The Open Path

September 23, 2022

By Denise LeDuc Froemming, CPA, CAE, MBA
Oh, the places you’ll go.

You likely recognize that line as the title of a popular Dr. Seuss book—and it’s a good descriptor of the CPA profession.

Outside looking in, it seems career choices for CPAs are pretty cut and dry: Earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree, pass the CPA Exam and start your journey to firm partner. Or maybe hop over to industry at some point. And those are certainly viable and popular career paths.

But those of us on the inside know different and see—or maybe have even taken—“non-traditional” career opportunities that are available. And with an eye toward keeping the CPA pipeline full, it’s especially key that we share those possibilities.

When you think about it, everyone needs accountants—from Fortune 500 companies to startups to the Main Street businesses—so a CPA career can take you almost anywhere you want to go. There aren’t a lot of other career paths that offer such a wide path of unlimited opportunities.

Looking for examples? How about the fact that there are endless ways to develop a niche or expertise in more traditional accounting functions, from entertainment to cannabis to nonprofits to personal financial planning. There’s also consulting work, landing a government position and even the FBI. And let’s not forget academia—helping to teach those future CPAs.

Consider, too, as the skill set of CPAs grows wider and deeper, so do career options. Areas such as IT consulting; artificial intelligence; forensics; cyber security; cryptocurrency; environmental, social and governance reporting; and others are part of the profession’s ecosystem—directly or indirectly. This is a major reason behind CPA Evolution efforts to redesign the CPA Exam and take these changes into account to ensure future CPAs are prepared.

While CPA career paths are varied, there’s an underlying function that—while maybe an oversimplification—holds true: A CPA’s value is in helping companies, individuals and organizations make sense of financial data. And not just “making sense” in terms of numbers bottoming out, debits equaling credits, etc. But coupling that full complement of data with their knowledge to help people, companies and organizations make wise business decisions to help them compete and thrive.

That’s not something often found in CPA career brochures, but it’s key to the profession and needs to be boasted about.

Returning to Dr. Seuss: “You have brains in your head, you have feet on your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Denise LeDuc Froemming, CPA, CAE, MBA is President & CEO of CalCPA and CalCPA Education Foundation.

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