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HomeCareerJohn Savignano Discusses Career Paths for New CPAs

John Savignano Discusses Career Paths for New CPAs

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As a new CPA, tremendous opportunities and options await. It’s a great time to consider career direction. CPAs will probably not enter their first post-licensure job and stay there for life. What if that role stagnates and they don’t advance? Without a clear career path, the probability of getting stuck is nearly certain.

Instead, new CPAs should choose a path from the start, understand the next step, and refocus on it when they get sidetracked.

Below, John Savignano discusses 5 of the top career paths for Certified Public Accountants (CPA), why they’re a great choice, what kinds of people perform well on that path, and where they can take a career.

According to John Savignano CPA, “If you want to do what you’re doing and you’re happy with that, then you’re fine. But humans are not happy, so they need to move. They need to refocus.” Having a clear career path keeps CPA’s vision locked on their goals.

1. Internal Auditing

Internal auditing is for those who love projects. It’s all about planning, digging into one thing for a time, getting hyper-focused, reaching conclusions, writing up reports, and moving on to the next. Some people thrive on project-based work. For those who do, this can be a smart career path.

In this role, CPAs develop many vital relationships in the business world and gain tremendous perspective on how non-finance departments work.

They work with the latest technology and powerful analytics tools along this path. They develop keen problem-solving and multi-departmental business skills that can spring them right into the C-suite.

With that said, those entering this career path should be prepared to work some long and often unpredictable hours, sometimes for long stretches.

This is the path John Savignano took, and he has said on more than one occasion, “Working the hours and working weekends never seemed to be an issue for me because I grew up in that environment.” He acknowledges that this can be an adjustment for some.

2. Group Accounting

Group accountants are very team-focused. They work for a company with many moving pieces and even more to lose with a misstep. It takes many CPAs and accountants to work together cohesively to keep this ship on course for financial success.

They’ll probably work at a corporate headquarters with their peers, reviewing compliance and accounting procedures to ensure everything is running like a well-oiled machine.

They need strong communication and an eye for the technical side of accounting to succeed here. Not only will they be working with their team peers. As they advance, they’ll likely work directly with the board, explaining and making a case for certain financial decisions.

As a result, a stand-out CPA can become a name they know and trust, which can line that ambitious new CPA up perfectly for that Chief Financial Officer (CFO) vacancy.

3. Finance Manager/ Finance Controller

As a finance manager or controller, a new CPA takes responsibility for the “financial health” of an organization through forecasting and strategic planning. Their ultimate goal is to increase profits and reduce risk. As a result, their days involve analysis, planning, tax considerations, and occasional M&A project.

At some point, the career is likely to diverge into either FM or FC, depending on an individual’s strengths and experience. Either can put that person on track to becoming CFO of a corporation in as few as five years.

With that said, many opt to become a Fractional CFO. This person takes on the CFO role for several small businesses at once. Individually, these companies don’t need a full-time CFO and couldn’t pay for one. But collectively, this can become a substantial CFO salary for those who can compartmentalize clients to build those relationships and give each the attention they need.

John Savignano jokes, “having a good working relationship with clients is important because if you don’t have that relationship and God forbid you make a mistake, you’re gone.”

4. Management Accounting

Management accounting career paths cpas

In this role, the CPA combines accounting, management, and business strategy to help a company make data-driven decisions on the way forward. They have an exceptional responsibility to help the company maximize profits and grow the company into the future.

To accomplish this, they work with a team of managers across departments and need to be able to break down the meaning behind the numbers to answer tough questions. Finance managers become finance directors and can advance to roles within Fortune 500 companies, groundbreaking startups, and trend-setting small-to-medium businesses.

5. Business & Commercial Analysis

Business and commercial analysis is a diverse field of accounting. It allows a newly certified accountant to dive deeply into how different businesses and industries work. One analyzes, seeks to understand, and develops practical data-driven solutions. They’ll further track that solution’s performance so that they can test, tweak, and optimize.

One of the top reasons for going into this branch of accounting is that it qualifies a person for some of the most diverse professional roles. Many people start working for a company and shift into operations management because of the intimate understanding they develop of all the pieces and the ability to see the greater whole.

As they earn experience and confidence, they can shift into in-demand and highly lucrative business consulting roles.

“Which Path Should a CPA Choose,” Asks John Savignano

As a new CPA, choosing a career path is possibly one of the hardest things they’ll ever do. But this is no time to be indecisive. Choosing will allow them to set clear career goals and stay a course rather than meandering their way to mediocrity.

One should ask where they want to be in 5 years. Financial director, C-suite.

They can set themselves on this path from Day 1. They can then gain the experience and confidence they need to take on that responsibility. They’ll start meeting people and building a network.

John says, “I’m not the Jack of All Trades. If a client has an issue that I can’t handle, I have enough business partners in my network that we can work together and help the client solve the problem.”

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