If someone tells you they work in consulting, it usually doesn’t mean much at first. It’s a pretty catch-all term. But dig deeper, and you’ll find CPAs doing some amazingly interesting work as consultants. Many CPAs working for consulting firms say they love the job because it takes them to some of the biggest, most successful companies in the world to work on their toughest business challenges. As soon as they wrap up a project, they’re often off to the next client to work on something new and different. Working as a consultant can be a demanding job – but it can also be extremely rewarding.
What you’ll do
Any big decision a company makes has a financial impact, and trained CPAs are the people they depend on to tell them exactly what that impact will be. Take a major new technology purchase, for example. Sure, there’s the cost of the technology itself. But what about the impact it will have on different parts of the business? What are the tax implications? Is there a smarter way?
When you’re making a big decision like that, you need to have a CPA in the room. Consultants are often the SWAT team helping lead companies through decisions like these, and CPAs are a crucial part of the team. CPAs in consulting firms need to have a strong understanding of how businesses really work – it’s not just about accounting.
Where you’ll work
When you think about consulting firms, the first names that come to mind are probably companies like McKinsey, Bain and Accenture – big-name firms with operations all around the world. Each of these firms employs tons of CPAs. If you want to work in consulting, companies like these will almost certainly be on your radar. But consulting firms come in all flavors – consider the so-called “boutique” consultants that focus on one part of the business world. There are some very large consulting firms that focus only on HR, or technology. Once inside a consulting firm, expect to work alongside a cross-functional team that has plenty of CPAs, but also lots of MBAs, too, as well as technology experts, project managers, you name it.
Is this for you?
Consultants usually work in a high-pressure environment. They’re working on big projects with demanding timelines, which can often lead to long hours. Depending on the firm, consultants may have to travel a lot. But the experience and contacts they pick up along the way can be invaluable to their careers. Consultants learn a lot about all types of businesses – fast. It’s a little like a hands-on MBA crash course. And it can be exhilarating.
How to make it happen
Most consulting firms hire newly minted CPAs in droves. Of course, depending on where you want to take your career, it may help to have an MBA. Lots of people you’ll be working with at a consulting firm will be MBA grads.