Are you looking for the best CPA firm job? Is a small- to medium-sized CPA firm a better choice for employment?
For me, that answer was (and is) yes.
Coming out of college, I was told you’ve got to work for one of the Big Eight (now Big Four), so I took a job in Tampa, Florida, with one of those biggies. And I thought I had arrived. The pay was good, but the job was not.
After securing an apartment in Tampa, I was shipped out to Jackson, Mississippi, for two months to live out of a hotel. As the new guy, I was given all the grunt work they could find. I honestly felt like the audit team was trying to keep me out of the action, to push me aside. The training was nonexistent. So, I had a prestige job with terrible work experiences.
After being away from my apartment for several weeks, I returned to Tampa on Friday to find a large CPE book on my desk with directions to finish the book over the weekend. I gave notice of my departure the following Monday.
My next step was to move back to my hometown, a small city in South Georgia, without a job. Thankfully, after a few weeks, I was hired by Draffin and Tucker in Albany, Georgia. The firm, at the time (1985), had about 45 people. The atmosphere was much more to my liking, and I was given many excellent opportunities for hands-on work. The main thing: I felt at home, so it was a good move. My wife and I wanted to be nearer to our family in middle Georgia, which led to the next place of employment.
I’ve worked for McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co. in Macon, Georgia, for the last fourteen years. We have about 130 people.
What I found to be true of these two firms is they provided good training and more opportunity to learn–and they cared about me.
I’m not saying small- to mid-sized CPA firms are for everyone. They are not. But for me, such firms fit my personality, and I have been (and continue to be) much happier.
I often ask college students looking for a first-time job to pay attention to the organization’s atmosphere. (If you can get an internship, do.) Ask about training and how they plan to grow you. Then, step into the firm that aligns with who you are.
You want your personality to fit that of the firm.
Big firms are not for everybody, contrary to what you may hear from your college professors.
Regardless, I hope you find that place that makes you happy—best wishes in finding your best CPA job.
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Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events. Charles is the quality control partner for McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co. where he provides daily audit and accounting assistance to over 65 CPAs. In addition, he consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.
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I know many years ago, Arthur Anderson had a GREAT training program that lasted two weeks I think new-hires.
I entered the profession in 1975 after discharge from the Navy, and took a position with Then E&E. The audit training was incredible. I was with them about 1 1/2 years which was pretty standard for those who were not superstars. I do not think at the time you could have gotten better training. But to your point about small firms, unless you are going to spend your life in attest services you could avoid the big firms. There were about 60 new hires while I was there, several years after I got a note about the new hires that came in with me. I was the only one still in public accounting! So that percentage was pretty low! I do know as I moved on to the next firm that I was the one of the only persons in the firm that had the APB and audit standards on my desk.