Corporate or Public, Which Accounting Career Path is Right For You?

Corporate or Public, Which Accounting Career Path is Right For You?

Accounting professionals not only have in-demand skills in today's job market but an endless variety of career paths to choose from, making it one of the most practical degrees out there.

There are two main career areas within the field of accounting: public and private. Whether you want to pursue a career in either sector, University of Miami's UOnline's master's program in professional accounting will prepare you for rigorous careers in the field with modular classes that allow students to schedule coursework according to their own schedules.

When it comes to choosing the right accounting path for you, the answer depends on the type of work you’re interested in, as well as your personality and career goals.

What is Private vs. Public Accounting?

Private or corporate accountants are responsible for handling just one business or firm's financial records. They could serve as an in-house accountant for a business, government, agency, non-profit organization, or educational institution. In addition to managing the day-to-day finances, they're also responsible for making sure a company is financially efficient.

A career in public accounting, on the other hand, means that an accountant is employed by a public accounting company, which provides accounting services such as auditing, tax, advisory, and consulting services to other companies. Public accountants work for a variety of different clients, versus being the in-house service for a corporation.

Hiring Demand

Accounting continues to be a steady and in-demand job for today's graduates. More than 22 percent of employers that are recruiting master's degree graduates intend to hire accounting majors, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Job Outlook 2015 Report. NACE also reports the average starting salary of a graduate with a master’s in professional accounting is $56,377, according to their Fall 2015 Salary Survey. Some public accounting firms are even recruiting top accounting students before they graduate.

Accounting Education Requirements

Whether you choose a career in either sector, you'll need a degree in accounting or finance. While public accountants require a certified public accountant (CPA) license, private accountants do not, but they can boost your salary potential. In addition to a degree, many professionals often pursue specific accounting certifications related to their field such as certified management accountant, or CMA.

UOnline’s master's in accounting not only helps to prepare you for the CPA exam but also to excel as a professional accountant in the upper echelons of the industry. The program offers students a comprehensive foundation in accounting, preparing them for careers in management accounting, taxation, or corporate financial accounting. Students may choose to complete the degree program or pursue a certificate in accounting practice, which allows them to pursue entry-level jobs in the corporate sphere.

Work-Life Balance

Because individual companies employ corporate accountants, this means they can expect more consistent hours, less travel and a greater opportunity to build relationships within their corporation. Graduates who have demanding personal or family schedules may find this option particularly attractive. Both careers offer opportunities for significant growth and advancement.

While public accountants have the opportunity to make partner in their firms, accountants in the corporate sector can climb the ladder to become a corporate CFO. On the other side of the coin, public accountants often have the opportunity to travel more, both domestically and in some cases even abroad. If you're a UOnline student who is interested in travel, a career as a public accountant presents the opportunity for horizon-broadening experiences while continuing career advancement.

Client Diversity

The most obvious benefit to a career in the public sector is the opportunity to work for a wide variety of clientele — exposing you to different businesses, governmental organizations, and individuals.

In contrast, corporate accountants have the chance to become experts in the financial practices and subtleties of their chosen fields, such as revenue recognition, Securities and Exchange Commission reporting, risk and compliance expertise and tech-related roles — often making them an invaluable asset to a company and increase their desirability as employees.


Robert Half: Public Accounting or Private Accounting: What’s Right for You?
The American Institute of CPAs: Corporate vs. Public accounting
UOnline: Master's in Professional Accounting
Top 10 Reasons to Consider a Change from Public Accounting to Private Industry Now
NACE: The Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees That Are Most in Demand
NACE: Management Sciences, MIS Top-Paid Class of 2015 Business Majors
Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide