Not All Entry-Level Accounting Jobs Are Created Equal

An entry level accountant stands in front of a series of doors with arrows pointing down on each one

Entry-level accounting jobs come in a great variety of types. Newcomers to the accounting profession have a dizzying array of options, both when they enter the field and, even more so, as their careers progress. What are some of the possibilities you can consider when looking at entry-level accounting jobs?

Public accounting

Although opportunities are plentiful and varied for top-notch accounting graduates, many new entrants to the profession consider an entry-level job in public accounting to be an essential first stop on their career path. The reason is simple: a public accounting background is a huge resume builder that confers instant credibility. Employers often prefer to hire candidates who have public accounting experience and have earned the always-in-demand CPA credential.

Working for a public accounting firm, especially one of the Big Four or a large regional firm, offers other advantages as well: competitive pay and benefits, an opportunity to work with prestigious clients, continuing education and career development, support earning your CPA license in many cases, opportunities to travel and relatively stable employment.

The downsides of entry-level accounting jobs with public accounting firms? Often stressful work, somewhat rigid career paths and long hours, though public accounting firms are always striving to improve flexibility and work-life balance for their employees.

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Positions in private industry

Although public accounting is a popular choice among those looking for entry-level accounting jobs, other professional on-ramps include positions in private industry and government.

CPAs in business and industry work for organizations ranging from family-owned companies to FORTUNE 500® firms. A frequently cited benefit of the private sector (also referred to as management or corporate accounting) is that practitioners work in a true business partner role and have varied responsibilities.

Corporate accountants might be involved in everything from helping to negotiate a real estate transaction to managing federal and state tax issues and interacting with bankers. They also participate in value-creating activities, such as improving business processes, enhancing product profitability, evaluating possible acquisitions and overseeing systems upgrades. These responsibilities can also come with long hours and stressful demands, and job stability is closely tied to a company's ups and downs.

Finding balance can be tough in the accounting field. Explore our advice on achieving work-life balance — your entry-level accounting job doesn't have to burn you out.

Entry-level accounting jobs in government

Opportunities to land entry-level accounting jobs also exist in the government sector, whether at the federal, state or local level. Hiring in the regulatory arena, in particular, has been steady at agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB).

These employers offer the opportunity to do challenging, meaningful work and are known for offering job stability; excellent benefits, including a generous amount of time off; and retirement plans that often include pensions.

What's the downside? Although the pay is competitive, there's not as much potential for long-term salary growth as there is in public accounting or in the private sector, and the government office culture isn't for everyone.

The nonprofit arena

Yet another option among entry-level accounting jobs is to work in the not-for-profit arena, which can offer practitioners an opportunity to combine altruism with a love for accounting. 

Choosing where to start

Whichever path new accountants choose as they start their professional journey, they can be assured that none is limiting. An accounting degree is highly versatile and can open a lot of doors. The biggest challenge for professionals seeking entry-level accounting jobs may be finding their unique niche among the many opportunities available to them. Start exploring the possibilities, and you may find just what you're looking for.


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