Career Crossroads: Are You Meant for Public or Corporate Accounting?

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As you probably know, there are two distinct branches of accounting: public and corporate. Depending on your interests, your abilities, and your talents you may be better suited as a candidate to one or the other. How do you know which works better for you. Let’s take a closer look at both public and corporate accounting jobs to give you an idea of which path to choose.

Corporate Accounting:

  • Opportunity to specialize. When working for an individual organization you have an opportunity to immerse yourself in their specific industry and culture. You may learn all the aspects of accounting for IT, retail, manufacturing or any number of other possibilities. This will give you an option to structure your career to be in demand as an accountant in those fields.
  • Flexibility in your career. Public accounting is focused on billable hours, but a private industry accounting job will be structured around a more traditional schedule and an annual salary. This can greatly enhance your work/life balance. Some companies are even offering a more flexible approach to schedules that can give you even more freedom.
  • Job consistency. Because public accounting jobs are centered on billable hours it can be very inconsistent work. Working with a private company gives you the job security that you might feel you need in your work. You can have a set schedule, expectations, and rewards for your quality work.
  • Incentives beyond salary. Speaking of rewards for your work, private companies want to attract and keep top talent so they will offer bonuses and non-monetary incentives to their team members. You may expect something such as stock options or signing bonuses.

Public Accounting:

  • In demand career. There will always be a need for public accountants. Major public accounting firms are always seeking new candidates for their projects. Forecasts for the next few years are still strong in public accounting. For more information on trends and projections look at the American Institute of CPAs 2013 report of the trends for public accounting.
  • Travel opportunities. Public accountants, especially for large accounting firms who work with international corporations, often have the opportunity for travel. It could be within the United States or beyond depending on what your role is within the organization. If you’ve wanted to travel public accounting may be a great way to do that on someone else’s dime.
  • Exposure to diverse experiences. While corporate accounting offers stability and security, private accounting gives you a chance to have multiple experiences in your career. You would have an opportunity to work with a variety of industries and be exposed to more businesses. This can give you a leg up if you decide to transition to a private accounting career later on.
  • Advancement opportunities. Private accounting firms provide employees a chance to advance in their careers pretty quickly. It is currently estimated that many private accountants can reach the role of partner in just 13 years on the job. CPAs also have a number of additional consulting opportunities throughout their careers.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the best career for your future. Where do you see yourself: public or corporate accounting? Get some expert advice from one of our accounting recruiters in Phoenix, Denver, Orange County or Los Angeles.