” by Lauren M. Lear, CPA – According to Lear, there is no shortage of items competing for your attention in public accounting – dueling deadlines, administrative tasks, continuing education and firm trainings, and much more. However, she also stresses the benefits of a career in public accounting and provides a series of tips for helping those in public accounting better organize their days. Tips include organizing your to-do list as much as appropriate and finding a time-management system that works for you. With mental health rising in importance, she also highlights the benefits of stress-reduction techniques, like yoga classes or, in her case, volunteering for local organizations in need of assistance.

“Preparing for a Successful Transition from Public Accounting” by Jack Cavanaugh, CPA – Despite the many rewards a career in public accounting offers, some of its unique features may not make it a career path for everyone. In this column, Cavanaugh encourages individuals who have decided to venture outside public accounting to do so in a way that yields benefits for their future career. That means making sure to serve long enough to garner work experiences that bolster your career in the private space, being proactive with your public accounting managers and partners about your desired career path so they can help you down the line, and making sure not to leave your employer in a bind.

“A Public Accounting Return after Industry” by Kevin McMonagle, CPA – Sometimes it may seem a CPA’s choice is binary: be a professional who goes all in with public accounting or be a professional who chooses to move on to industry for new and different challenges. But don’t forget about a third track: professionals who start in public, make the jump to industry, and then return from whence they came. In this column, McMonagle discusses starting his career in public accounting only to jump over to the corporate side to take up new challenges, only to find himself confronting an interesting decision: the chance to dive back into the public accounting pool. He explores his decision to do so, explaining how he missed being a revenue-generating part of the team, the challenges of managing multiple clients and teams, and the realization that the “work overload” theory of public accounting had been a little overstated.

Be sure to check out these valuable articles from PICPA’s Guide to CPA Careers in a Changing Business Landscape and get some great tips to help you navigate your CPA career.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.