Career Opportunities in Public Accounting

Career opportunities are available for qualified accounting graduates ranging from work with the largest public accounting firms to work with local practitioners. Careers in government service such as the General Accounting Office and Internal Revenue Service are also open to students majoring in this program.

Advancement has been, and continues to be, rapid in public accounting for those who are qualified. New employees start as junior accountants or staff assistants. After a period of two or three years, depending on performance and initiative, a person could be promoted to senior accountant -- the accountant in day-to-day charge of a small to medium-size audit. After two or three more years, the motivated individual might become a manager -- the accountant in overall charge of the audit itself. The next step up the ladder is to a partnership, which typically takes place within 10-12 years after employment by a firm. The partners constitute the top management level of the firm, and it is partners who bear ultimate responsibility for audits.

Students pursuing the program heading toward a public accounting career should plan to take the CPA examination as soon after graduation as possible. The examination consists of four parts: Business law and professional responsibilities (LPR), Auditing (AUDIT), Financial accounting and reporting - business enterprises (FARE), and Accounting and reporting - taxation, managerial, and government and not-for-profit organizations (ARE). It is a uniform examination, administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and given in all 50 states and U.S. territories in May and November of each year.

A student who plans to seek designation as a CPA in another state should obtain information concerning education requirements from the appropriate state board of accountancy prior to final selection of courses because some states, such as New York and New Jersey, require the completion of courses in specific subject areas. Information on the CPA examination can also be received by calling 1-800-CPA-EXAM.