Choosing a Service Line
Choosing a Service Line
As you enroll in the MAC program at NC State, one of the first questions you will be asked will be about which service line you are leaning towards for a job. I had a difficult time drawing a line in the sand and choosing my job preference between the tax, audit, and advisory fields before classes started. Each of the job areas had their own pros and cons, and I felt like I would have been happy in any of them.
When recruiting season comes around, it will be important to have your preference in mind. Public accounting firms have specific positions they need to fill and generally do not like candidates who are undecided. Coming in with a preference towards audit, tax, or advisory will help you connect with the right people and have meaningful conversations during NC State’s Meet The Firms events in the fall and will keep your resume from getting lost in the “undecided” pile.
Each service line offers great career opportunities and are unique and interesting in their own ways. In this blog post I’ll lay out some of the differences between each field in order to hopefully help you select the one that fits both your personality and career goals.
An audit professional spends his/her time as part of a team. This position requires you to be both skeptical and independent as you work to check and verify whether a company’s financial statements are accurate (within reason) and that there are not any accounts or totals that are being exaggerated. You probably won’t win any popularity contests or be your client’s best friend. That’s okay because being involved in an audit will help you see the big picture of a business and better understand how financial statements work. Audit professionals have told me that no day is the same and the variety of experience will keep you on your toes and engaged in your job. The wide range of experience you get will open doors down the road if you’re interested in working in other accounting fields besides public accounting. You may even end up working for a client you audited one day!
A tax professional is more likely to spend more time working individually as opposed to on a team. In addition to filing tax forms in April, you’ll spend your day trying to reduce a client’s tax bill. Tax is a field that requires reading and research to answer specific questions and client situations. With the recent change in the tax code, research is a skill that is needed more than ever. You may like this field if you appreciate logic, rules, and/or certainty. Tax will require more calculations and formulas as opposed to auditing which will require more writing (memos, letters, etc). Because independence is not required for tax accountants, you will have the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with clients and develop friendships.
Accounting Advisory Services (AAS) is a field that is growing in popularity and is very similar to consulting. This is the fastest growing field in accounting and often involves switching between all different kinds of projects and engagements. Depending on the area you end up in, you’ll be helping a client solve problems and implement new processes, strategies, or software. Some of the fields/areas you could specialize in with an advisory focus include:
- Forensic Accounting
- Business Valuation
- IT Audit
- Personal Financial Planning
- Enterprise Risk Management
Many of my professors would agree that what is most important at the end of the day is to start somewhere. Even if you end up in a service line that does not feel like a perfect match, accounting offers the opportunity to move around and try many different areas. Your initial decision does not need to be permanent! As you move through the ranks at an accounting firm, an auditor will need to build his/her knowledge of tax in order to understand the client’s big picture, and the same goes for a tax professional who will likely work on an audit at some point in their career.
While you’re waiting for an admissions decision or mulling over the decision of where to apply, it will be helpful for you to talk to as many tax, audit, and advisory professionals as you can to learn about their experiences in the field. Knowing your own personality and hearing about the experiences of others will help you make an informed decision. Good luck!