3 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Career Path in Public Accounting


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an accountant can earn an average salary of over $70,000 with a bachelor’s degree, but a CPA can earn around $119,000. If you are a university student who is studying accounting, you are likely considering continuing on with a CPA career path. If you are a young professional embarking on your new accounting career, you may be considering getting your CPA license but you might remain unsure about your next steps.

There will always be a need for licensed public accountants, and you have chosen a career that gives you a large amount of control over your future. Take the following three points into consideration as you sit for your CPA Exam or make choices to determine where you will be five, 10, or 20 years from now on your CPA career path.

1. Consider Differences Between the Public and Private Sectors

If you wish to work for a private company or for a corporate firm, you would be considered a private accountant. As an accountant in the private sector, you would not need to have a CPA certification — but having the license on your resume shows that you are serious about your career and that you have taken the time to obtain a professional qualification. And, if you have the CPA credential in private accounting, your salary will be higher than if you did not.  Also, if you’re looking for an accounting position that allows for more regular hours of work in a more typical office environment, private accounting might be the career path for you. 

Having a CPA credential boosts your salary in the public sector as well. Consider that as a public accountant, you may work with more varied clients, have a more fast-paced workday, and possibly find more jobs with remote work potential than those in the private sector. Other benefits found in public accounting are things like compensation, structured feedback, autonomy, and incredible career opportunities. Public accountants typically travel more often than private accountants and go through periods where they work more hours, i.e., busy seasons. And, public accountants are trusted to provide public value through the protection of public interest – they’re considered trusted advisors from day one.

2. Take a Review Course to Pass the CPA Exam

Whether you choose public or private accounting, obtaining the CPA credential is key to enhancing your accounting career. But, before you start working towards the credential and jump into taking the CPA Exam, keep in mind that many aspiring public accountants who take the CPA Exam do not pass all four sections within their first try. Fortunately, you are allowed to take the CPA exam as much as you want—provided that you pass all four sections within an 18-month window. Many students find it helpful to take a CPA Review course before attempting the CPA Exam for the first time. Taking a CPA Review course will save you money in the long run, help you study more efficiently, receive the most current CPA Exam information, and give you the confidence you need for exam day.

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3. Check Out Resources Tailored to Your Career Level

It may surprise you to know that there are several student and early-career resources on the CPA career path that you can take advantage of before you pass your CPA exam. If you’re interested in a public accounting job, look into the Young CPA Network, which can provide you with professional development opportunities, awards, and mentorship. You can join many organizations like these regardless of whether you are studying, preparing to take the CPA exam, or you’re a newly minted CPA ready to start your career.

There is no one perfect path to take if you wish to become an accountant, but having a CPA license is an ideal place to start for all of them. Think about this information as you choose whether the public or private accounting sector is the ideal place for you and move forward with the CPA exam.   


  1. https://www.aicpa.org/career/careerpaths/publicaccounting.html
  2. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm
  3. https://www.aicpa.org/interestareas/youngcpanetwork.html
  4. https://nasba.org/blog/2017/04/26/5-reasons-to-be-a-cpa/
  5. https://accounting.uworld.com/blog/cpa-review/how-many-times-can-you-take-the-cpa-exam/
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