7 Career Paths for CPAs

Whether you’ve always dreamed of becoming an accountant or you’re currently considering a career change, it’s important to research your options. What does a CPA do? What can you do with an accounting degree or CPA designation? Is becoming a CPA a good career path? And is accounting boring? These are just a few of the questions that might be top of mind.

There are plenty of benefits of pursuing a CPA designation, including advancement and growth opportunities, holding a globally recognized credential and increased job stability. Most importantly, we want to highlight the versatility of the CPA designation and showcase what types of jobs CPAs can perform.

In our article, we’re covering seven career paths for CPAs.

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1. Forensic Accountant

Forensic accounting involves using accounting, auditing and investigative techniques to examine and understand the finances of individuals or businesses. It includes prevention and investigation of financial crimes, like money laundering, insurance fraud and securities fraud.

Forensic accountants may also be involved in searching for hidden assets during divorces, company acquisitions or working on cases involving high-profile financial crimes like infamous Ponzi schemes.

Vivienne Lutwama, CPA, CFE, CAMS, Director of Anti-Money Laundering and Compliance Audit Oversight at RBC, was recently featured in our Spotlights series. She compares forensic accounting to being a high-stakes security guard, and she had this to say about her work:

“Some of the work I did on investigations was exciting. A lot of it ended up in court. I had to prepare clients and partners for court, which was super exciting because you could see the impact your work has in real-time on your client, the industry and society at large.”

2. Climate Accountant

Now, more than ever, climate change is being recognized as a key business risk and opportunity. Climate accountants are able to combine their reporting and strategy skills with their passion for sustainability.

Climate accountants help tackle climate change by ensuring that companies are consistently reporting on environmental factors and climate metrics. They can also work as consultants to provide technical knowledge of greenhouse gas accounting standards, evaluate operations and understand and interpret climate data.

Katie Blum, CPA, CA, climate accountant and 2021 Emerging Leader award recipient, shares some details about what attracted her to the field of climate accounting and what a day in the life of a climate accountant looks like.

3. Auditor

Auditors can take on many roles. Essentially, an auditor reviews financial statements and other records to ensure financial compliance and check for irregularities.

Auditors can specialize in forensic auditing to investigate financial crimes. They can also work as internal auditors to check for mismanagement of an organization’s funds, check for wasteful spending and recommend ways to improve processes. Conversely, external auditors are unbiased external representatives, and they evaluate the records of other companies and check for irregularities and compliance issues.

4. Tax Accountant

One of the biggest misconceptions about accountants is that everyone handles taxes. So, we’d be remiss if we didn’t put tax accountants on the list.

A tax accountant helps businesses and individuals complete and submit their tax forms. They are experts in tax law and federal and provincial regulations. They ensure that their clients are meeting their legal obligations, while checking that clients aren’t missing out on any benefits or write-offs.

5. Sports Accountant

Have a passion for sports? Sports accountants bring their financial and strategic expertise to the major and minor leagues. They often handle payroll for players, coaches and staff, as well as complex tax reporting for the team.

Sports accountants in a management position may have the opportunity to work with executive teams to provide strategic recommendations and insights on sponsorships, advertising deals, ticket sales and sports merchandise.

Check out our interview with Josh Hoffman, CPA, Senior Manager of Finance with the Toronto Blue Jays.

6. Educator

CPAs can also pursue a career educating the next generation of CPAs. For example, Matthew Roman, CPA, teaches tax as an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream at the University of Toronto. He also facilitates in the In-Depth Tax Program for CPA Canada, and he has delivered technical tax training and knowledge management at KPMG.

It’s important for CPAs to guide and support aspiring accountants. That’s why CPA Ontario supports its members that pursue teaching and research through the Doctoral Studies Support Program.

7. Entrepreneur

Finally, a CPA designation is invaluable as an entrepreneur, and the designation is applicable regardless of the industry. When it comes to starting and growing a business and managing business finances, you will be positioned to make effective and strategic decisions.

Roslyn McLarty, CPA, CA, and co-founder/head of operations and finance at The Gist had this to say about the impact of having a CPA designation:

“Having discipline when it comes to accounting and budgeting has been useful in a startup environment. Understanding how to maximize cash flow to arrive at profitability, or raise additional capital, has contributed to our success.”

To close our list, we want to emphasize the versatility of being a CPA. This list is a highlight of some of the best jobs with a business degree or CPA designation, but the options are limitless. Whether you decide to pursue forensic accounting or entrepreneurship, a CPA designation will give you the skills you need to succeed.

Learn more about the CPA designation or register for one of our information sessions to get started.