Are you a high school student curious about resumes? Or the CPA exam? Or the size of your future paycheck? Enter your question below and we’ll have a real-life CPA answer it.
If you are in college or beyond, get the answers to your questions by contacting the Academic & Career Awareness team.
Check out these questions or ask your own.
Noel Abdur-Rahim, Assurance Manager
You can definitely be a dual major, but I would only recommending doing so if you are extremely disciplined with your studies.
Being a dual major with two curriculums that are difficult and time consuming may be overwhelming if you don't have the discipline to study frequently. An alternative to dual majoring would be to select your primary major and then take all of your required electives in the 2nd field of study. For example, you could be an Accounting major, and then do your undergraduate electives in pre-law classes. This will allow you to decide if law is interesting for you. Subsequently, you can go to law school upon completion of your undergraduate program.
James McDermott, Controller/Treasurer
After working for the first 18 years of my career with a large local firm in Charleston, I left the world of public accounting in 1996. I joined a “family-owned, small business” real estate developer in Charleston to serve as its Controller and Treasurer. That was nearly 12 years ago.
I will have to say that the first 18 years in public accounting laid the ground work for me in the position I now enjoy. Learning to deal with business issues, helping clients solve problems and knowing and understanding the federal and state tax codes which allows me to do complex tax planning and assist with estate and business planning for my shareholders and their families
There is no “typical day” in the life of a CPA. Many days you start with your idea of what you want to accomplish during the day. In some cases you end the day with an even longer list of the things “to do” the next day. Everything just sort of unfolds with everything from a client with an emergency of some nature (assisting with a business plan to allow them to submit a loan request; dealing with a letter from the IRS or other federal government agency or other state taxing authority, etc.).
I feel that I do have many of the things that I enjoyed about public accounting without some of the larger stresses of public accounting. (Keeping up with your time to bill clients/timesheets; billing and collecting from clients, etc).
The company that I work for now has over 90 separate legal entities to keep up with and to provide accounting services to. It is like running a small CPA firm without the need to keep up with time, bill and collect.
The skills you need in today’s business world:
- Excellent computer skills. The ability to learn and adapt to the changes that program upgrades and hardware changes make to your life.
- Problem solving skills. The ability to analyze and understand concepts and apply them to your specific situation.
- Being a team player rather than an individualist.
- Communication and interpersonal skills-both verbal and written.
Jimmy Williams, Partner
What an excellent question! CPAs are required to possess “people skills”. The complex work that a CPA performs must be communicated in very clear, concise terms to our clients. What good is the most technical of CPAs if she can’t communicate the action to her client?
As for a community of other CPAs, the Oklahoma Society of CPAs provides a forum for young CPAs to discuss work and life issues. The committee is the New CPA Committee. This committee is structured using the medium most innovative, younger CPAs wish to use – electronic, in-person or a combination of the two.
Lastly, you have availed to you a mentor to discuss these important issues. The purpose of the mentor is to provide honest feedback based on their personal experience and assist you in making decisions for your career considering your particular facts and circumstances.
The CPA profession requires great analytical, technical and communication skills. You will find a “family” of CPAs in a similar stage of your career who share your concerns about work/life issues. Seek out someone to speak with now, while still in school, to discuss career options within the CPA profession. You will be very happy with a rewarding career that allows the flexibility for financial and personal activities in the CPA profession
Lauren Foster, Mergers and Acquisitions Accounting
During my time in high school I enjoyed so many different things, from science and math to the fine arts. By the time I was a junior, I had decided I would persue a career in Nursing as that touched on the area of science, which I was very drawn to. Prior to making that decision, I considered careers in engineering and music as well - but never accounting. This was ironic as my father was a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and had spent his career in Public Accounting working for a big firm. He did not attempt to lead me in any specific direction toward a carreer in business as his wish for me was to find something I loved to do.
Once I got to college, I found there were many other things that interested me besides nursing, including art history, criminal justice and sociology...so many, I often felt I couldn't pick just one. By my softmore year, I had decided nursing wasn't the right path for me and began to take introductory classes in many different areas to get a feel for what I might want to do. Once I took my first accounting class, something just clicked. I started to get information on all the different types of careers available to accountants and CPAs and saw that a world of possibilties would be opened to me. It was shortly thereafter that I selected accounting as my major and graduated with an offer to a Big 4 firm. While I went from school into public accounting, there were tons of options besides that.
Today I am working in Government Accounting, and would never have guessed (in a million years!) when I was in high school that I would be doing something like this. I am so glad I explored the opportunities that being a CPA presented and often wish I had gotten more involved in accounting back then. It would have probably been a shorter road in my education, but I do not regret it for a minute. Being a CPA is highly reputable and I have so many choices on what to do next. Sure, once in a while I reflect back and think about going into music...but I love what I do now!
Nancy Meech, Founding Partner
There are so many things that need to be done to help ensure that your business gets off to a good start. Here is a list of a few things that helped me when I started my own accounting firm.
Be passionate about what you are doing. Choosing the right business is essential to your success. Choose a service or product that you are enthusiastic about and eager to spend a significant amount of time developing. Most people underestimate the amount of time it takes to start and run a business. I was lucky to have a very understanding family that allowed me the time I needed. Be prepared to dedicate a substantial amount of time to this endeavor.
Create a useable business plan. Mapping out your goals and strategies in written form is fundamental to the process. There are many business plan templates available on line that can help you get started. Updating the plan often as things change is also crucial to your success. Embrace change. I truly believe that stagnant businesses die. Be prepared for constant change to improve your business and stay ahead of your competitors.
Seek advice. There are so many experts that are willing to share their experiences and their advice for free. A wonderful source is the non-profit organization called SCORE. Its mission is to help business owners form and grow their businesses, by providing one-on-one mentoring through one of its 364 local chapters and by providing practical tools online at www.score.org. Another great resource is the U.S. Small Business Administration. These organizations provide practical advice from the simplest of subjects to the very complex.
Keep a positive attitude. There are peaks and valleys in any business. Maintaining a “can do” attitude is necessary to get you through some of the difficult times. I am convinced that most successful business owners never entertain the idea that their business could fail. There is no room for failure, as long as you keep working toward success.