Whether you are still in school or beginning your career, figuring out which type of firm you want to work for is imperative to your long term success and happiness.
Your career is a very personal path and one that requires much thought and consideration.
Most people think all accountants and the jobs are the same, crunching numbers all day. However, there are some major differences between the public and private accounting sectors.
Large Public Accounting Firms
1. Exposure is one of the greatest things about going into the public sector.
Even as an intern at a public accounting firm you will be introduced and possibly have the chance to work with CFO’s and CEO’s of large corporations.
2. Most firms will pay for your travel and/or relocation expenses if you are given the chance to work abroad.
3. Working in the public sector can greatly bolster your resume. If your resume is posted anywhere online while you are working in the private sector, you may yourself receiving a large number of emails and phone calls every week from recruiters.
4. Most public accounting firms extend a great amount of autonomy to their employees; providing them with credit cards, confidential information, and lastly, they trust you to get your work done, without micromanagement.
5. At most firms you will undergo a yearly review, where you are rated on a scale from 1 to 5.
If you rank at the high end (5) of the spectrum you can expect a 10-15% raise and bonus. Regardless of where you rank, you will find that you receive structured feedback on how you can improve your current performance.
1. Long hours are the biggest drawback of working in the public sector. You may find yourself working more than 50 hours every week. However, there will be times when you barely have any work.
2. Depending on where you work and your clients, you might find that flexibility is lacking. Most public accounting firms force you to choose an industry to work with and what branch within that industry (advisory, tax, or audit).
3. While structured feedback and compensation are listed in the “Pros” section, it can also have its downside.
If you rank lower than 2 on the scale, you are normally fired immediately with no chance to improve your skills. In addition, if you rank somewhere in the 2 to 4 range, the feedback you receive may not be the most positive.
Private Accounting Firms
1. Specialization is one of the greatest pros of working in the private sector. Choosing whether to work in the IT, medical, or forensic accounting fields will allow you to hone your craft.
2. People everywhere are looking for greater work/life balance and the private sector allows much greater flexibility in this area.
3. If you don’t like change, the private sector provides consistency in your work, allowing you to truly become familiar with your client and your position.
4. The private sector has bolstered their salary and incentives to closely match those of the public sector. Most now offer sign-on bonuses, stock options, annual bonuses and pension.
5. If you are looking to support your company, a position as a financial analyst in the private sector will definitely fulfill this dream.
1. Lower starting pay is the biggest downside to working in the private sector.
2. Lack of travel opportunities
3. Long hours, you may find yourself working the same 50+ hours a week that you would in the public sector.