Why an accounting major can lead to many career paths
Learn about the many things you can do with a CPA license.
Whether it’s shifting your life’s priorities, stepping out on your own, or finding a new passion altogether, having an accounting degree can help you at every step of the way. Here’s how three CPAs were able to change their career paths without changing their major.
A job with a social mission
Angie Fidler, CPA, CGMA*, entered college with an eye toward owning a veterinary clinic. But along the way, that vision got a little fuzzy.
“I took an accounting class for a basic knowledge base so I would have it in my back pocket,” Fidler said. “I ended up falling in love with accounting. My professors still joke about converting a biology major to an accounting major.”
Fidler said she craves challenge, and when the tax laws surrounding nonprofits changed, she saw an opportunity at her public accounting firm to step into a role as the in-house expert.
“In public accounting you can make your career whatever you want it to be,” Fidler said. “I like to consult, I like to talk, I like to ask questions and find answers.”
When Form 990, the form that tax-exempt organizations submit to the IRS to disclose their financial information to the public, was revised in 2007, Fidler dedicated herself to becoming the Form 990 expert at her organization. Not long after, she decided her calling was to work for a nonprofit. Fidler now is controller at VillageReach, an organization that partners with governments to help low-resource communities in sub-Saharan Africa overcome health care challenges.
By providing the management team with insights into VillageReach’s financial picture, Fidler helps further the organization’s mission by helping to ensure its financial well-being.
“I specialized in nonprofit largely because I was driven by more than just the bottom line,” Fidler said. “I wanted an organization that had the community or world interest at heart.”
Shane Mason, CPA/PFS**, spent three years working at a major public accounting firm, mostly servicing large corporations. “I got really good at putting together a tax form,” Mason said. “But I didn’t get much time with clients.”
So Mason stepped out on his own as a tax accountant and financial planner in Brooklyn, N.Y. He said the thing that gets him showing up for work every day is helping people. He’s been able to build a client base of small business owners and creative types — and gets to spend more time with his clients face-to-face.
Mason said having a CPA license has been a boon to his financial planning business, as well.
“Everybody knows the [value of the] CPA licensure. When I step into a meeting, everyone knows it’s tough to get,” Mason said. “I knew having an accounting degree would open a lot of doors, and having a CPA has been a fantastic tool in my toolbelt.”
Mason said seeing all the paths open to him by his degree and CPA could have smoothed over some of the growing pains of his career.
“I really wish I had known I could go down this path in college,” Mason said. “I would have had a lot less anxiety about my future.”
Helping others find their fit
After working at the audit department of a national firm, Jessica Juliano, CPA,*** shifted into a role helping other CPAs find jobs as a senior executive recruiter for Warren Averett Staffing and Recruiting in Birmingham, Ala.
“Obviously, what I do now is less technical on a day-to-day basis,” Juliano said. “When I started exploring my options I wanted to start using more of my personal skills. I enjoyed the client-interaction and client-service aspects of the job, and I wanted to get in a position to work with people from a variety of businesses and industries.”
Juliano said her experience in accounting and her CPA licensure have helped her to make connections for her clients.
“In order to make successful matches, it helps to have a working knowledge of [a position’s] duties and responsibilities,” Juliano said. Her CPA background, she said, gives her clients confidence in her ability to assess candidates’ technical expertise.
*Angie Fidler, CPA, CGMA. Photo credit: Moss Adams.
**Shane Mason, CPA/PFS. Photo credit: Isaac Brekken, AP Images.
***Jessica Juliano, CPA. Photo credit: Warren Averett Staffing and Recruiting.
Matthew Philpott is a North Carolina-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact senior editor Courtney Vien.