Career Story: Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Job Title: Certified Public Accountant

Type of Company: I provide accounting services to small businesses, acting as Controller for my largest client. I also provide individual and small corporate tax returns

Education: BS in Accounting, Minor in Spanish, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Previous Experience: I worked for a "Big 6" national public accounting firm in Boston for three years post graduation. I then worked for a large global retail company in corporate accounting before starting my own small accounting and tax practice.

Job Tasks: For my main client, I provide most of the accounting services for the company. My monthly responsibilities include reconciling all of the bank accounts and investigating discrepancies. I book all journal entries for the monthly close procedures relating to sales, inventory imports, payroll and other various accounts. I review the work done by the accounts payable team to be sure the payments are appropriate and and booked to the proper accounts for meaningful financial statements. I prepare monthly financial statements to the company owners for them to manager their business.

I often prepare additional project work for the company. One current project is a software conversion, changing from an older accounting system to a new one. This includes investigating the needs of the other system users, tailoring the program to meet the users needs and creating training documentation specifically for each users needs and job responsibilities.

I will also handle human resource issues, assisting employees with their needs on payroll, 401K and other human resource issues.

For other clients I will provide periodic accounting updates, either creating their bookkeeping records myself or reviewing their work to improve their financial reporting and to streamline their year end and tax return preparation.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: I really enjoy that I have flexibility in my schedule to work around my children and family obligations since I work for myself. The flip side of that is I have to be ready to respond quickly to client needs. At times there is less patience with an outside consultant than there is with employees. I also have to properly schedule and plan on work from multiple clients. So if all have urgent needs at the same time it can be hectic but still better working for myself. Although, I should point out that I could never have done this straight from college. It is important to see how businesses and people work and to gain experience before forging out on one's own. Clients expect you to bring experience and value to their businesses.

Job Tips: While the work experience requirement has been changed for obtaining a CPA (in the state of Massachusetts), the work done in public accounting teaches you so much! I looked at it like getting an MBA but being paid for it instead of me paying for an MBA. It is really necessary to get experience in a variety of areas to be able to work with small businesses. They expect you to have a basic working knowledge of all parts of their business.

Additional Thoughts: I wish when I was in public accounting I had focused more time on high-end clients. At the time I thought it was better to spread across industries and I enjoyed working in non-profit businesses. I enjoyed higher education and healthcare but because these are typically low-paying clients there was no recognition among the influential members of the firm. I wish I had spent more time building contacts with the clients that could have led to better contacts for after I left public accounting.

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