Every accounting job I've ever had was very difficult. I am changing
careers. Part of what makes the accounting profession difficult, I
think, is that there aren't enough people out there to do the work
that is required. Salaries for entry-level positions at Big 4 firms
are rising drastically, but when one gets there, one should probably
expect to be "overworked."
Working hard wouldn't be so bad if the environment in which one worked
weren't so risky, understaffed, complex, and oftentimes just plain
boring. Arthur Andersen and other accounting problems in industry
really should be expected. So, one solution I read somewhere else was
to get rid of the audit profession altogether and make financial
reporting like tax reporting. That is, you or the entity is
responsible for your tax return and your financial statements. The
SEC could then do random or selective audits based on certain risk
criteria just like the IRS does.
On Tue, 07 Aug 2007 14:08:17 -0700, Zarlot531 wrote:
That's true. There aren't enough good people to fill the positions. I am
making 50K a year (plus tuition and profit sharing benefits) in the New
York area, and I don't even have my degree yet. In fact, I am just doing
some non-managerial a/p and a/r work, albeit for a large company. In
addition, we are having some difficulty filling a senior accountant
The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you have it
I would add that, as with anything, it falls to location. Some areas of the
country may have shortages of, or way too many accountants.
The difficulty with this profession, and one they do not, and most likely
can not teach in school, is how to deal with people. In public accounting
you deal with your clients, their business and/or personal problems - time
and time again. In a corporate accounting you deal with people too,
employees, bosses, shareholders, customers, etc and so on. There are times
in both sides of the profession that there is some "down-time", however
short that may be.
In most any profession where you're the employee, you'll be pushed to
perform. Maybe consider staying in this field but changing the types of
employers you work for.
I think you're right about the people thing. And, to be fair, in
almost all of my jobs, I received almost no training or any training I
did receive was on-the-job. You would think I would complain about
this, and I do a little bit, but on the other hand I realize that the
situation I was in was so complex with so many moving parts, that only
time and experience doing the job, while asking questions as one went
along (but eventually having to figure things out for oneself) was
probably to be expected. That is, one thing accounting majors should
realize is that, even if you work in industry, you shouldn't
necessarily expect a week-long training session. One thing that did
make my last job a bit more difficult than the average entry-level
accounting person's was that we had just taken on the outsourcing of
the billing function for a large Fortune 500 health insurance
company. They were on the west coast, and we were on the east coast.
And, boy, did we have problems. They didn't hire enough people. They
have since went on a hiring frenzy. And I have since quit, even
though they begged me not to.
This was at a billion dollar+ company. I was basically working
weekends and late nights for $30,000/year. On the postive side, I did
learn PivotTables and did learn to write VBA macros somewhat. I am a
lot better at Excel now than I used to be, but I'm glad to be out of
To be fair, the larger firm in this profession, and we're talking the
biggies here, do in-house training. Almost all smaller firms send their
employees out for CPE, at lest at the professional level. Not quite sure
how the other firms train up their clerical staff, but some I know of send
them to the H&R training, to Athens Tech, or to con-ed classes at UGA.
But even the best class in the world won't be able to tell you how that firm
does things, so if there isn't any formal training, it's learn as you go.
At some level, every day is a training session - right?
Most certainly so. That's why I guess I realize perhaps accounting
isn't for me, at least not small public accounting, at least not in
the long-term (maybe part time while I'm repositioning myself with
certain schooling). I'm sure my experience in industry perhaps might
be aytpical, so perhaps I'll keep my options open there.
The biggest frustration I had in small public accounting, though, was
that, at least during my first tax season, I tried to make my tax
returns "too perfect" I think as I look back. There really is no
thing as a perfect tax return, at least not when you've got a good bit
going on. Many times, as I look back, I should have just gone with
things and not made calls to clients to question every single
Yet the thing I hated the most really was having to call clients to
talk to them about their return. What it meant if I had to call them
was that a lot of times I had to try to jog their memory of certain
situations. For example, what if there were quarterly statements from
some brokerage with some investments they had, but no yearly 1099 from
it? I guess the major problem with having to call people all the time
is that it hurts your efficiency. You go from working on a return, to
having to call and often wait for more info.
Also, clients loved to include "everything." Data were often
duplicated within what they gave you, making it easy to make a mistake
perhaps if you were in a hurry. Also, clients often would write
things down on pieces of paper and it wouldn't be clear exactly what
the data was related to exactly. Calling them about it was a pain
because you know they don't really want to talk about this stuff.
It might have helped if I had been able to sit in with some of these
people in a brief half-hour meeting or something. Anyway, yes, people
skills are important, especially in public accounting. As I've
described, I just found I didn't like calling people about the extreme
details of their finances.
I've been in industry, and my wife is a CPA in industry too, so I know how
it all works, and I know there are both good and bad when it comes to
co-workers, bosses, clients, customers, employees, vendors, etc.
Absolutely. If you were the person responsible for preparing the return,
you should have been doing the interview. That's how it works here. The
less levels things have to go through, the easier it is, and the less
mistakes happen because of the shorter line of communications between you
and the client.
We sit down with the client at their appointment, very few returns get done
while they wait at this firm, and go over their data, making notes,
comparing things to the prior year returns, and making lists of things not
provided. That list contains an expected due date from the client and we
call a few days after that to see if they are bringing the final numbers.
In most cases the rest of the data has been entered and we're waiting on
those last items, in others, we've set it aside till the bulk comes in. It
just depends on the schedules here and the history of the client.
I struggle with some that stop by every few days with "Here's one more
contributions I found!!".
The part I don't like dealing with is tragedies and other traumatic events
in their lives.....death, divorce, etc.
Those are probably ~the~ most difficult areas to discuss. No amount of
schooling can help train you for some of the things I've come up on - and
will see in the years to come.
I will bet a nickel to a doughnut that the only reason there is "a
difficulty" is because there are undisclosed requirements (usually
associate with some locally developed and probably not legally
compliant "affirmative action plan") and other attributes that have
nothing to do with the bone fide qualifications necessary to do the
[Someone, who is funded by grant money, really ought to do a study on
the current influence of accounting function mismanagement and
bankruptcy. I always promised myself I would do it, along with a half
dozen other research projects I had on the back burner, if I could get
a part time faculty position.]
There has not been a shortage of qualified accountants for the thirty
years I've been in and out of the work. When you have a shortage, you
have behavior like you see with the Nintendo Wii. I have never seen
that type of behavior in filling accounting positions.
Actually, with our system of heavily subsidized education, it is
impossible to have a shortage of qualified accountants.
How about unrealistic expectations from the employer about the "required"
experience and the responsibilities for that position as compared to the
amount of pay and benefits they are offering.
How about unrealistic expectations from the employee about their actual
experience and abilities as compared to the amount of pay and benefits they
Eventually both sides dumb-down their expectations, an offer is made and
accepted, and all live happily ever after.
"A Minneapolis hospital is using Nintendo's Wii game system to help
recovering stroke victims get back on their feet"
Me neither. Doubt I'll ever see accountants being used as rehab for stroke
Oh, what you mean is that there isn't any new and exciting technology
driving the accounting profession where prospective employers line up at
~your~ door days in advance of you being available.
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