Accounting is a rapidly growing profession whose practitioners are and will continue to be highly coveted in the job market. Its two largest sub-fields, public accounting and private accounting, Regardless of which one you choose, you will need a bachelor’s degree in accounting from an accredited college or university. Once you make it to your job hunt, you will need to make a decision between public and private. If you want to be able to make an informed decision, keep reading for a brief rundown about how the two differ in key areas:
Private accountants work as in-house employees for a single organization. That organization is their only client, which means they spend almost none of their time on client development. Public accountants work for professional services firms, which offer their services to entities and individuals outside their own four walls. This means they have to spend a non-negligible portion of their time selling their services to prospective clients and ensuring that their current clients are satisfied with the firm’s work. If public accountants fail to persuade clients to pay for their firms’ services, their own careers as public accountants may be in jeopardy.
Public accountants’ yearly busy season typically lasts a little more than three months spanning from roughly the first day of the year until that fateful day in mid-April when federal income tax returns must be submitted. Private accountants do not have the same sort of sustained, months-long busy season as their public counterparts. Instead, because they work for a single organization that almost certainly has quarterly financial reporting requirements, they have a shorter busy period at the end of each quarter.
Work Hours and Physical Work Setting
By and large, private accountants work about the same hours in the same office every day. Although they may have some longer days near the end of each quarter when the organizations for which they work are compiling their quarterly financial data, they can typically bank on working no more than 40 hours or so per week. Such is not necessarily the case for public accountants. Because they work for firms who serve outside clients, they may often find themselves working in a client’s office—wherever it may be located, whether it is just down the street, on the other side of the country or somewhere in between—for several days at a time.
Everyday Work Responsibilities
Public accountants are charged with ensuring that their clients’ financial statements and other documents are complete and accurate before they are released for public consumption. They focus primarily on what has happened, not necessarily about what should happen in the future. Private accountants are often heavily involved in planning their employers’ financial futures, offering input to management about projected expenditures and budgets.
Despite the fact that both public accounting and private accounting both fall under the accounting umbrella, there are some noteworthy distinctions between them. Now you can make a more informed choice about whether to go into public accounting or private accounting.