The Best Kept Secret in Accounting Careers


Hello fellow CPAer’s! I am excited to let you in on one of the best kept secrets in the accounting profession. It is in my opinion that most professors fail to elaborate much on this field. Usually, you just hear about public accounting and the ‘big four’. 

I believe that accounting students often fail to realize how versatile their skill sets are and how many amazing opportunities there are outside of public accounting.

The job that I do is embedded into the inner workings of Fortune 500 companies. It’s usually not highly advertised to undergraduate students from faculty and career centers. But again, I would reiterate that this is because, in my opinion, this profession is one of the greatest golden nuggets for accounting majors that generally goes unheard of. Most of us happen to hear about it into our first jobs or perhaps fall into it later by chance. Let me tell you how I found it. 

First, introductions. My name is Jennifer Goldfarb and I am originally from sunny South Florida.

I attended Florida State University (Go ‘Noles!) and obtained a B.S. in Accounting and a B.S. in Economics. I chose each of these degrees for very different reasons (I chose the university because it is the best in the state). I pursued my degree in economics because of how much I enjoyed the psychological side of it known as behavioral economics. Behavioral economics is the study of what drives human decisions at the individual and institutional levels. Economics seemed to marry a practical major with a deeper, more complex segment of what makes us tick in everyday transactions. 

As for accounting, that was honestly more driven by the market at that time.

It was 2011 and the economy was badly bruised from the recession. I made the decision to pick up accounting for the skillset and to stay a little bit longer in school to increase my marketability. It was the best decision I ever made because it led me to where I am today.

To get you to this golden nugget I have found, let me describe my professional career thus far.

While I have only been out of school for three years, I have been working since I was sixteen. I spent roughly eight years collectively working in retail banking, with my last role being a personal banker with SunTrust Bank. I began working in banking at the age of sixteen through an internship program with Washington Mutual (now a part of JPMorgan Chase as a result of the recession). I have great appreciation for these roles as they helped shape me into the professional I am today. 

Furthermore, I met some of the most amazing colleagues who felt more like family to me when I was so far away from home.

In my last role with SunTrust, I learned more about what I wanted in a work environment and the people I wanted to be surrounded by. We’ll return to this subject a little later. To wrap things up, I interned with RSM in their audit practice during the summer of 2012 and received a full time offer for January 2014. There, too, I worked with an amazing group of people and learned a lot about the career I wanted. I also served as the campus brand champion for this firm until graduation. 

However, after my first busy season, I decided to pursue something a little different.

In the fall of 2014 I obtained a role as a Campus Recruiter for Raymond James Financial, a financial services firm headquartered in St. Petersburg, FL. I was attracted to the role because of my interview with the manager over campus recruiting. She was passionate about her work and the purpose of the firm, and had a vision and a plan that I wanted to be a part of. It was the culture of this firm and her devotion to her work that brought me in. And this, my fellow CPAer’s, was a pivotal moment in me finding this golden nugget. We’re getting closer! 

After my first year in campus recruiting, I decided that I wanted to pursue my CPA (I know, my story is a bit of a whirlwind, but at least it’s interesting!).

Following conversations with colleagues over the best direction for my career, I was presented with an opportunity to interview with our Internal Audit department. And this is my golden nugget! I know, I know. You may have been expecting something perhaps more alluring, like investment banking. But this, this is where all the goodness lies. Let me explain. 

As some of you have been studying for the CPA, you have read about my role in Section 2.02 of the BEC study material.

While at first glance it may not seem all that exciting, it actually is. As an Internal Auditor at Raymond James, I have the opportunity to learn about different facets of the company that I may not have otherwise been exposed to in a different role. My job is to know and understand how our business works and the risks associated with those activities that help us stay in business. 

This is different from public accounting in that, while we are independent, we’re still a part of this machine. In public accounting, especially in your first few years as a staff accountant, you may only be exposed to very small segments of a business’ operations. There is a chance that you will have a very low level of interface with key stakeholders. 

In my role, I am meeting with senior leaders every day.

I consistently have face time with some of the biggest players in our firm. What is most enjoyable and perhaps unique about my firm is that they’re as easy to converse with at the SVP level as they are at the associate level. And this is what helps make my job easier as we’re going into business units to have discussions over the risks that are posed to their operations. 

At the end of this fiscal year, I will have been on roughly five audits, not including others that I may assist with such as SOX and 17a-5. This exposure is second to none, especially with a Fortune 500 company. Additionally, we report directly to our CEO. How amazing is that? 
While Internal Audit does operate independently of Risk Management, we’re still very much aligned with what its mission is, which is to identify, minimize, or manage risk, and work closely with our colleagues in Risk Management. 

As an accounting major, you have the opportunity to pursue a career in Operational Risk Management, Enterprise Risk Management, Anti Money Laundering (AML), Compliance, Credit Risk, and so much more.

Roger CPA Review most recently had a blog post regarding the top 10 highest paying accounting jobs; number 6 was ‘Risk & Compliance Professionals’, and number 5 was ‘Personal Financial Adviser’. Financial Advisory is what we’re primarily in the business of doing at Raymond James. So, this golden nugget has actually grown. 

My best advice to you as you pursue a degree in accounting is to see beyond the highly advertised public accounting profession.

While I can’t argue with the opportunities they provide and what wonderful employers they are, I know that it is not for everyone. I would encourage you to seek us out at Raymond James or other firms like us to learn more about where the risk and compliance profession can take you. Search for internships in internal audit, compliance, or AML. Our importance has only grown and the need for these type of professionals will continue to see exponential growth. You can still pursue your CPA (you will be encouraged to do so) and you can flourish in a profession that is as intellectually challenging as it is enjoyable. 

–Jennifer Goldfarb, Guest Blogger for Roger CPA Review 

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