• I'm happy to introduce the Styleforum Happy Hour, our brand new podcast featuring lively discussion about menswear and the fashion industry. In the inaugural edition, a discussion of what's going on in retail today. Please check it out on the Journal. All episodes will be also be available soon on your favorite podcast platform.

  • STYLE. COMMUNITY. GREAT CLOTHING.

    Bored of counting likes on social networks? At Styleforum, you’ll find rousing discussions that go beyond strings of emojis.

    Click Here to join Styleforum's thousands of style enthusiasts today!

Another career change thread...

Michigan Planner

Distinguished Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2010
Messages
3,870
Reaction score
2,393
I figured what this forum needed was another thread talking about a career change, so I thought I would add this one to the mix...

My undergraduate education was in public policy and economics and grad school was for urban planning. I've been working in the public sector since 2005 first as a social worker and then in market research for the economic development agency of a lare municipality for the past four years. However, because of the economy and lowered property tax revenues, promotions and advancement in my current office are basically non-existant. Even cost-of-living and step raises have been axed and I now make less than I do when I started because of pay cuts over the past few years.

Not much development is occurring in the area so local planning, architecture, and engineering firms are not hiring and when they do post a position, they generally get a few hundred applicants (even for positions that are only being advertised by word of mouth).

For the past few months, I've been considering going back to school in the evenings for a third undergrad degree, this time in accounting, with a final goal of taking the CPA exam. I've already had a few accounting classes in undergrad, as well as stats and a few other courses. I've been accepted into a few programs locally that would have me starting in March or May (depending on where I decide to go). I would not be quitting my current job and since I have basically all of the core classes done, I would be finishing up in about three years when I am 35. And luckily, I can get about 85% of the degree paid for through a tuition reimbursement program at my current employer. I'm not looking to make a career of it at a Big 4 but am more interested in regional mid-tier firms or a few specialized industries.

I guess the question at the end of all this is..

Is 35 too old for the world of public accounting when just starting out? I know that the new hires each year are probably mostly between 23 and 28 or so. Once I go in for interviews, are they going to look at me and just say, "You're too old. Next."?
 

Piobaire

Not left of center?
Joined
Dec 5, 2006
Messages
59,953
Reaction score
22,579
First thing you need to do is move out of the Detroit area.
 

Michigan Planner

Distinguished Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2010
Messages
3,870
Reaction score
2,393
Originally Posted by Piobaire
First thing you need to do is move out of the Detroit area.

That's not going to happen. We have a house that is nearly paid for and we both (wife and I) actually like it here. I've lived in North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Utah, Northern California, and a few places overseas but metro Detroit will always be home (unless of course some awesome opportunity arrises in a few specific locations). Plus, despite the local economic woes, my wife has a great job here.

Originally Posted by scientific
do not get a third undergrad degree ...


I worry a bit that another undergrad degree would make me look a bit wishy-washy or something, but feel like it's something that could be easily explained in an interview or to a recruiter at a job fair. I considered looking into a masters of accountancy, but even though I had plenty of econ and a few accounting classes in undergrad, most of the programs look as if I would still have to take a few extra courses before I could be formally admitted into a graduate program. Plus, graduate level credits are more generally considerably more expensive than the undergraduate credits.
 

BC2012

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
288
Reaction score
0
Originally Posted by Michigan Planner
I guess the question at the end of all this is..

Is 35 too old for the world of public accounting when just starting out? I know that the new hires each year are probably mostly between 23 and 28 or so. Once I go in for interviews, are they going to look at me and just say, "You're too old. Next."?


Most hires for public accounting firms tend to be between 22-24 years old for audit roles, from what I know (either right out of undergrad or right out of a MAcc program). You'd be older than many of the interviewers and grossly overqualified from a "years of experience" point of view. And you'd be on assignments with another auditor, 10-15 years your junior at the same level as them, something you need to think about.

I can't imagine many firms would be looking to grab you up, honestly. And why do you suddenly want to do accounting, public accounting specifically? The pay HAS to be less than you make now. Auditors in Detroit at a mid-level firm probably start in the 40k range.

Do you have a grad degree in urban planning? Are you adept at GIS? You might be able to find a private sector job. Or just look for other public jobs in another municipality. Pulling a 180 on your life is just trying to put a band-aid on your career unhappiness. Figure out why you went into your field, what you liked about it, and what you could do to make it better.
 

Piobaire

Not left of center?
Joined
Dec 5, 2006
Messages
59,953
Reaction score
22,579
Originally Posted by Michigan Planner
That's not going to happen. We have a house that is nearly paid for and we both (wife and I) actually like it here. I've lived in North Carolina, Virginia, Oregon, Utah, Northern California, and a few places overseas but metro Detroit will always be home (unless of course some awesome opportunity arrises in a few specific locations). Plus, despite the local economic woes, my wife has a great job here.
Hey, I liked the Detroit area too and lived in the general area my entire life, until I left in the 1990s. I was just thinking with your background in planning, an MSA that is in growth mode would give you many more options. I'm pretty positive if I had stayed in the Windsor/Detroit area I would not have accomplished half of what I have in the way of career growth. I'll echo the others, your age and other qualifications are going to make hiring your problematic, as a freshly minted CPA. Glad to hear your wife has a good job.
 

Michigan Planner

Distinguished Member
Joined
Jan 18, 2010
Messages
3,870
Reaction score
2,393
Originally Posted by BC2012
Most hires for public accounting firms tend to be between 22-24 years old for audit roles, from what I know (either right out of undergrad or right out of a MAcc program). You'd be older than many of the interviewers and grossly overqualified from a "years of experience" point of view. And you'd be on assignments with another auditor, 10-15 years your junior at the same level as them, something you need to think about.

I can't imagine many firms would be looking to grab you up, honestly. And why do you suddenly want to do accounting, public accounting specifically? The pay HAS to be less than you make now. Auditors in Detroit at a mid-level firm probably start in the 40k range.


I've always thought that accounting was a pretty useful field and could be used as a stepping stone into many different industries. I figure that even if I wanted to stay with my current employer, the accounting would allow me to move into management a bit more easily or work in a few different departments. (I've also lightly considered finance or just a general business degree but those don't interest me as much)

The other auditors who I would be working with, and taking orders from, being so much younger than me doesn't really bother me (of course, it's easy for me to say that now...).

As far as the pay goes, mid-tier firms in the Detroit area actually have pay starting around the 50k mark for new hires over the past few years, and that is considerably more than I currently make in local government even with a graduate degree. The pay is so bad in my current position that basically the only thing that is keeping me there (besides the lack of open positions in the area) is the job security.


Originally Posted by BC2012
Do you have a grad degree in urban planning? Are you adept at GIS? You might be able to find a private sector job. Or just look for other public jobs in another municipality. Pulling a 180 on your life is just trying to put a band-aid on your career unhappiness. Figure out why you went into your field, what you liked about it, and what you could do to make it better.

I do have a graduate degree in urban planning and am pretty adept at GIS (I'm a certified GISP), but believe me when I say that the private sector in planning and architecture is just not hiring right now here. I've looked at other municipalities in the area (and did just apply for a job that would be a good fit and a nice increase in responsibility) but because nearly every community in the state has had to slash their budgets over the past few years, openings are few and far between. I have some friends at a medium size commercial architecture firm based in Detroit and have been able to do some freelance GIS work for them but that's about all that's been available.

One thing that has made the planning field so stagnant is that once you are into a good staff planner (or something similar) position, it's relatively stress free compared to other professional careers so planners, in the private and public sector, tend to work later in life than others creating a bottleneck when it comes to promotions and advancements for those below them. And many of those in the public sector, who were going to retire in 2007 or forward haven't because they have had such bad losses to their retirements that they need to work a few years longer to make up for it, further exacerbating the situation for those below them.

In the end, I still like the planning field but one of the goals I had when I first came into it was to get into private development or site selection/commercial real estate. Unfortunately, to get into those sub-sectors of the field right now with my current background would require a substantial pay cut and usually have me coming in as a GIS monkey. My original plan was to work my entry level job for a couple of years and then hopefully as a business development rep for a few years and then maybe move into the private world. Unfortunately, four years in, I'm still stuck in the same entry-level position that I'm vastly over qualified for.

Maybe I'm just pissed that nobody in my office ever quits or goes anywhere else and just need to rant to somebody other than my wife. lol
 

BC2012

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
288
Reaction score
0
Originally Posted by Michigan Planner
I've always thought that accounting was a pretty useful field and could be used as a stepping stone into many different industries. I figure that even if I wanted to stay with my current employer, the accounting would allow me to move into management a bit more easily or work in a few different departments. (I've also lightly considered finance or just a general business degree but those don't interest me as much) The other auditors who I would be working with, and taking orders from, being so much younger than me doesn't really bother me (of course, it's easy for me to say that now...). As far as the pay goes, mid-tier firms in the Detroit area actually have pay starting around the 50k mark for new hires over the past few years, and that is considerably more than I currently make in local government even with a graduate degree. The pay is so bad in my current position that basically the only thing that is keeping me there (besides the lack of open positions in the area) is the job security. :
The mid-tier firms are paying the same as the Big4? Geez. Even if you would be okay working with people you have nothing in common with (from a generational/age/time-in-life standpoint) they might have an issue working with you. Say that all works out and you get in at a firm and get along with your coworkers, public audit is a long hours job - probably 20+ hours more a week than you work now, especially during tax season. It might put a kink in your life. Think about it from a recruiter's point of view. You have two undergrad degrees and a master's degree, have spent years in public planning, and now went back for a fourth (!) degree in a totally different field. What makes them think taking a chance on a 35 year old guy who has shown he's wishy washy on his career over a 22 year old they can groom, and from their perspective has been geared on accounting for four or five years, is a good idea?
 

giraffe lookout

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2010
Messages
142
Reaction score
0
Thing about those accounting jobs for kids right out of college is that they work the hell of them. The reason they hire so much is because people are always quitting after two years. Not trying to be a downer.
 

jgold47

Distinguished Member
Joined
Mar 23, 2008
Messages
1,629
Reaction score
13
MP - this is exactly why I never practiced with my Urban Planning degree. Although I wanted to be a planner, after 9/11 (I graduated in 02) a lot of the govt planning positions went away. No one was quitting to go private and were staying, and instead of having 3 or 4 associate planners, they made due with one or two. I didnt want to do private sector, but I lucked out getting into real estate development. If your looking for planning positions, EMU's urban planning program has a pretty solid job board. I think its planning.emich.edu
 

Beckwith

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2006
Messages
902
Reaction score
150
FWIW, my wife went back to school to get and MBA with focus on tax and accounting. Finished up a few months before delivering our first child, and six months later started studying for the CPA exam. It was tough for her balancing a lot of studying and a six month old, but she passed all four parts in succession something that only 10% of people who take the exam do. I would stick with an MBA and focus on tax, well rounded.
 

Piobaire

Not left of center?
Joined
Dec 5, 2006
Messages
59,953
Reaction score
22,579
Originally Posted by Beckwith
FWIW, my wife went back to school to get and MBA with focus on tax and accounting. Finished up a few months before delivering our first child, and six months later started studying for the CPA exam. It was tough for her balancing a lot of studying and a six month old, but she passed all four parts in succession something that only 10% of people who take the exam do. I would stick with an MBA and focus on tax, well rounded.

I am unfamiliar with an MBA that has a specialization in taxation. I was also unaware an MBA would allow one to sit for the CPA exam.
 

Beckwith

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 10, 2006
Messages
902
Reaction score
150
It allows you catch up on the credits that you would have needed from undergrad to meet the requirements to sit for the CPA exam. They have also recently removed the audit requirement and lowered the specific credit amount to be able to sit for the exam.
 

Featured Sponsor

What's your favorite pair of shoes to wear with jeans? (Choose two)

  • Boots (Chelsea, Chukkas, Balmorals, etc.)

  • Loafers

  • Work boots (Red Wing, Wolverine, etc.)

  • Monk strap shoes

  • Oxford / Derby shoes

  • Sneakers


Results are only viewable after voting.

Related Threads

Forum statistics

Threads
427,123
Messages
9,192,601
Members
193,080
Latest member
mayphatdien3pha

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by

Top