As a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, you have a choice of where you work. Some CPAs choose to build their own business or work directly for a corporation. Another option is to take a position with a CPA firm. Working for a CPA firm offers many advantages and disadvantages, depending on your career goals and lifestyle. In order to apply for a position with a CPA firm you have to earn an accounting degree and pass the certification requirements to be a CPA in your state.
One of the advantages to joining a CPA firm is that the reputation of the company is behind you. Rather than having to start from scratch building your own reputation to obtain a client base, the CPA firm already has an established reputation in the community that draws new and returning business. If you decide that to pursue a career opportunity with another CPA firm or a corporation, having the name of an established and well regarded CPA firm on your resume may help you in your job search.
Working for a CPA firm has its financial rewards. Accountants at these firms are often well compensated for their skills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that in 2010 the average accountant had a salary of $68,690. Your expected salary with a CPA firm may vary depending on geographical location, previous work experience, the size of the firm and your position within the firm. As you climb the firm's career ladder your salary may rise dramatically with promotions.
Maintaining a good work-life balance can be difficult for CPAs, particularly during certain times of the year. It's not uncommon for a CPA with a firm to work extremely long hours, often putting in at least 10 to 12 hour workdays. During tax time, the first quarter of the year, a firm CPA may practically live at his desk, often skipping meal breaks or taking short ones and working overtime. Because of the long hours and heavy workload of CPA firms, employees may find it difficult to build or maintain a life outside of the office.
Working for a CPA firm gives you an avenue to significantly advance your career. You can advance through the ranks at a single firm, moving to positions such as finance manager and partner or elect to take higher positions at different firms. When you move up to a partner position with a CPA firm you earn a percentage of the firm's profits in addition to your own salary. As you advance, the amount of your billable hours also increases.
There are some positions within a CPA firm that require a large amount of travel. An example is a CPA who works as a consultant. As a consultant you may be required to travel the majority of the time to complete on-site financial consulting with clients. The amount of time a CPA is required to travel is determined by the size of the firm and its client base. Some CPAs in consultant positions may simply be required to travel around a city or territory while others may frequently need to travel to other states or countries.