Tax or Audit? – That is the Public Accounting Question

tax-vs-audit-accounting-careerAudit vs tax is probably the first question that people will start asking you in your senior year of college when it’s time to start thinking about your career. Which do you choose? That’s a joke. You should be thinking about your accounting career path way before your senior year in college. This way you are much more likely to actually land a real job right after graduation and let the money start rolling in.

In all seriousness, the tax vs audit dilemma is a pretty big decision. I’d like to say that there are opportunities to switch back and forth later on in your career, but the fact is once you start down one path, you usually don’t switch sides. It can be done, but it’s uncommon. The farther along you get in either audit or tax the more likely you are to be stuck there for your career. I know I make it sound really serious, right? It just means you need to think about what you like doing and what type of person you are.

Tax people tend to be more rules based. Here are the rules just follow them– a whole lot of memorizing and research. Audit people, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on logic and reason. Many aspects of an audit are left up to your professional judgment, so there isn’t a specific rule to go by.

Which one sounds more like you? Take some time to think about it before you go to the recruiting event on campus or do an interview. Your decision will matter. There are typically more audit jobs available today, so you are more likely to land a job as an auditor. If you say you like both options, you will probably remain jobless. Ha Ha. Bigger firms want to see that you have thought this through, are confident, and have a career path.

Now obviously you can’t really make an educated decision about your career path right out of college. You have no experience. Just try to pick the one you think you will like best. I can tell you tax will be pretty much exactly like what you studied in college and audit will be nothing like your audit classes. Here are some of the differences between both options.

Tax accountants typically work individually; where as, auditors work in teams.

Auditors work with clients from day one, where as, tax staff might not see clients for the first one of two tax seasons.

Tax accountants usually get paid more than auditors at least starting out.

Auditors can have a life during their busy season. Tax people can’t. Tax season sucks.

Tax accountants usually work in the firm office, while auditors travel constantly and work out of their clients’ offices.

As a tax accountant every family member you have will ask you to do their returns at the worst time of year and you will feel guilty turning them down. As an auditor, people will ask you to do their returns and you won’t know how.

There are plenty more differences, but these are the basics. Think about it and start planning your career path. I know it seems like a shot in the dark, but you’ll make the right decision. Either path you choice, you will still want to get your CPA license. Firms want to employ CPAs and actually require it in order to be promoted. If you haven’t already started studying, you should. Take a look at my CPA review course comparison page, pick one that is right for you, and get the exam over with.