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Help recent college graduate decide which career path would be best

I recently graduated from a top university with a double major in accounting and management & human resources. I was able to graduate with 133 credits. My plan was to get a job working in either public or private accounting and over the next few years I'd take classes to get the remaining 17 credits I need to become a CPA. Throughout this past school year I learned that a lot of the large accounting firms require candidates to be CPA eligible, which made me not qualified. I went through with graduating but now am trying to decide if I should take a job I might not be 100% happy with or go back to a school close to home to knock my remaining 17 credits out this fall so I can get back on track with the career path I thought I was on. Right now it seems as though there are not many entry level accounting jobs in my area. I had two jobs in the works since graduation in mid May and this week I found out that I did not get either. The only place was a large development firm and they hired someone who had experience in property management accounting and the other place is a small public accounting firm and they seemed turned off by the fact that I needed the 17 more credits. I'm at the point that either option would be fine with me, but I'm not sure what would be best. I worry that I'll go back to school and be in the same position that I'm in now. Any opinions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Answers

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

Seems like in this situation it would be wisest to go back and get the remaining credits. Typically I would advise people to mix education and experience, however, seems you can't even get started with experience before you finalize this educational path you have been on.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

I agree with Anders. I understand public accounting firms wanting you to be CPA eligible; however, private firms make no sense.

For 17 credits, get them and then work...

Anonymous
(Student) |

Thank you for the replies! I thought that it was weird that I needed to be CPA eligible for private accounting also. There are some jobs where that's not a requirement but all of them I'm interested in it's required.

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

Many companies like to put CPA as a requirement because they know what they get in that case even though practically it might not be needed in the job. So, you could try and sell your skills without it, however, as said in this case I think it makes sense to go back and get your CPA.

Anonymous
(Student) |

Now the plot changes...I just got a call and I'm going in Monday to get a job offer at a small public accounting firm. What do you guys think?

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

Tough call for the non-American to guide you here. I value experience over education but the CPA is still very coveted in USA. I'd say it depends on how much extra time you would have to spend later on getting the CPA. If you can simply start from your current spot later on then I say take the job. If not, well then it depends on the specifics.

Anonymous
(Independent Consultant) |

I don't think it's an either/or question. Do both. Definitely take the job since it is offered and the experience of working in a firm will be very valuable, but also keep going with your classes. You might not be able to take as many classes at the same time so it might take you a quarter/semester or two longer to finish, but the value will be clear on your resume' that you were able to work and go to school at the same time. Besides, if you really want to get your CPA and work for a Big-4, they are going to work you insane hours anyway and so you might as well build up your tolerance for pain (just kidding, but not really). I always give extra credit when I've hired people if they are able to work and go to school at the same time. Business is like that too - you have to be good at prioritizing your time and keeping lots of plates spinning. Also, it's just as valuable to learn what you don't want to do as well, and maybe you will take this job and find that accounting isn't really what you're interested in. Better to find that out earlier than later. I worked full time during my finance undergraduate, and MBA courses, and also worked full time while I was getting my CPA license so it can be done. Just takes extra effort, but I think you'll look back at some point and be glad you did.

All the best.

Anonymous
(Student) |

Thanks for the input! I agree that I should do both. I actually think they will pay for me to take the CPA exam and any other credential that I want to get.

Anonymous
(Independent Consultant) |

Congrats! Once you get ready to take the exam, invest in a good study course as it is a hard, sometimes tricky exam. These prep courses can be expensive too (thousands of dollars) so maybe your employer will pay for that as well.

At cocktail parties, professionals I grew up with (doctors, lawyers, etc) always talk about who has the hardest professional exam. You can show them this article (and hundreds of other articles on the internet) to back up your claim that you are in an elite group having passed the CPA exam.

http://us.talentlens.com/quality-of-hire/worlds-toughest-tests-and-final-exams

Depending upon where your career takes you, you could also get a CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), or CIA (Certified Internal Auditor). These are good for working in Corporate. If you like more the financial side of the accounting profession, I would recommend getting your CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst). This is also a really hard exam (emphasis on really hard) - but great if you want to be in FP&A, management, etc.

And remember that getting credentials will only get you so far. Nothing replaces experience. But when you get into a situation at work, you can draw upon your technical and analytical training to stand above your peers.

All the best!

Anonymous
(Student) |

Thanks for the replies! Do you think that I'd be better off taking the job at a small firm (~50 employees in 9 offices) and taking the credits or just getting the credits out of the way? I'd hope that I could get a job at a larger firm once I get the credits done.

Anonymous
(Student) |

I just went in for my offer and it was a little higher than the average staff accountant salary in my area. I'd have to pass the CPA exam within two years of employment and then I'd get a bonus of 6% of my salary. They said that they would prefer that I take the exam first and then do the credits. Not getting them done within the 2 years wouldn't be an issue. What do you think? This job vs going back to school and getting the credits in one semester then a job with a larger firm.

Anonymous
(Independent Consultant) |

Not sure what state you are in, but in California you can't sit for the exam until you have met all the education requirements. I thought that was a uniform rule across all 50 states, but I'm not exactly sure. I would check that out, but assuming what they are telling you is okay, then I would take the job.

Roger Hardie
Title: Financial Controller
Company: Expert Home
LinkedIn Profile
(Financial Controller, Expert Home) |

Take the Job, work experience in your chosen career in an excellent opportunity, Give you the chance to map your career moves & plan. When you you get your CPA you will have the CPA + years work experience putting you way ahead of the newly minted CPA's with Zero work experience for other opportunities

Anonymous
(Student) |

Do you think I could try to negotiate the time for passing the CPA exam? From people I talked with it sounds like my offer is a bit higher than people with a masters of accountancy are getting currently.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Accept the offer for which YOU think you are worth (or is FAIR) NOW......NOT when you have this degree or that certificate. Instead of negotiating salary, negotiate for the firm to accommodate study/review for the exam or for whatever professional advancement. If the firm values its people and their professional progress, it will NOT be difficult. If it is, then you should reevaluate your firm options.

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