Public Accounting vs Private Accounting

The CPA exam is a grueling test of one’s accounting acumen, and success requires months of rigorous preparation. Candidates often turn to CPA review courses and study materials to navigate the complex terrain of the exam. The examination is not merely a test of knowledge; it assesses problem-solving abilities and the capacity to make sound judgments in complex financial situations.

  • Auditors also assess the overall financial health of the company and provide recommendations for improving financial operations and compliance.
  • Some firms are full-service in that they offer a full range of accounting services, including taxes, bookkeeping, audits, risk, payroll, and more.
  • The achievement of Senior Partner is obtained as a result of longevity with a firm and expert handling of instrumental accounts.
  • The most significant difference in public vs. private accounting is that a private accountant works for another company.

“Through this broad range of work, there is a potential for variety and new challenges,” explains Irv. If you’re looking for a career path that doesn’t require earning a CPA license, private accounting is the right path for you. According to EMSI, in 2021 there were 170,481 job postings for accountants and auditors with a bachelor’s degree and no CPA license. Expected salaries for accountants without a CPA are heavily influenced by years of experience.


By having an accountant do the tax return forms, the business gets some protection in an audit. Many accountants prepare financial statements for companies to use for stockholders, the IRS, creditors, and other stakeholders. Financial statements are a set of high-level reports that summarize an organization’s financial status, income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. A CPA’s job description varies by employer, but common duties include advising clients on financial matters, preparing and filing tax documents, and creating financial reports. CPAs can specialize in areas like forensic accounting, personal financial planning, and taxation.

This license authorizes the professionals to practice as a public accountant in a particular region or State. The program has been designed to filter the talented and qualified individuals and allow them to practice as accountants. Whichever path you choose, it’s important to build a strong foundation of accounting knowledge and skills to succeed in public or private accounting. Now that you understand the fundamentals spend and receive money transactions in xero of these two accounting career paths, let’s evaluate the pros and cons of working in public vs. private accounting. Private accounting, also commonly called industry or corporate accounting, refers to accountants who work for a single organization within its internal finance department. Private accountants work across every industry and sector, making this a stable career choice no matter where you live and work.

For complex ones, their fee can go up to thousands.” For the accounting services you might retain if you needed help managing taxable income in retirement, a CPA might charge $150 to $250 per hour, says Jiang. Public accounting firms range in size from sole practitioners to a few huge international firms that employ hundreds of thousands of CPAs throughout the world. In between are local and regional firms as well as very large national and international firms.

The most popular CPA career paths include working for public accounting firms, offering accounting services as self-employed professionals, and working on behalf of government and nonprofit agencies. Now, if you intend to pursue a career in the field of accounting, then the decision may come down to the choice between public and private accounting. Many students who pursue the public accountancy major hold internships and, later, full-time jobs at Big Four client-services firms and other notable companies in New York City, such as RSM and BDO. The self-contained nature of this unique five-year undergraduate degree ensures that they do not need a master’s degree to meet New York’s CPA minimum.

Pros & Cons of Working in Public Accounting

They get to experience financial and accounting work in many organizations as they have many different clients. Private accountants work within one industry and organization, so are less versatile when it comes to financial understanding of various industries. Public accounting firms employ large numbers of certified public accountants (CPAs). The certification was originally intended to designate a person as being qualified to conduct an audit.

Public Accounting: Careers, Skills, and How to Become a CPA

They are the financial navigators in the turbulent seas of commerce, guiding companies towards prosperity and compliance. Public accounting refers to a firm or organization that offers accounting services and expertise to corporations, non-profit organizations, publicly held companies, governments, and individuals. Private accountants are sometimes also referred to as corporate accountants. Your specific job duties as a public accountant will vary depending on factors like your experience level and the specific needs of each client that you are working with. This is especially true if you operate your own firm or business, and an MBA program can equip you with the skills to operate more successfully.

Personal finance advice for times of crisis.

Some states have a two-tier system whereby an individual would first become certified—usually by passing the Uniform CPA Exam. That individual would then later be eligible to be licensed once a certain amount of work experience is accomplished. Other states have a one-tier system whereby an individual would be certified and licensed at the same time when both the CPA exam is passed and the work experience requirement has been met. Senior accountants in corporate accounting typically have at least 4-6 years of work experience and earn a little less than their counterparts in public accounting. For example, public accountants may need to travel to meet with various clients, while private accountants may work at fixed locations with minimal or no travel involved.

Risk management focuses on identifying and mitigating financial risks to protect a company’s assets and reputation. Business strategy consulting assists companies in developing plans to grow, expand into new markets, or adapt to changing economic conditions. These organizations also adhere to specific accounting standards, such as the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) guidelines for nonprofits, adding complexity to the role of CPAs in this sector. Public accountants who specialize in the nonprofit sector tackle unique challenges related to maintaining tax-exempt status and preserving public trust. Nonprofits rely heavily on donor contributions and grants, necessitating accurate financial reporting to demonstrate responsible stewardship of funds.

Public accountants are not mere number-crunchers, they are financial advisors who help businesses chart a course to success. Advisory services encompass a broad spectrum of activities, including financial planning, risk management, and business strategy. CPAs use their expertise to guide companies toward achieving their financial goals.

Most individuals providing these services have public accounting certification (CPA authorized). After working for some time at a public accounting firm, these individuals usually leave to work as private accountants for businesses. Public Accounting firms prepare and file tax returns on behalf of their clients. This ensures that the taxes get filed on time and per the laws of the federal government, which get pretty complicated for private businesses.

Based on data submitted to Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a CPA in the non-profit sector ranges from around $61,370 to $63,850. If you have a passion for business, consider merging your interests by pursuing a career in private or corporate accounting. Examples of corporate accounting roles include tax, management, or financial accountant; internal auditor; chief financial officer (CFO); or various management positions, such as tax manager. According to sources like Glassdoor, Indeed, and, the average salary for corporate accountants ranges from about $63,200 to $69,300. This guide to public vs. private accounting will compare these career paths in detail, including job duties and education requirements, so that you can make a decision that is aligned with your goals and interests. A public accountant is trained in the analysis of accounting systems, collecting evidence, and testing to see if assertions are correct.

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