Vault Career Guide to Accounting

By Jason Alba, Manisha Bathija, and the staff of Vault

Published by Vault (, 2005

128 pp. (paperback or PDF download); $29.95

Reviewed by Jennifer C. Smith

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JULY 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.

The 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.

“The 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are highly relevant, and essential for any prospective accounting professional to consider, but some are slightly outdated, given recent changes within the profession.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.

The 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.

“Getting 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.

The 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.

“On 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.

“Employers.” 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 available.

Insightful Resource

The 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.

Jennifer C. Smith is human resources manager at Grant Thornton LLP in New York, N.Y.




















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