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What should I expect my work life to be like when I become a CPA?

I'm currently in college majoring in Accounting but I don't have any previous experience with this kind of job. I'm curious about what a day in the life of a certified public accountant looks like. #cpa

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Carla’s Answer

As noted in other responses, there are a number of different career paths for a CPA which can impact what your work life might be like. I am in public accounting and one of my favorite things about my career is that no two days look the same. As your career progresses in public accounting, your days are a mix of interacting with your engagement teams and your clients to execute audit work. You also have opportunities to coach and develop others, do recruiting and other initiatives, manage the business, get involved in community outreach efforts.

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Yunqing (Meredith)’s Answer

Just to add on.
First, it is better if you figure out what kind of Accountant you want to be. There are several different types.

I am in public accounting so my title will be "auditor" after I turned full time. The reason for "public" is that auditors are supposed to work on behalf of the public interest. We will go into different companies to perform audit on their financial statements. We only test if our clients' financial statement complies with the regulations on financial statements, but we do not make any changes to their financial statements. We need to make sure the audited financial statements are relevant, useful and accurate. In short, we are helping regulate the financial markets so the investors, creditors, and other stakeholders can trust and confidently use the financial statements from the companies to make decisions.

There are tax accountants. PwC and many CPA firms or financial services firms all have tax service line. Tax accountants are helping the companies and individuals to perform their tax forms. Mainly tax accountants are going to stay in tax.

Corporate accountants are the companies own accountants, They are doing daily accounting jobs for the companies. They basically are the ones keeping the companies operating. There are different types of corporate accountant depending on what industry of the employers. For example, if you are going to a mutual fund then they will have a lot of fund accountants. Factories are demanding cost accountant. There are accountants specialize in Account Payables, Account Receivables, and Finance and etc.

The differences among these types are as following:
1. Auditors always travel because we are always going to our clients' site and we keep have new engagements. Tax and Corporate accountants are more stable since they are mainly in the office.
2. Auditors will audit different companies in different industries. Tax accountants will also work for different companies but only looking at these companies' tax. Corporate accountants only work on behalf their employers.
3. Typically, people switch between auditor and corporate accountant. Tax accountants will always be tax accountants, but sometimes they will be tax lawyers.


Hope it helps. :)
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Lyndsay’s Answer

Hi Katherine! There are many different career paths for a CPA and based on the path you take your job will vary. As an example - public accounting vs. industry or even within public accounting you can do audit/tax/advisory. You can work for a large firm or a small firm. For me, I've worked for 11 years in public accounting in the audit group for PwC (one of the big 4 firms). The first several years my job consisted primarily of going to client sites (usually fairly large corporations) and performing audit work which can vary - sometimes you are reviewing supporting documentation for transactions, sometimes you are performing walkthroughs of the Company's controls and gaining an understanding of how the business works.

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Laura’s Answer

Hi Katherine, it's great that you're thinking ahead to what life after college will be like. Do you have any idea of what route you would like to take as a CPA? I would suggest looking into internships and completing at least one or two before you graduate to get a sense of what some potential work would look like. The most common route would be to get experience in public accounting where you could be doing a variety of tasks in either audit or tax and get a sense of the "bigger picture" of how companies operate.

Laura recommends the following next steps:

Research local accounting internships
Talk to CPAs to hear different perspectives
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Lynn’s Answer

Hi Katherine. The experience you have will depend on the size of the firm that you work for. Generally speaking though, we are all about serving our clients in the best way possible. We work in teams of varying size, depending on the size and complexity of the client. Some people travel a lot for their clients, others work mostly from one location. Public accounting is all about variety.


If you have an opportunity to get an internship with an accounting firm, that can be a good way to experience work life. Your school may have a career office or job placement office that can help with that. Or you can reach out to local firms directly.

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James’s Answer

Hi Katherine,

Your work life will not change dramatically once you become a CPA.

Most of the time you need to start working before you can become a CPA. Once you've been working for a while and you finally pass the exams and apply for your license you can become a CPA. I recently went through this process and my day to day life is completely unchanged. Having the license will help you in the future to advance faster and separate you from your peers. Overall, its great to get the CPA but your life won't change instantly upon getting licensed.

Good Luck
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Jordan’s Answer

Hi Katherine,


That is a great question. From personal experience working at a big 4 accounting firm, there is a great feeling of freedom as you are treated as a professional and can work independently and with teams. There is great room for advancement opportunities and compensation is good for being directly out of University. The connections you make in the accounting world as a CPA are very valuable and it is a well respected profession.

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Gabrielle’s Answer

Hi Katherine,

The day-to-day life as a CPA certainly depends on the type of job you have. I started out post-grad working for KPMG as an Auditor, where I was working nearly 60-80 hour weeks during busy season (which for me typically lasted from November to March). Although the hours weren't the best during my time there, I learned an immense amount and met/networked with so many colleagues and client contacts. What I really enjoyed about public accounting was the ability and flexibility to try working on client engagements within different industries too.
CPAs, though, can have extensive careers within tax, financial reporting, general accounting, auditing, bookkeeping, etc. There is a career path for everyone. Hope this helps!
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Dryw’s Answer

Hi Katherine,


Life as a CPA can be very rewarding. One of my favorite aspects of the job is that I get introduced to many different business and their leaders. Only a couple years into my career I was performing meaningful audit work working directly with the CFO of a public company. I also have been able to gain a deep understanding of how large business are run as a result of performing our audits. Simply put, it is hard to get this type of experience in any other industry at such an early stage in your professional life.


Good luck in your career and definitely keep reaching out and asking questions like these. Most CPA firms (Big 4 and local) have at least one local recruiter, try finding them on Linkedin and reach out and I bet they would be happy to have you visit their office and have a chance to chat one on one with some of their leaders.

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Qian’s Answer

Hello Katherine,

The world of accounting is a diverse one, with each Certified Public Accountant's (CPA) experience being unique, depending on their chosen service line. As an auditor, my busy season stretches from November to February, requiring me to put in between 60 to 75 hours a week. My daily tasks involve conducting tests on financial statement items, requesting documents from clients, discussing queries with them, coordinating testing plans with my team, and guiding new or remote team members through certain tests. These experiences have honed my skills in various areas such as leadership, project management, issue resolution, and communication.

Your daily tasks will vary based on the track you choose, which could include auditing, tax, bookkeeping, financial consulting, among others. Each service line offers a unique experience. I encourage you to explore your interests and decide on a service line that aligns with your career aspirations. Internships can provide valuable insight and help you make an informed decision. Best of luck on your journey!

Qian recommends the following next steps:

Internship
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