Finding Your Service Niche As a New CPA

Did you just pass all four parts of the CPA exam? Are you wondering what’s next once you obtain your license? 

This article outlines some of the opportunities that are available to you in Pennsylvania as a new CPA, and tips on how to secure your first job as a CPA.

Services CPAs May Be Qualified to Provide

Whether you provide services to the public or you are employed by a corporation or association, you can work in the following areas of finance, among others: 

  • Audits, assurance, and attestation services
  • Advice on mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, and share and debt issuings
  • Advice on corporate governance
  • Business valuation
  • Estate planning advice
  • Business, individual, educational institution, nonprofit, and government accounting services
  • Financial analysis for individuals and businesses
  • Financial planning for individuals and businesses
  • Forensic accounting services 
  • Business or individual income tax services
  • Financial reporting services or advice
  • Advice on regulatory compliance
  • IT consulting (financial management technology)

What You Might Do as a Certified Public Accountant in Pennsylvania

Auditor

One of the most valuable services you can provide as a CPA is an independent audit of a business. A CPA has the authority to attest to the reasonableness of the company’s disclosures, the disclosures’ freedom from material misstatement, and that the business kept its books by adhering to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). 

Work in Industry

Because of their training and experience, CPAs are also employed by businesses large and small in the following finance or operations roles:

  • Financial Analyst
  • Finance Manager
  • Controller
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Work with a Company’s Tax Department

CPAs also operate within the income tax return preparation industry. Many small to mid-sized firms have both a tax and an auditing department and hire CPAs for those purposes. CPAs can prepare both business and individual returns.

Prepare Tax Returns and Represent Individual Taxpayers

CPAs are permitted to represent taxpayers in matters before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Many CPAs get their first entry-level job with a company providing these services.

Work as a Business Consultant

While they can provide valuable insight and strategic financial planning, CPAs need to be careful not to create a conflict of interest by concurrently auditing a company and providing consultation services.

Forensic Accounting

Many CPAs work with federal, state, or local law enforcement to prevent, detect, and investigate financial fraud. While working for the government is rarely the most lucrative of the positions available to you, there are other perks such as benefits, pension, paid leave, and regular hours.

Getting Your First Job as a CPA

Google “entry-level CPA in Pennsylvania” and a slew of open positions will come up. But that is not the end of the inquiry. You need to decide whether you are comfortable working in a large global firm or a smaller regional or local firm, and what aspect of finance interests you most.

An international firm can take you around the world, pay very well, and be a real coup on your resume. A smaller local firm may offer you a better work-life balance, more responsibility, and greater access to your superiors so you can learn more on the job. You need to decide which experience you would value more.

As far as your areas of service, that may be limited by the types of entry-level jobs that are available. However, do not take a job you can’t be enthusiastic about even if it is offered. You will be doing a disservice to yourself and to your employer.

What Are Employers Looking For In a CPA?

  • Integrity
  • Top achievers, educationally and in the community
  • Confidence
  • Professional demeanor
  • A passionate approach to high-quality work

What Will Make You Stand Out Among Interviewees?

Consider customizing your resume for each application, tweaking it to emphasize your experiences that are most relevant to the position you are applying for. Be sure to include any interesting volunteer or internship experiences, fluency in any other languages, and any honors or awards you have received.

Build your professional network through your job and education experience, but also online through LinkedIn. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is professional and complete. Keep your college party animal pics on your Facebook page, not LinkedIn. Also, stay active with your college alumni association, as this can be a valuable resource in this job search and in job opportunities that may arise in the future.

Practice your soft skills. People want to work with other people who are polite, engaging, and attentive. If you are naturally introverted, that’s not a problem – just practice these skills in the social engagements you do seek out. In conversations, try responding to people with a “yes, and…” rather than a “no, but…” This indicates your openness, your willingness to collaborate, and that you value what the other person is contributing to the conversation.

You’ve done the hard part, taking the classes, putting in the work hours, and passing your CPA exam. Now relax, look around, and consider what you want your work-life to look like, then aim your efforts in that direction. Good luck!

About the Author

Vanessa Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works for a criminal appeals lawyer in Pittsburgh Todd Mosser, Esq.

Article Editor