Monday, 10 November 2014

Public or private: Which pathway are you suited to?

A key decision for accountants and tax advisors early in their careers is whether to choose corporate or public practice. Deciding between the two really comes down to what motivates you in the workplace and how well you think the two career types would suit your personality.

The people’s person

Public practice is arguably the more challenging of the two, offering you the chance to get to grips with lots of different companies, clients and business sectors. It’s a great opportunity to garner broad knowledge about the commercial world and international tax, in many cases requiring you to liaise with colleagues from other countries and jurisdictions.

The financial rewards can also be higher. The big firms are recruiting enthusiastically, which means opportunities to develop your career are in abundance, and there is usually a clear path for those determined to make partner.

However, public practice can be highly demanding, sometimes stressful and often requires periods when you work long hours and are travelling away from the office and from home.

Private preferred

Corporate practice offers the chance to learn about a business and an industry sector in greater depth. While the monetary rewards are not always as high as public practice, there is still scope for bonuses, share schemes and other perks.

A better work-life balance is one of them, not only due to the fact that you can typically expect to work more predictable, nine-to-five hours, but also because the more progressive companies will offer other benefits such as flexible working. There is also every chance that with such highly valued and specialised skills your job will be highly secure too.

Not everyone is suited to the corporate side. It can mean the professional challenges are less diverse and are often not fast-paced. A long tenure at one or two companies may not be for everyone either.

The opportunities for career advancement on the corporate side, however, are bright. For example, tax professionals are increasingly in demand at publicly quoted companies to help finance professionals with their reporting.

A background in accountancy is increasingly important in the boardroom as well. It means those looking for senior roles can expect to be considered for the top jobs – 95 per cent of Australian CFOs say this increases the likelihood of someone being appointed to the executive board.

No matter which accounting pathway you choose, hard work, further education, perseverance and dedication will see you thrive.


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