Career Story: Certified Public Accountant For A Medium-Sized Accounting Firm

Certified Public Accountant For A Medium-Sized Accounting Firm

Job Title: Certified Public Accountant

Education: B.S. Business Administration (Accounting)

Previous Experience: I worked for four prior CPA firms in public accounting.

Job Tasks: Our company is a public accounting firm. We serve primarily small to medium-sized businesses and the individuals that own them. In additon, we have a significant number of individual clients. The companies we work with can be start-ups to $50 million (in revenue) companies, with from one to several hundred employees. We don't work with public companies.

We consult with people on income taxes, estate tax planning, retirement planning, succession planning and in many areas in which they need help running their businesses and planning for the future. We strive to help our clients keep the money they make, by saving them tax dollars and helping them invest wisely.

As the partner in charge of recruiting, I oversee our on campus relationships with SJSU and Santa Clara University here in San Jose.

I supervise the staff that work on my projects to make sure they are right, they are on time and meet the deadlines set by the client or the tax law.

Most of our clients are local, meaning we can drive to visit them.

Our firm employs about 55 people and has 10 owners. We are considered to be a medium-sized, local (meaning one office or one area) public accounting firm.

My typical day is spent in the office most of the time. I am either on the phone or sending and responding to emails, either from staff or clients, or other professionals that belong to the same organizations I do (the CPA Society or National Association of Women Business Owners) about projects we are working on, or upcoming meetings.

Our busiest time is "Tax Season" from January to April 15th. We work pretty much every Saturday from February 10 or so to April 15. After that there usually isn't the need to work very much overtime, so we get to enjoy our summers.

We have a lot of fun in our firm, even when we work hard. This busy season, we had a 10-key (calculator) competition. Last Friday we had a carnival in our parking lot, with a dunk tank where the staff got to dunk the partners.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are working with our clients and feeling that we helped them solve a problem, save money, understand their business better, being available for them. Getting thanked for our work doesn't happen very often, so when it does it is very satisfying and makes us feel appreciated.

The worst parts of the job are having to call clients and tell them they owe lots of money in taxes (that they weren't really planning on). Or, encountering an issue in auditing their financial statements that is going to take more time, which costs them money.

After doing this for 29 years what I have learned is that people don't like surprises, so more and early communication is better than telling people at the last minute something they don't want to hear.

Job Tips:
1. Some of the key skills, or personality traits needed to be successful in public accounting, or even accounting in industry is: attention to detail, the ability to concentrate on something for long periods of time, the ability to multi-task or to juggle several jobs at once, to work with many different personality types, to have good written and oral communication skills.

2. You need to be able to present your ideas in writing (documenting your work in the workpapers)and verbally. You will be meeting with clients, bankers and attorneys, all of whom are very smart. You have to be succinct and thoughtful.

3. Another skill is the ability to market and network. We are constantly having to bring in new clients to grow the firm, or replace those clients that have left or died, or gone public or sold. This is not a skill that most accounting majors focus on and it is very important.

Additional Thoughts: You will always have job security if you choose to become an accountant, if you are good at it.

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