Should You Work in Industry or Practice?
In the accounting profession, money talks. While you already know you work in a profession that depends on your specialized knowledge and skills to build business, it’s up to you to decide where you want to put those skills to their best use.
Should it be in a public practice firm or a position in business and industry? Of course, there are advantages and drawbacks to each one. Often, deciding between the two may not be a cut-and-dried decision.
For example, many young CPAs begin their careers working in tax or audit for large public practice firms that likely fall in the Top 100 firms, but soon think twice about their decision when they hear about the greener grass on the industry side, especially some of the benefits that go along with working for a B2B or B2C organization.
The advantages gained from a career move into industry will vary based on an organization’s size, budget, policies, and locations. On the plus side, most CPAs can expect an increase in salary, the thought of spending January 2 through April 15 working fairly normal hours, the concept of working a 9-5 workday, and even career moves across the world.
Pros and cons – there are many to each side. Here are a few particulars to consider in your practice vs. industry decision.
A Defined Career Track
Most firms want to retain their talent as long as possible, and one of the ways to do this is to offer a career track. You can’t expect to make partner too soon, but a firm will do its best to help you grow into a challenging, yet attainable role that suits you and its clients. This scenario is not as prevalent on the industry side unless you work for a large company that has multiple levels of career options. If that’s the case, then you definitely have a number of options. And, if the company has multiple locations (even overseas), an exciting relocation may soon occur.
If you work in a medium- to large-size firm, you’ll be one of many new hires for the firm. As a result, you’ll have a ready-made universe of many new friends who are all around the same age, have similar education, and who start on the same level. Relationships and friendships will organically grow – all based on these commonalities. This is a truly unique aspect of working for a firm compared to working in industry, where new hires over a period of time are dispersed throughout the company instead of one central core. Within a company, the friends will be present; you may just have to work a little bit harder to get to know each other on a one-to-one basis.
Ancillary Skills, Such as Sales and Marketing.
Any company, whether it’s a multinational corporation or a local practice firm, offers the opportunities to build skills in areas unrelated to accounting, yet are necessary components to organizational growth. In industry, your internal role will probably not be involved in sales process; in practice, most CPAs play an active role in helping win and close business – and they often do it as a team. Although ancillary skills are not necessarily viable reasons to move from industry to practice, you still must consider the benefits as part of the decision.
Public Learning Versus Self-Study
Although self-study can be done anywhere, anytime, most agree that classroom learning is much more dynamic based on the dialogue and exchange of ideas. Only larger practice firms offer in-house CPE, so whether you work in practice or in industry, most CPAs will find opportunities outside the workplace. You may even get to travel to regional and national conferences. For example, take a look at the upcoming E.D.G.E. Conference in New Orleans.
When it comes down to choices we make in our careers, you must decide for yourself what makes sense. Remember that having your CPA license gives you a leg up on others who did not achieve an advanced field of study, so it makes you much more marketable and uniquely qualified to pursue endless possibilities.
Carefully consider your options before you job-hop just for the sake of perceived glamorous benefits. Peruse the Internet and use social media to ask friends, co-workers and family for advice. Also, be sure and visit the Young CPA Network LinkedIn Group and the group’s Facebook page where the followers are enthusiastically prepared to provide an opinion.