I am a 36 year old stay at home mom, with eight years paid work
experience in market research and MIS doing analytical work, bachelors
degrees in economics and mathematics, and good grades in a couple of
accounting courses. I've been out of the work force for almost four
I am considering re-entering the workforce as an accountant. Before I
invest time and money retraining and gaining experience, I want to be
confident that I will have made a sound decision.
Before I move forward, I would like to know the answers to these 9
1. How many hours on average each week does an accountant work?
2. Am I too old to start in this career?
3. Should employment prospects be good in the next 15 years?
4. Is there ageism in this profession?
5. How long will it be before I start earning at least $38K a year?
6. How does one gain entry into this career?
7. What kind of people excel in this career?
8. What is the career path?
9. Are jobs only plentiful in big cities?
If you are a practicing accountant, would you mind briefly responding
to some or all of these questions?
There are several different career tracks in accounting. It all
depends on what you want and how you define "success." If you want to
be at the top of the field, then you'd better be prepared to put in a
lot of hours. But you might be happy in a part time job where you can
spend time with your kids. I'll answer your questions from my
perspective and give you my opinion, but you know what they say about
It has been my experience that people who gravitate towards accounting
tend to have been good students in college... thus, they didn't mind
devoting time to studying. (I've always said that accounting isn't
hard, just time consuming.) As they progress into their careers, they
tend to devote time to that too... this translates into working long
hours (mostly by nature / choice.) A lot of your work time will also
depend on your career choice. If you go into public accounting, your
hours can get crazy. That is a given during tax season. If you go
into industry or non-profit, you have more time for a life outside of
work but deadlines (like month end closes, quarterly and annual
reporting) will typically require weekend work sessions.
Is the glass half empty or half full? If you enjoy accounting, you'll
find rewarding work. If you're looking for a typical fast-track
career move, then in all honesty, it will be hard to get a job with
the big four accounting firms (which are the most prestigious jobs for
new graduates.) The big four firms like to hire young kids fresh out
of school... with no outside commitments. They expect long hours...
chew them up and spit them out. Having big four experience on your
resume is impressive, but you earn it. Even in industry, a lot of job
openings prefer "big four experience." But if you'd be happy with a
job on a slower track, where you can enjoy your kids and be a good
mom, then you can find a great career in a smaller public firm,
industry, or non profit. And what would make you happy?
All of the articles I've seen seem to be positive. But with the
offshoring of white collar jobs, who knows? You'll find differing
opinions about this.
Again, if you're looking to start with a big four firm, then the
answer is a definite yes. In other jobs, public or industry, if they
are interested in hiring you, one of your qualities will be your
maturity and experience.
With a PPA (five year degree) or enough hours (150 hours in most
states) to sit for the CPA exam, you could earn that or more straight
out of graduation... especially with two degrees. This ties in to why
the hiring company might be interested in you... real-world experience
No secret here... through the university placement office, answering
want ads, networking, trade group meetings (look for your local CPA
society chapter, or if interested in industry, your local IMA
(Institute of Management Accountants) chapter.
Being a study-butt helps, especially if you want to become certified.
Also people who have good people skills, technical skills, good work
ethic, etc. seem to do well.
The "ideal" path: After college, get a job with a big four firm.
After two to five years, you've burnt yourself out, so you go to work
for one of the clients of your former employer. Then, when you're in
a position to, you only want to hire "alumni" from your previous
employer. (Just kidding, but there is a grain of truth in that
answer.) BUT... since you're beyond that, your career path is where
you find it. If you work for a small public firm, that will be your
path. If you work for a local hospital, or county, or school, etc.
then that will be your path. Unfortunately, you are beyond "the
career path" stage. I'm not saying that you can't find fulfilling
work that pays well, but I am saying that it would be hard to
re-create the typical career path of a 22-year old kid fresh out of
There are accounting jobs everywhere. But it's that same old story...
big city with more jobs, but more competition too. Small town with
fewer jobs, but less competition.
I hope this helps,
Russell Tuncap, CMA, CPA
I could be wrong, because I haven't observed this directly, but it
seems to me that there might be less ageism for those who want Big Four
experience who are entering the tax field vs audit. Tax in general
requires less travel, so there isn't the issue of being away from the
family all the time, although the hours are still obviously long during
tax season and really throughout the year as well with planning, etc.
So, a Big 4 tax person is probably going to be in his own bed at night
a good bit more than an audit person. Someone correct me if I've given
the wrong impression.
Do you think it's more an age issue or a "married w/kids" issue?
For example, all else equal, would a Big Four firm rather have a single
28-year-old person over a 23-year-old person who's married? married w/
a kid? Does the answer change when one considers tax vs audit?
entry level jobs are available for a "36 year old SAHM" if you live near a
big city. CPA firms employ younger workers but banks, insurance, financial
firms, tax preparers, etc. will value your background. Contact the state
CPA society to see if you can attend a meeting and ask about career paths.
You might want to start out working part-time while attending college to get
a better understanding of the work involved,
In article ,
I've read somewhere that H&R Block offers courses on tax preparation, and
then they might hire you part-time during tax season, with very flexible
hours, to prepare people's taxes (taking the courses is no guarantee of
being hired). I wonder if that would look good on a resume.