Career Guide to Accounting
Jason Alba, Manisha Bathija, and the staff of Vault
by Vault (www.vault.com),
pp. (paperback or PDF download); $29.95
by Jennifer C. Smith
2005 - Vault’s second edition of its accounting career
guide reads as a conversational how-to book full of advice
and insight. Geared to a target audience of high school
and college students seeking clarity in their choice of
career path, this is a solid resource covering the various
career options available within the accounting profession
and how to pursue them.
guide comprises four sections that follow a career-seeker’s
thought process: “The Scoop,” “Getting
Hired,” “On the Job,” and “Employers.”
These sections answer the basic burning questions: What
is accounting? What types of careers are available to accounting
majors? How do I get hired and earn a CPA? What is the job
like? What are my options further down the road? What firms
are out there? Candid answers offer realistic insight into
the options available. Some responses are limited in scope
or depth, but overall the guide effectively hits all of
the high points and caters to the inquiring minds of students
seeking sound career information.
Scoop.” This introductory section provides
a general overview of the accounting profession and its
integral role in business, as well as a section on the profession’s
“uppers and downers,” such as a collegial work
environment, great opportunities for women, lower pay than
banking and consulting jobs, and an emphasis on chargeability.
The specifics shared are highly relevant, and essential
for any prospective accounting professional to consider,
but some are slightly outdated, given recent changes within
the profession. Sarbanes-Oxley–related work, increased
scrutiny from the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
(PCAOB) and other regulators, and the current shortage of
qualified accountants have combined to produce an environment
that is extremely different from even 18 months ago. The
resulting year-round busy season, longer hours, and work-life
challenges are touched upon later in the guide, but may
merit further discussion up front.
section concludes with a brief history of accounting, a
listing of the various services that accounting firms and
accountants may offer, and a description of the difference
between public and private accounting.
Hired.” This section offers a wealth
of advice about how to approach getting a job in accounting,
the recruiting and interviewing process, and the CPA exam.
Starting with internship opportunities and moving through
resumes and the full-time recruitment process, it includes
information on the Big Four and other accounting firms,
giving fair coverage to the range of opportunities available.
The interviewing section mentions that most accounting interviews
will follow a behavioral format—true and valuable
information that will serve readers well. The guide presents
sample questions to use in preparation, and although only
a few are in the behavioral format, most will be covered
at some point during an actual interview.
section dedicated to the CPA exam discusses its requirements
and structure. It does well in outlining what can be accomplished
both with and without a license, and in clarifying the 150-credit-hour
requirement. Although it does discuss the new computerized
version of the CPA exam, future editions may want to address
this in more detail, especially in light of updated tactics
surrounding preparing for, taking, and passing the exam.
the Job.” The third section includes
a thorough description of the career path and roles that
accountants may fill. It is clear and concise, and includes
“day in the life” accounts that career-seekers
are generally looking for. This summary of what happens
“once you get there and beyond” provides the
meat of what the guide’s readership is seeking. It
is frank and honest, and covers such essential topics as
hours, travel, compensation, and perks. It will help career-interested
hopefuls to set reasonable expectations.
The final section is dedicated to descriptions of the employers
available to job-seekers. It covers general location information,
firm statistics, departments and services, key competitors,
and employment contact information. Although these one-page
descriptions lack differentiators and unique identifying
traits, they are a valuable resource in outlining the options
Vault Career Guide to Accounting is an outstanding
resource for those considering a career in accounting. Comprehensive
and complete, it offers insight into the variety of choices
available to accountants. Although it may need to be continually
revised and updated in such a changing field, this guide
is highly recommended, and will serve as a sound resource
for many future accountants.
C. Smith is human resources manager at Grant Thornton
LLP in New York, N.Y.