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Career Goals, questions (2 years out of UG)

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Career Goals, questions (2 years out of UG) [#permalink] New post 01 Apr 2010, 14:53
Hi guys,

I'm new to this forum. I just had a couple questions...

Anyway, I currently work as a staff accountant at a Big 4 firm and I just finished my CPA. I'm currently living in a city I didn't intend to after ugrad, but due to the economic downturn I was forced to move. I've worked primarily with hedgefunds and financial services clients (and also M&A w/in healthcare industry), but as accounting goes, I've focused a lot on compliance and reporting requirements. I'm debating about future career goals.

I'm contemplating 3 routes…

Continue with public accounting to eventually become a controller/cfo or assistant controller in a financial services firm

Get a MBA in 3-5 years

Pursue a PhD in accounting

My question, however, is what would a MBA provide me? Say, with a consulting background, would a MBA allow me to transition into the banking world? Or am I forever going to be labeled as just an accountant and have to focus more consulting and back-office management? I just do not necessarily see the value in a MBA if I already have a CPA…but I could be completely mistaken. At big 4, most people have blinders on and we just see a very narrow avenue of the business. I was wondering if people had any insight, and any comments would be appreciated.

(Also, is this type of experience something that top b-schools look for? Or are accountants a dime a dozen and you really need something on your resume to stand out?)

Thanks!
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Re: Career Goals, questions (2 years out of UG) [#permalink] New post 04 Apr 2010, 07:17
Welcome to the forum. Regarding your questions, the three routes you describe are very different, so first you need to decide what you want out of your career. Staying at a Big 4 firm is great preparation to move into a senior accounting role (controller/asst. controller). CFO it's a little less certain. A few partners I worked for at my Big 4 firm left to become CFOs, but they were pretty big shot partners to begin with. I think a lot of companies want their CFO to have more finance experience as well as being smart about accounting.

A PhD in accounting is really only worthwhile if you want to go into academics and teaching. Nothing wrong with that career path, but it's a very different path than controller or CFO.

An MBA gives you the opportunity to broaden your business expertise and would allow you to go into fields that a CPA would not. I know CPAs who got their MBA and now work in banking, so that's definitely an option. I personally am going from being a CPA into doing marketing. Because an MBA is a very unspecialized degree, there's really few limits on what areas of business you can go into with an MBA, which is not the case for a CPA.

As for whether Big 4 experience is something business schools look for, the answer is not so straightforward. On the one hand, being hired by a Big 4 firm tells the adcom something about your skills and accomplishments, because of the hiring standards that the firms have. However, because there are so many Big 4 accountants, you still need to have something on your resume (preferably multiple somethings) to make you stand out from the crowd.
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Re: Career Goals, questions (2 years out of UG)   [#permalink] 04 Apr 2010, 07:17
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