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Career Story: Director Of Professional Development At An Accounting Firm

Director Of Professional Development At An Accounting Firm

Job Title: Director Of Professional Development

Type of Company: I work for a regional accounting firm that provides business consulting and tax services to various business clients and high net worth individuals who require advance tax planning and preparation.

Education: AS, Accounting, Fisher College (Boston) •• BA, Accounting, Northeastern University •• CPA - Certified Public Accountant in the state of Massachusetts

Previous Experience: My first full-time position after I got my associates degree was as an accounts payable clerk in a manufacturing company where I processed bills and invoices for the company and did cash planning and basic accounting.

While attending Northeastern University at night to obtain my bachelor's degree I worked as an Assistant Controller, providing accounting for a manufacturing company. Assistant Controller duties include processing accounts payable, accounts receivable, daily accounting for the business and preparing financial statements and analysis for the company.

I later joined a national accounting firm as a para-professional providing forensic accounting services. Forensic accounting includes working with attorneys and companies to investigate accounting issues, fraud, theft etc. In this role I also worked in divorce cases assisting in providing accounting services to determine the value of professional practices, i.e. Dentist so that the divorce settlement process can be completed.

I pursued my CPA certificate by taking and passed the CPA Exam. After that I started working as an auditor in a regional CPA firm. Here I provided audit and tax services to small to medium companies. I also prepared corporate and individual tax returns for many clients including individuals with a high net worth.

My most recent position does not involve auditing and tax work, but I am now responsible for the continuing education needed by individuals and CPAs who work in public accounting firms.

Job Tasks: My firm has approximately 100 employees, many of whom are CPA's and must complete 80 hours of continuing education every 2 years in order to renew their license. I manage the education process for the firm, providing course research, instruction and assistance. I work with outside providers to bring the firm a variety of courses/training that includes the technical knowledge our staff must keep up with, including tax law changes and soft skill training (communications, providing feedback, leadership qualities, etc.)

An additional area that I am responsible for is supporting our entry-level staff, recent college graduates, in the process of obtaining their CPA certification. An accounting graduate with a bachelors must essentially get the equivalent of a Masters degree, pass the CPA exam and work in public accounting for 3 years in order to become a CPA in the state of Massachusetts. I administer and guide staff on the Master's programs. The firm will provide financial assistance during their employment, provide support and access to study programs specifically designed to help them pass all four parts of the CPA exam and provide guidance on the certification process and subsequent renewal every two years.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: One of the worst parts of the job is working with a limited budget during this downturn while trying to provide quality programs that support our staff's career development.

Another bad part, is having to keep up with ever-changing tax laws and accounting rules and guidance. Obviously every tax law change requires us to provide the support and knowledge to our staff in order to provide the best advice and service to our clients. Since Enron and the accounting scandals of large companies, the focus on fraud and detection has changed the way auditors perform their duties.

The best part is being able to congratulate one of our employees on succeeding at obtaining his CPA certification. This certification enhances an account's career development and the firm's ability to provide superior client service. Obtaining my CPA certification was a very proud moment for me and I enjoy seeing others do the same.

Another great part of this position is surveying our staff to see if they felt the training the firm provided was effective. It is very rewarding to hear a staff person say that they now feel they can go out and perform an inventory count at a client based on the training program, or that they have never done one, but the training provided the information and confidence that they need to successfully complete one when the time comes.

Job Tips: If you enjoy learning something new everyday, this is a wonderful career choice. Working with different clients, companies and individuals is always different and challenging.

This career choice can be very difficult in the early stages of your career. There are long hours during busy season, Jan to April 15th when tax work needs to be completed. The CPA exam is difficult. But once you're successful and established, the opportunities are endless. Focus on tax work, forensic accounting or switching to support of others in the firm as I have as Director of Professional Development. Once established, your career should provide great flexibility.

Additional Thoughts: The most important personal qualities for success in this career are a desire to learn, research and keep current on your own, a commitment to putting the client first and perseverance.

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