It’s not uncommon as an accountant in the United States to dream of landing a job with one of the 4 big accounting companies--Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG, and Ernst & Young. It’s also super common for these companies to sweep up new graduates from local universities and colleges, which can be exciting as a fresh grad. But are positions in big companies like these actually everything you could ever dream of?

For some, they are. But for others, it’s just not a match. If you fall into the latter category, you’ve come to the right place. Maybe you panicked when you noticed your peers switching roles; or perhaps the long hours and limited growth potential in your role has gotten to you; or maybe you simply crave a change in scenery. Whatever the reason is, you want out.  

We understand how stressful it is to stay in a job you don’t love. It can steal your energy and your zest for life, since so much time is spent there. So, we’re here to discuss the different avenues you can pursue with your experience crunching numbers. Let’s get into our 5 alternative careers for accountants.

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Buy-Side/Sell-Side Financial Analyst

First, let’s talk about financial analysis. Once you’ve racked up a few years of experience in the field of accounting, you’ve automatically built up knowledge and credibility that will open doors for you in the investment sphere. All the experience you’ve accumulated and your deep insight into preparing and analyzing financial statements can be utilized by financial and investment firms.  

Positions like buy-side and sell-side analysts would be perfect for someone like you with a knowledge of public accounting. In these roles, you’re required to use your intuition and calculative prowess to anticipate how future events will affect the next quarter's earnings. From there, you should be able to instruct the company on whether securities or stocks need to be bought, retained, or sold.  

If this piques your interest, there are some steps to consider before you begin to apply for positions. First, you should start by studying the CFA charter. The truth of the matter is that most portfolio managers for large mutual funds hold both the CPA moniker as well as CFA charter. The accounting section of the CFA exam, which is said to be the most challenging part, should be a piece of cake for you since you already have a CPA certification and a few years of experience. So, make sure to study the other areas in depth and prepare to ace your exams.

If you want to take your education further and land work fast in financial analysis, check out our bootcamp.

Government Agencies

If you're the sort of person who believes in public service and making the world a better place, then this could be a good option for you. Government agencies like the FBI and the income tax department could use your experience. In fact, CPA’s are some of the most valuable employees within the FBI. Understandably, this may go against your impression of the agency due to pop culture over the years. You may have only perceived the FBI to be an army of super-secretive field agents, but that’s not always the case.  

While building cases against criminals, the FBI needs to collect evidence that would strengthen the case. For a lot of these cases, this evidence involves massive amounts of business and financial records. Since they need someone educated in this area, this makes you the perfect candidate for the job. You’d also have the added satisfaction of knowing that you have directly helped put away negative influences, and maybe even saved a few lives in the process.

The application process can be quite long and strenuous, but at the end of the day it’ll be worth it. You'll also have to be prepared for an extensive background check.  

Financial Planning

This option is the best for those who feel like they’ve come to the end of the rope when it comes to formal employment.

Financial planning is more of a self-employment route. It may take a few years to establish yourself in this field, and money may trickle in initially, but it can be a rewarding experience overall if you’re sick of the traditional system. Many financial planners make exceptional money and have a lot more freedom than traditional 9-5's.

Financial planning doesn’t necessarily revolve around making investments for others. At times, a bulk of your work will comprise of tax planning for clients. This can actually save them more money than some investments would make.

This is great during tax season, because most people would rather outsource their taxes to someone more qualified to maximize their tax deductions. If you do a good job at that, you'll be able to build up a reputation for yourself through word of mouth. From there, clients are more likely to let you take over their investments through financial planning services.  

The best way to handle a transition to this industry is to work for a reputed firm for at least a year to gain expertise and credibility. Alternatively, you can also partner up with smaller firms and offer them your services as a specialized tax planning agent. If you do well in this sphere, then this is a great way to start your own business. If you choose to go your own route, make sure to network and market yourself for a steady Influx of clients.

Corporate Finance/Accounting

Once you feel like you've gained enough experience working for an accounting firm, you may want to look for a role that will give you more time freedom and less stress.

Nowadays, every corporate entity has a corporate finance and accounting division where you may be able to find a new role for yourself. This would be relatively easy for you to do since you’ve likely worked with many clients during on-site audits. So, chances are you’ve already interacted with team members in companies you’re looking to join.

Speaking with clients is a good way to be able to gauge which corporate entity offers the best workspace, work culture, and scope of growth overall.  

Corporate Banking  

Your years of experience in public accounting will set you up well for entry into the corporate banking industry. Your experience would make it quite elementary for you to examine the credit of a prospective borrower. You'd also have the edge when it comes to making an irrefutable argument to  your peers and boss in favor of extending credit to a borrower.  

To get your foot in the door at a good corporate bank, you may start looking for the position of a credit analyst. This way you’ll be in the best vantage point to learn the ins and outs of all aspects of deal structuring. Be it the initial dialogue between the two parties or the closing of the deal, you’ll have a front-row seat. You'll also bear witness to how the deals are then monitored and evaluated in both the long and short run.  

Your experience is also a great foundation for promotions because you already possess the mastery of articulating the relationship between the financial statements of a company and the business environment. This is one of the main skills that exceptional credit analysts have. In the long run, credit analysts are promoted to relationship managers or loan officers. While loan officers make a call on whether a borrower gets the credit  they want, relationship managers scout around for more clients for the  bank.  

Deciding on The Right Path for You

The timing of your career transition is important. Check out the business climate and see if any new career paths are hiring. If they are, it’s an exciting time to dive in. If not, maybe focus on networking and building your skills. By building a professional network, you’ll develop relationships that may allow you to have first dibs on new positions as they open up.  

Another important note to remember is that it’s never too late to start fresh. So often as humans in this society we  put restrictions on ourselves that are entirely made up in our heads.  You can start a new path whenever you choose, and you can have a  successful career in a new environment too. The most important thing is that you take action towards change and believe in yourself and your abilities.

We hope that you’ve gained value from this article, and that you feel more hopeful about potentially changing your job situation. We’re always here to support you, and we’ve created a ton of free, valuable content to do so.

Feel free to look at our blog or YouTube to learn more about breaking into tech. We’ve also got a ton of online bootcamps that are designed to help you land a new career within 6 months of graduating. So, if you don’t see anything on this list, check out what we’re all about.

We’re excited for your new transition to a happier, more fulfilling work life.

Which Tech Career is Right for You?

Ready to change your career and join the world’s next workforce? At Thinkful, we’ve got your back with various tech programs to get you equipped with in-demand skills.

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