You woke up. You got out of bed. You dragged a comb across your head. You found your way downstairs and drank a cup. You followed the rest of the “A Day In the Life” from the Beatles to a T. But, how does the rest of the day go for a radically cool CPA?
The answer may surprise you, as the job of a certified public accountant is actually more exciting than you would think it would be—that could be a low bar, but that minimal expectation makes my job easier!
First, know that getting that vaunted CPA initialism after your name is only the first step! Your career path depends on the field into which you want to go. There’s public accounting, government, non-profit, academia, and corporate accounting. For the sake of this article, we are going to focus on corporate and public accounting jobs. Crazy, I know.
Client Interaction: Hold Onto Your Seats!
Sarcasm aside, dealing with clients is often exhilarating. You’re going to be tasked with advising on and explaining financial strategies, deciphering tax laws, and delving into audits—these can occur over the phone, but there’s a premium placed on face-to-face interaction in this regard. Who knew that you’d be attending client lunches and after-work outings? So, pack up that calculator and get that numbers show on the road!
Interpersonal skills and accounting aren’t presented as something akin to peanut butter and jelly, but you’d be surprised how much you’ll need some tact and charm as a CPA. While you’re going to throw your nerd glasses on for a portion of each day, you’re also going to have to don a smile and save some client money in person.
Back at the Desk
Okay, so let me reel it in here for a second. You’re not just going to be munching on caviar and popping bottles all day—just for couple of hours. There are definitely some monotonous, some would say tedious, parts of the job. But even astronauts have to do some paperwork every once in awhile.
You’re not just going to be munching on caviar & popping bottles all day—just for couple of hours Click To Tweet
As a CPA, you’re going to need to do a fair amount of research for your clients. All of the lower-level accounting can be handed off to another accountant who doesn’t get to throw the aforementioned three capital letters next to his or her name. Delegating such tasks will be under your purview as one of the de facto leaders of your team—this will vary, but you’ll likely have some employees under your supervision, or at the very least at your disposal.
You’ll spend some of your time doing some high-level strategizing, but you’re also going to have to roll up the proverbial sleeves and maintain and audit the company’s financial records. In doing so, you’ll also go through the budget with a fine-toothed comb and take copious notes for some longer-term financial planning.
You will still be “bookkeeping” but you’ll be doing so with a strategic mindset. Each financial decision will have to be made with tax ramifications in mind. You’ll have to be thorough in your processes and calculations, as the buck will stop with you. You know that moment in the meeting when everyone posits theories about who screwed up? Yeah, those heads will turn your way from now on.
There’s a number of other functions that you may need to perform as a CPA. Tasks like forecasting revenue, managing accounts payable, and analyzing ledgers could be spread out over the course of the month.
Monthly Cycles and Tax Season: Actually Hold Onto Your Seats
As a CPA, you’re going to have daily tasks, weekly deadlines, and monthly cycles. Thus, your day-to-day operations are going to be split among short-term and long-term decisions. You will need to prepare financial statements for each month and all four fiscal quarters—these will be given or presented to the executives of the company…by you.
Then there’s tax season. Insert music that denotes some type of apocalyptic sequence of events coming. The first wave crashes into the shore around February 15 and then subsequent breakers, rollers, and combers will bombard the sands until mid-April. That’s about all of my ocean-based punnery, so don’t expect further salinization of accounting terms.
There there's tax season. Insert music that denotes some type of apocalyptic sequence of events coming Click To Tweet
Depending on your duties, you’re going to have to deal with quite a bit of work during this period. Then, you can catch your breath for a bit before having to deal with “Tax Season: Part Two.” This secondary period runs from early August to mid-October. This will be a time in your working life where you may have a day that ends at five but could easily stretch until eight or nine.
Like all things in life, it’s hard to generalize about a profession. CPAs wear all sorts of hats, but there’s one overarching truth for the job: it’s not dull. You’re going to have to perform myriad duties and be an agile worker who is able to switch from one task to another with ease. After all is said and done, being a CPA will make each day meaningful and…let’s be honest… profitable! Check out why you should become a CPA.
Patrick is the managing editor at Gryfin and has years of experience writing and editing for financial clients. A Boston, Massachusetts native, he has embraced the sunshine of California and enjoys traveling and sampling free food and drink wherever he lands.
Favorite Quote: “Destiny is a good thing to accept when it's going your way. When it isn't, don't call it destiny; call it injustice, treachery, or simple bad luck.”