A career in public accounting means you’ll always be learning, while giving your clients valuable information that helps them keep their organizational or personal financial outlook strong. So what does that look like in practice?
Daily work might include preparing or examining financial documents, creating or assessing budgets and long-term financial plans, and advising organizations and individuals on financial decisions.
As a public accountant, you can focus on two broad areas: tax and audit. As your career progresses, you’ll probably want to become a specialist in one or more niches within these areas. For example, you could specialize in performing audits of not-for-profit organizations or benefit plans, providing tax planning for estates, or helping businesses address international taxation issues. You might also choose to specialize in a skill that can apply to multiple areas, such as forensic accounting.
While each public accounting firm is different, you’re likely to encounter a similar work environment at the position you choose. Some common elements include:
Most public accountants are full-time employees who work a minimum of 40 hours per week. Many work significantly more, especially during the busy tax season. If balancing work with family and personal demands is important to you, look for a firm that offers flexible schedules and keeps overtime hours to a minimum when possible. A few accounting firms even consider part-time schedules in some cases.
Travel is often part of a public accountant’s job requirements, although not always. Audit engagements tend to demand more travel than tax work, but again, this can vary based on the client’s needs and the firm’s location and policy. Some public accounting positions don’t require any travel at all. Choosing a non-audit area of focus is a good idea for new accountants who want to avoid the need to travel for their job.
Public accountants can work at their firm’s offices or those of the client, or even remotely from another site. In rare cases, accounting firms may allow accountants to work from home some or most of the time. As with travel, audit professionals are more likely to spend time at the client’s site, either locally or in another city, while tax accountants frequently work in their own firm’s offices.