Your CPA Practical Experience: Public Practice, Industry or Nonprofit?
You are on the road to your CPA designation, congratulations! Now you find yourself at that crucial time when you need to make choices about how you will acquire the experience to complete your Professional Experience Reporting Tool (PERT).
It’s important to educate yourself on the options available. Public practice is often seen as the fastest way for aspiring CPA’s to obtain their letters as students are exposed to a variety of industries and accounting work. However, choosing to do your practical experience component in industry or the nonprofit sector can also be viable options.
The question to ask yourself is, “What do I want out of my CPA career and my life?”
It is important to reflect on your personal life goals when making career choices. The choices you make at this stage of your career will have a major impact on your lifestyle and long-term career goals.
Life in Public Practice
Large public practice firms, by their nature, can often be compartmentalized. Students looking for diversity of work and more opportunities should make sure to ask questions about exactly what kind of work they will be exposed to. For example, students placed in departments specializing in assurance or tax may not have the chance to move between departments.
Small to mid-sized public practice firms, on the other hand, usually provide accounting students with a more generalized experience. Typically, these kinds of firms do not have the volume of specialized work that a large firm does. As a result, students often get the opportunity to work on a variety of things, such as Notice to Readers, bookkeeping, payroll, tax and advisory services.
Bottom line? If you decide to go the public practice route, make sure that the work you are doing is relevant to your overall career and lifestyle plans. Ask yourself the questions that count!
Life in Industry and Nonprofits
The industry and nonprofit sector are often full of unexplored opportunities for completing the PERT. If you are considering work in those sectors, inquire with potential employers about how they can help you fulfill your PERT requirements.
When exploring your options for practical experience, make sure you perform your due diligence. Seek out the experience that will open doors, provide you with multiple opportunities AND give you the life you want.
Kate Jessup is a Senior Account Manager with Loren Nancke and is responsible for human resources, training and client services. As a senior accountant, her work focuses on the human side of the equation.