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What's it like as an accountant?

I was wondering what it's like to be one on the daily, like the hours, what I should expect in a workplace, what some unexpected things to the job were; details in general. #business #finance #accountant

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Peter’s Answer

Hi Paige,

Great question. I have now worked in a Big 4 Services Firm (PwC) in both Australia and Canada and find that there a lot of similarities in both workplaces. Standard work hours would be 8:30am - 5:00pm, but there is of course occasionally a little bit of overtime required from week to week. Typically I get in around 8:30am and leave between 5:30-6:00pm. However, PwC does promote flexibility too, so some people vary their working hours accordingly. The workplace environment is a mixture of open-plan design, with offices for Partners and meeting rooms. As the majority of the workforce is made up of young professionals, it is great for meeting new people who are at a similar stage to yourself in your career. As for the unexpected, well I find there is generally something new you are learning every week, which is great.

I would suggest that you just always ask lots of questions of employees of companies that you are seeking to apply to during the interview process to inform yourself properly regarding the workplace.

Good luck with your career!



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Jess’s Answer

Being an accountant can take many forms. For example, you could be a bookkeeper/accountant at a small business, you could be in the accounting department of a large public company, or you could be an accountant in a public accounting firm. These are all very different when it comes to the day-to-day responsibilities. A bookkeeper would be recording all of the company's transactions and maybe helping with other office tasks such as payroll, writing checks to vendors, bringing money to the bank, etc. Working in an Accounting Department of a big company would include recording of transactions and performing of controls to check the work. This job would have occasional busier times around quarterly or year-end filings. Public Accounting might involve being an auditor, and working with a company's Accounting Department to audit their books, in order to provide an opinion on their financial information. This job usually include busier times, such as the January through March "busy season".

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Adam’s Answer

Hi Paige, I started my career at EY and had a similar experience to Peter above. I'd like to add that if you begin your career in Big 4, your work schedule will be different depending on which service line you go into and which clients you're serving. The average annual work hours (~45/week) generally works out to be about the same no matter which service line you choose, but the audit practice will typically have long hours for a couple months a year when the main audit work takes place (typically January-February) and then typically a little lower than average during the summer. Advisory Services will typically have the most stable and consistent hours (~45/week), unless you get placed on a high-profile, high-need client. I also think in all cases there's opportunity for travel.

It used to be that in order to become a CPA, all states required you to work in public accounting, but nowadays most states have multiple paths to licensure which do not require public accounting; however, the CPA designation has been extremely helpful in my career to give me a leg up on competition for the same jobs once I began working in industry and I would still encourage you to pursue this certification if you decide to become an accountant. In industry, it often feels like there are an unlimited number of flavors of accounting - e.g. preparing financial statements (external reporting), doing research to find accounting answers to difficult questions (technical accounting), operational accounting, tax planning, tax compliance, and many more. In most cases, most accountants in industry still work ~40-45 hours/week on average depending on level. On a day-to-day level, working in industry, there will be things that need to be done each month, each quarter, and each year during the "close" process (i.e. the 2-3 days right before the end of a month and 3-10 days at the beginning of each month), and then there will be projects that will fill the time in between. Hope this provides a little insight and context into the world of accounting, and feel free to leave a comment if you have anything else you'd like me to share about.